How to Safely Use Aerial Lifts and Limit Preventable Workplace Injuries
November 20, 2023
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines an “aerial lift” as any vehicle-mounted device that is used to elevate personnel, such as an extendable boom platform, aerial ladder, articulated (jointed) boom platform, vertical tower or any combination of the devices. According to the agency, aerial lifts have by and large replaced ladders and scaffolding on millions of jobsites across the country because of their flexibility and mobility. Despite how popular they have become, many workers are injured or killed while using aerial lifts each year. Luckily, OSHA has a wealth of information to help employers and workers identify hazards and mitigate known dangers to reduce preventable injuries and fatalities.
Hazards Associated with Aerial Lifts
According to OSHA, there are a variety of hazards associated with aerial lifts that can contribute to personal injury or death. These hazards include:
- Lack of employee training
- Falls from elevated levels
- Objects falling from aerial lifts
- Ejection from lift platforms
- Structural failures or collapses
- Lack of fall protection
- Electric shock (electrocution)
- Entanglement hazards
- Coming into contact with objects
- Contact with ceilings and other overhead objects
- Failure to conduct a pre-start inspection on vehicle components and lift components
- Employer failure to perform a worksite inspection prior to initiating a job
- The absence of the appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE, for workers
Ways to Keep Workers Safe
OHA has a few key recommendations and tips for how to safely use aerial lifts. One of the most important factors in occupational safety, particularly with heavy and potentially dangerous machinery like an aerial lift, is training. OSHA has several training requirements that workers must fulfil before they can be authorized to operate an aerial lift. They include explanations of electrical, fall, struck-by and falling object hazards, procedures for dealing with said hazards, recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions in the work setting, instructions for correct operation of the lift (including maximum intended load and load capacity), demonstrations of the skills and knowledge needed to operate an aerial lift before operating it on the job, when and how to perform inspections and an understanding of the manufacturer’s requirements.
OSHA’s other important safety tips for operating aerial lifts are:
- Ensure that employers assess the worksite to identify all possible hazards so that they can select the appropriate equipment (protective and otherwise) for the task at hand
- Employers must evaluate and implement effective controls that address fall protection, stabilization and positioning
- Only trained workers in the general industry and authorized workers in the construction industry may be authorized to operate aerial lifts. Even authorized workers must demonstrate to their employer that they are able to use an aerial lift properly before initiating work
- Equipment must be properly maintained by the employer, rental company, etc.
- Provide workers with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment)
- Implement and maintain safe work practices
To read more information on aerial lifts from OSHA, you can view the agency’s Fact Sheet at: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/aerial-lifts-factsheet.pdf.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace fatalities increased by nearly 9% from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, a total of 5,190 workers lost their lives on the job. In addition to the fatalities, millions of workers sustained work-related injuries. Fall protection tops the list of OSHA’s most frequently violated standards almost every year, which means that aerial lift operators and occupants too, are at the top of the list for encountering preventable occupational hazards day in and day out.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a worker’s injury, he or she may also want to file a third-party liability claim for damages. If an aerial lift was defective or contained a design flaw, for example, the victim can file a third-party products liability claim against the machine manufacturer. Another reason for filing a third-party liability claim is if the owner or rental company of the aerial lift fails to maintain the machine properly and it results in a worker getting hurt. At Galfand Berger, our attorneys have decades of experience representing injured workers. Here an example of our firm’s notable recovery on behalf of a worker who was injured while operating an aerial lift:
- Senior Partner Rick Jurewicz and his team obtained a pre-settlement of $1,175,000.00, one of the largest pre-settlement amounts in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Our client, a masonry worker, suffered an electric shock and burns when the boom of his rental aerial lift accidentally came into contact with a telephone pole next to a residential house on which he was working. Rick successfully convinced the rental company that they should have confirmed that our client had a current OSHA training card to verify that he was authorized to operate aerial equipment. Had the company followed the proper protocol, they would have seen that our client lacked the current OSHA training card. Rick and his team resolved the matter before trial. You can read more about this recovery at: https://www.galfandberger.com/verdicts/workers-compensation/gb-secures-one-of-the-largest-pre-suit-settlements-in-lebanon-county/.
If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation or third-party liability claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have questions about filing a claim for injuries you sustained, contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.