Environmental, Health and Safety Services

General Requirements

Operator's Manuals

In Virginia, manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair, and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials, and equipment must be followed. This machine-specific information is contained in the Operator's Manual, and is critical to complying with this law.

Operators must review operating instructions and safety guidelines specified by the manufacturer in the Operator's Manual for the lift being operated as part of the training and certification process.

Servicing and maintenance should be in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, and may require a qualified technician for certain maintenance or repairs. Operator's Manuals must be available to operators in a weather-proof container on the lift.

Modifications to aerial lifts are not permitted without the expressed written permission of the manufacturer.

Work Site Survey

Work site surveys are performed for each job task involving the use of an aerial lift. Supervisors and operators must inspect the work location for hazards which may affect safe set-up and use of the specific aerial lift that will be used to make sure it is the correct type of lift for the location and task. Any potential hazards must be addressed prior to proceding. For example, setting up a large boom truck on a sidewalk on campus may need to be addressed by reinforcing the sidewalk with steel plates or setting up the lift in an alternate location due to the presence of steam tunnels under the sidewalk which may not hold the extra weight.

Items to look for include:

  • Underground hazards, such as the location of steam tunnels or utilities which may be present
  • Drop-offs, holes, or unstable surfaces such as loose/soft ground
  • Overhead obstructions or hazards, including overhead power lines
  • Slopes, ditches, or bumps
  • Debris and floor obstructions
  • Floor loading limits
  • High wind and other severe weather conditions
  • Personnel working below
  • Traffic or heavy equipment in the area

A work zone should be established around the lift and any overhead work and identified with danger tape and signage, as necessary.

Proper Set Up

Install Outriggers

Outriggers stabilize the lift and help prevent tip over. If outriggers are provided with the lift, they must be used unless otherwise specified in the Operator's Manual. Many types of lifts will not permit operation unless the outriggers have been properly installed and the lift is level. Refer to the Operator's Manual for machine-specific information.

If the lift is designed to be used on a slope or incline, the wheels should be chocked to prevent inadvertent movement. Aerial lifts can turn over if they are not set up on a firm, level surface. Avoid using aerial lifts near drop offs, holes, uneven surfaces, in soft soil conditions, on slopes, or where there may be an uneven weight distribution.

Pre-Use Inspection

Lifts must be inspected prior to use each day for general damage and defects which may affect the integrity or operation of the equipment. Report any defect to your supervisor, tag the lift "Out of Service" at the controls, and do not use the lift until repairs have been completed by a qualified technician. Inspection criteria for the lift is found in the Operator's Manual, and generall includes looking for:

  • Damaged, loose, or missing parts, including the guardrail system
  • Check the tire inflation, if applicable
  • Check the fuel level or charge of the battery
  • Look for air, hydraulic, or fuel system leaks
  • Loose hoses or wires
  • Steering and brakes functioning properly
  • Ensure the operating controls are working properly
  • Ensure the auxiliary (ground) controls are working properly
  • Check the battery fluid, hydraulic reservoir, and coolant levels, if applicable

Maximum Capacity

Operators must be familiar with the maximum lifting capacity of their lift. It should be indicated on the lift itself, and may be expressed as the maximum weight to be applied to a platform, and/or the maximum number of people permitted on the platform. Refer to the Operator's Manual for limitations. Do not exeed the maximum capacity. When determining the load being applied to the lift, estimate 250 pounds per person on the platform, plus the weight of and any tools, materials, and equipment that will also be on the platform to ensure limits are not exceeded. If additional personnel and tools/materials are necessary for the task, a larger lift may be necessary, and departments should make arrangements to have one available. Do not put materials on the platform that are larger than the platform.

Working Height

The working height of a lift should never be extended by standing on makeshift devices or mid-rails, sitting on the top rail of the platform or bucket, or using ladders. The guardrail system or bucket can only protect personnel if they are within the boundaries of the system. If a lift with a greater reach is necessary, departments should make arrangements to have one available.

Fall Protection

All lifts designed to the required ANSI standard have fall protection systems incorporated into their design - either appropriate guardrail system, basket height, and/or designated anchor points. Some types of lifts (i.e. articulating lifts, boom trucks, and most telescoping lifts (unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer) require the use of personal fall arrest/positioning systems in addtion to the protective system of the platform or basket. Operators must attend Fall Protection User level training where the use of personal fall arrest or postitioning systems are required. Additional information is available here.

In general:

  • Movable chains or bars provided at access points must be attached or properly placed in order to maintain the protective system when the lift is in use.
  • The operator should always be within the protective system (i.e. feet on the floor and not over-reaching beyond the guardrail system).
  • Do not connect (tie-off) to adjacent structures or poles. Always use the designated anchor point provided on the lift.
  • Do not exit the platform onto another structure while in an elevated position. Contact EHS for review if there are extenuating circumstances where this may be necessary.

Adverse Weather Conditions

Aerial lifts operated outdoors should not be used in adverse weather conditions, such as approaching thunderstorms, high winds, or if lightning is in the area. Unless otherwise specified in the Operator's Manual for the make and model of lift being operated, do not operate aerial lifts if the wind is 28 mph or greater. Refer to the Operator's Manual for limitations of the lift if it will be operated in severe temperature extremes or adverse climates.

Electrical Hazards

Aerial lifts must not be operated within 10 feet of overhead power lines, unless the operator is an Electrical Qualified Person and has the training, knowledge, protective equipment, and tools necessary to work within the Minimum Approach Distance safely. This 10-foot clearance applies to any part of the lift, the operator, and any tools, materials, and equipment in use. When Electrical Qualified Persons are operating within the 10-foot clearance area, personnel on the ground must not be in contact with any part of the aerial lift. If the boom is insulated, it must be maintained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and insulating qualities verified by annual dielectric testing.


In general, lifts are not designed to be moved to another location while the platform or basket is raised, or for long distances. Refer to the Operator's Manual for traveling to the worksite. If the lift is designed to be driven by the operator to the work location, such as various locations on campus, it should be done so with the platform low to the ground (2-3 feet), and with an escort vehicle following behind. Scissor lifts must be used in accordance with applicable mobile scaffold requirements.

Mechanical Failure

All lifts should have auxiliary (i.e. emergency, lower, ground) controls so that the platform/basket can be safely lowered to the ground in the event that operator platform controls fail, or the operator becomes incapacitated. Operators should never attempt to climb out of the basket, or climb down the boom in the event of mechanical failure (unless there are hazardous conditions in the area that warrant immediate action). Ground controls can be operated by another certified operator in the area provided that permission is given by the stranded operator. Permission is implied if the operator is unconscious.

Hard Hats

When the lift will be operated on construction sites, or in areas where there are overhead structures, class "G" or "E" hard hats must be worn. Where overhead, high voltage, electrical hazards are present, class "E" hard hats must be worn. Hard hats must comply with requirements specified in the Personal Protective Equipment Program.

Fueling/Battery Charging

Fueling or battery charging of the lift should be conducted according to the manufacturer's recommendations and the requirements of the Fire and Life Safety Program. In general, no sparks or open flames in the area, and adequate ventilation must be available.