Scissor lifts are a popular type of access equipment for working at height. But as most of us know, as the working height increases – so does the risk. As recently as January 2020, an Australian worker was killed whilst operating access equipment – highlighting the importance of spotting the hazards and knowing how to work safely.

Here are five tips to keep people safe on and around scissor lifts. 

  1. Knowledge is power

Choosing the wrong equipment is a major factor in many workplace safety incidents. To work safely on scissor lifts operators must be clear on the type of equipment they need to get the job done – and be familiar with this equipment before work begins. 

Here are some examples of the questions that need to be asked in choosing the right access equipment:

  • What load capacity do you need?
  • Will you be working indoors or outdoors?
  • What height will you be working at?
  • What are the likely ground conditions?

Regularly refreshing training and maintaining the correct licencing is also important to operator safety. This means obtaining a yellow card for working at heights under 11m, and a high risk licence for 11m and above.


  1. Remember to look down at the ground


According to Dan Goodfellow, Coates Hire Group Manager - Products, the weight balance of access equipment is tightly engineered. “As you go up or extend out, it doesn’t take a big change in ground conditions to disturb the weight distribution and cause a boom or scissor lift to tip,” he says. “The results can be devastating.”

So whilst it’s intuitive to look up when we move up, looking down at ground conditions is equally – if not more important – to scissor lift safety. Here are some examples of pre-flight ground condition checks to perform: 

  • Are you working on flat, solid ground?
  • Are there any drop downs (gutters, edges or embankments) in your work zone?
  • Have you checked for concealed hazards like drains and electrical cavities?
  • Has an exclusion zone been created around your workspace?


  1. Know the hazards – and actively watch out for them 


There are many, many hazards associated with operating scissor lifts. Some common examples include:  

  • Operators being crushed or pinned by objects when moving up.
  • Falls from height when workers reach too far out from the platform.
  • Inappropriate loads destabilising and tipping equipment.
  • Environmental hazards – like sudden changes in the weather.
  • Changing or unstable ground conditions.

Understanding these and other hazards can help operators to spot possible safety incidents before they occur. It also allows hazard mitigation strategies to be developed before equipment is used. 

  1. Use a spotter


Spotters offer a vital line of defence to scissor lift operators. With unobstructed views of work zones, spotters can help to identify hazards from the ground once scissor lifts are in use. They can also provide timely assistance if an incident occurs. Spotters should always be trained in how to lower the EWP from the ground.


  1. Engineered safety controls


Engineered operator safety technologies – like shield bars; guards; contact alarms; detection systems; height restrictors; and overhead warning systems – offer yet another layer of protection for scissor lift operators. 

As part Coates Hire’s continued commitment to improving industry safety, from July 1 2020, operator protection systems will be installed on all new electric slab terrain scissor lifts, positioning Coates Hire as an industry leader in operator protection for mobile elevated work platforms. This system will also be retro-fitted throughout Coates Hire’s existing scissor lift fleet over time.

“It’s vital that the equipment we supply to our customers is safe, and that we’re meeting their needs and their demand,” says Dan. “We want our customers to have the peace of mind that their operators will have another layer of protection when they hire access equipment, and that it will help them to make safer decisions.”

For advice on scissor lift operator safety and for all your access equipment needs, contact Coates Hire today. Or find your local branch.

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