Aerial Lift Safety

Learn the best practices for aerial lift safety, the causes of aerial lift accidents, and the different ways to enhance safety when operating aerial and scissor lifts in the workplace.

What is Aerial Lift Safety?

Aerial lift safety is a set of practices that companies and employees follow to reduce the chances of aerial lift accidents in the workplace. Per the Center for Construction Research and Training, there are around 26 aerial lift accidents annually, which accounts for over 3% of construction-related deaths.

Aerial lifts, while useful for many applications, can be dangerous. These vehicle-mounted equipment have extended platforms and are used to elevate employees. This helps them reach high objects like power lines or ceilings, especially when scaffolding isn’t an option.

Importance of Safety for Aerial Lifts

Companies that use aerial lifts need to follow proper aerial lift safety practices to prevent workplace accidents and injuries. OSHA has a set of standards for aerial lift safety that layout the minimum safety procedures companies should practice.

The OSHA standards contain the definition of aerial and scissor lifts along with standard safety procedures such as only authorized individuals should operate the lift, proper inspection of the machine before use, and other important practices to ensure safe and responsible use of machinery.

What Are the Common Causes of Aerial Lift Accidents?

There are many causes of aerial lift accidents. Since these are inherently dangerous pieces of machinery, different things can go wrong and lead to accidents. Some of the most common causes include the following:

The Lift Tipping Over

If the aerial lift’s load is off-center, it can cause the lift to topple over. To maintain stability, scissor lifts need to be centered. The second the lift’s center of gravity is misaligned, the lift will topple over, which can lead to accidents and injuries.

Additionally, bad weather can topple scissor lifts when used outdoors. Since aerial lifts move horizontally and vertically along with up and down, there’s a higher chance of these machines losing their balance and falling over.

This is why employees must only use these machines under proper conditions. This means not operating the machinery in strong winds and making sure there are no hazards that put them at greater risk of toppling over.

Employees Touching Power Lines

Aerial lifts are commonly used by employees to repair powerlines. And one of the leading causes of injury and fatality from aerial lifts is accidental electrocution from power lines. There are many ways this can happen, which is why proper safety training is essential for any entity that uses aerial lifts.


Aerial and scissor lifts usually rise fairly high up. Many aerial lifts can extend up to 40 feet, with other models capable of reaching heights of 60 feet. So, accidentally falling off the aerial lift is a common cause of injury and death.

Employees can fall off aerial lifts due to wind, something bumping the lift and other incidents. This is why wearing proper safety equipment like fall protection gear is essential while on an aerial lift. 

Wearing proper safety gear is part of the OSHA guidelines for aerial lift safety. So, wearing the right equipment protects employees while also ensuring the company abides by OSHA guidelines.

Aerial Lift Safety Tips

Here are a couple of ways you can enhance aerial lift safety in the workplace:


Proper training is crucial for employees working with heavy equipment like aerial lifts. Every individual that works with and around aerial lifts needs to have knowledge of how aerial lifts work, how to operate them properly, and the appropriate safety procedures to follow.

This needs to be instilled early on to create a healthy safety habit among employees, which can greatly reduce injuries and accidents.

Regular & Comprehensive Inspections

Ensuring that the equipment is functioning properly and everything is in proper condition is another aspect of aerial lift safety. This starts by inspecting all the aspects of the vehicle and other components to make sure that nothing needs maintenance or risk increasing the risk of accidents. This includes the following:

  • hydraulic components
  • oil and fluid levels
  • wheels
  • horns.

When inspecting the vehicle, you also need to ensure all the emergency stops are functioning properly. So, if something does go wrong despite the thorough vehicle inspection, you can rest assured that there are fail-safes in place.

Additionally, this means inspecting the area around the aerial lift. It’s important to assess the area where you plan on using the lift to ensure there aren’t any unnecessary safety hazards abound.

When working indoors, this means looking at the ceiling height and other overhead hazards. For outdoor work areas, this means checking for drop-offs, holes, ditches, and anything else that can put workers at risk.

As another layer of protection, checking that the social distancing plan is up-to-date and providing the necessary safety measures is another important aspect of aerial lift safety. This is to ensure that not only are staff safe from potential injuries from equipment usage but also from other aspects that may be harmful to them such as the possibility of acquiring COVID-19 while on the job.

Ideally, companies should have aerial safety inspection checklists. Employees should go through the checklist thoroughly before using the aerial lift in any environment to ensure that it’s safe and the accident risk has been reduced as much as possible.

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Follow the Best Safety Practices

There are many safety practices associated with operating aerial lifts. And to ensure that employees aren’t facing any unnecessary injury risks, everyone should be knowledgeable of the best safety practices.

Creating a healthy and safe environment with a safety-oriented culture is crucial in reducing accidents and injuries. Aside from following the tips above and complying with OSHA guidelines, this also means using whatever tools are at your disposal to improve safety in the workplace.

For example, if you’re looking to simplify the aerial lift safety process in the workplace, SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) could be the platform you need. With SafetyCultture, you can create checklists, facilitate communications, generate reports, and improve the safety environment in the workplace while staying compliant with OSHA guidelines.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.