Are You TRULY Done with Your Aerial Lift Operator Training?

Be Certain to Train ALL Aerial Lift Operators

September 1, 2014 – Let’s address one of those topics that a lot of people never think about until it is too late. And that is training for operators of aerial lifts of all types (boom-lifts and scissor-lifts) required per applicable OSHA and/or ANSI standards. I find that most employers do provide training for their lift operators on the function of the equipment’s controls. But I’m not talking about training just for the operator running the controls in the basket or work platform, I’m talking about ALL operators. Before I explain the specific problem I run across too often, it might help if I first recap the two different sets of controls available on most types of aerial lifts.

The typical boom-lift and scissor-lift available for purchase or rent nowadays has two sets of controls. One set is installed in the work basket or platform, and are used by the operator during normal operations. However, there is a second set of controls installed on the base of the machines, and these serve different purposes. First of all, the lower controls are to be utilized when conducting pre-use inspections required by most lift manufacturers. Many manufacturers require that at the first of each shift, their lift be placed on a level surface away from obstructions, and the lower controls are then to be used to extend the boom and/or work platform from ground level to ensure there are no problems with the hydraulics and associated equipment (if this is news to you, look in the operator’s manual that comes with your lifts). Then the operator must test the upper controls located in the work basket or platform. Testing in this sequence prevents the operator from finding out about a major problem with the hydraulics or other parts of the control system the hard way, which could happen if they were to first test the upper controls located in the basket or work platform.

But there are other purposes for the lower set of controls beside pre-use testing, one of them being to allow someone on the ground to stop the equipment case of an emergency. And the lower controls can be used to lower the basket or work platform should the operator become stranded while elevated. This might be necessary if there is a malfunction of the upper controls, or in case the operator becomes incapacitated. And that is why I suggest there is actually a need for two “trained operators” when an aerial lift is being used. Having an untrained person operate the lower controls to move and/or lower the basket or platform could result in an accident, such as unintentionally swinging the boom into an overhead power line, crushing a person on the ground, or even tipping the lift over. The person on the ground running the lower set of controls is technically an “operator”, and therefore must be trained in how to utilize the lower controls safely and effectively should the need arise.

Let me make one thing very clear; I am not saying there has to be a person(s) on the ground designated to follow the lift around at all times during operation to be ready to act instantly “just in case”. I am simply saying someone needs to be available at the jobsite to lower the basket or platform in case the operator gets stranded, and that person needs to be trained on how to operate the lower set of controls.

So the next time you utilize an aerial lift on the job, ask yourself the following questions; “If I get stuck in the work basket or platform in an elevated position due to equipment malfunction or being incapacitated, who is available at the job site to stop the equipment if needed and lower the basket or platform down?” And more importantly, also ask; “Has that person (or persons) been trained in the operation of the lower controls so they can do so safely?” If the answer to either of these questions is “no” or “I don’t know”, it’s time to schedule a training session.  

Have you addressed this issue at your place of operation? If so, has it been a burden on your operations, or something you have handled with ease? What other type(s) of equipment might training for a ground operator also apply? If anyone wants to share pertinent info with other readers, please do so by clicking here and entering your information in the “Comments” box. And last but not least, I would like to encourage you to Share this Blog post with others in your Network who might benefit from reading this information.



Curtis Chambers is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health. He has held numerous leadership positions managing, evaluating, and providing training on workplace safety and health topics at various public organizations and private corporations. Mr. Chambers is currently the President of OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit their website at  


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