A wide variety of trucks use an aerial lift system. Utilities and private contractors have used bucket trucks, crane trucks, boom trucks and derrick digger trucks for a large variety of important tasks in repair and construction work. The US Department of Labor has stated that about 26 construction workers die every year while using aerial lifts. It is therefore vitally important that truck operators understand some of the does and don’ts.
OSHA regulations state that employers cannot force an employee to use unsafe equipment, so one of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to perform a thorough safety inspection before using lift equipment. Look for any leaks of air or hydraulic fluid, and make sure all emergency and operating controls are functioning. Also check personal safety gear along with outriggers and guardrails.
If you find any problems with any aspect of the equipment, OSHA requires that it be properly repaired before use. Mechanics should be familiar with the vehicle’s operating manual as well, and be sure to thoroughly inspect any vehicle that is returning to service from the shop.
Inspect the worksite as well; to be sure the truck can be parked on fairly level ground. and that there are no dangerous drop-offs or debris around. Even if the surface is level, be sure to set brakes, wheel chocks and outriggers each and every time.
Many lift accidents occur because the operator has not thoroughly read and understood the training manual. Contractors are required by law to provide manuals to all operators and mechanics. If anyone is unable to read the manual, a qualified person must provide training on manufacturer requirements, correct lift operation, and how to deal with hazards.
Two of the most common lift accidents involve tip-overs and electrocution, so always stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. Insulated buckets can protect you from currents passing through you and the boom to the ground, but provide no protection if you should touch another wire. You can prevent tip-overs by making sure you never drive with the platform elevated, and by staying within the height and weight load requirements as specified by the manufacturer.
Much of what needs to be done to prevent accidents can be accomplished simply by following all manufacturer and safety instructions every time you operate a lift. Always keep lift doors closed, and avoid standing or sitting on the edges, or using them for support in any way workers should wear protective gear, including a full-body harness and lanyard. If you are working in or near traffic, always put out cones and any pertinent signage so that motorists know you’re there.
Even though it seems somewhat obvious, make sure that only trained and qualified employees operate aerial lift equipment. Many accidents occur when an untrained worker “steps in” for a trained employee who is unavailable. It is always better to wait until the job can be completed using only properly trained workers.
Bucket trucks, crane trucks, digger derrick trucks and boom trucks have many uses and are important tools in getting many jobs done. If you follow the above guidelines, you will be a safe and effective operator and avoid potentially serious accidents.