ANSI Z308.1-2015 Standard Minimum Requirements  Workplace First Aid Kits and Supplies - Buy new ANSI Kits
ANSI Z308.1-2015 Standard Minimum Requirements Workplace First Aid Kits and Supplies - Buy new ANSI Kits

Aerial Lift Truck Operator Safety

Aerial lift operation, if not conducted properly, can be a highly accident-prone undertaking. Lift operators fall out of baskets as a result of not wearing safety lanyards, are exposed to potential electrical shock or electrocution, and other common and risky work habits including:

  • Aerial_LiftNot being properly tooled up for the task,
  • Exceeding the limitations of the machine,
  • Using incorrect work methods for the chosen machine,
  • Working in a towering unit with an inoperative intercom system,
  • Stringing cable through a defective fairlead.

Fatal Falls and Other Risks
"Falls are a leading cause of on-the-job fatalities," according to Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman. For those working in aerial lifts or those managing workers up in the lifts, this is a comment worth heeding.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, falls by workers in the construction industry accounted for 39% of fatalities from 1992-1997. For power line workers, falls from elevations rank among the top causes of accidents. Electrocution and injuries from falling objects are other leading causes of injury.

In general, workers employed in the construction of power transmission and distribution systems have a risk of between 17 to 23 deaths per 1,000 workers over a working lifetime of 45 years, according to OSHA. Major causes of non-fatal injuries include over-exertion, electrical shock injuries and burns, sprains, strains, cuts, lacerations and contusions.

Each aerial truck operation presents its own specific hazards which must be properly anticipated, recognized, and avoided by observing proper safe work practices.

Some Safe Work Practices include:

  • A thorough inspection of the vehicle and lifting apparatus must be completed prior to each shift.
  • Aerial trucks are to be used on flat, stable surfaces, of less than a 5-degree grade.
  • The aerial truck is not to be touched if it comes into contact with electrical wiring
  • The primary operator shall not belt off to an adjacent pole, structure, or equipment while working from the aerial bucket
  • The primary operator shall wear a body belt with a two foot lanyard attached to the aerial bucket when working in the aerial lift.  A fall protection harness is required when working from a platform.
  • Sufficient signs, racks, and traffic cones shall be available for the appropriate traffic control.
  • Assistant ground personnel shall be instructed in the operation of the aerial lift.
  • Emergency phone numbers and First Aid trained personnel shall be made readily available.

The following information is designed to offer some specific recommendations for the safe operation of aerial trucks on the job.


Aerial lift devices shall conform to ANSI Standards applicable to the type of equipment being used---bucket truck, portable and/or self-propelled personnel lift, etc. Aerial lift devices shall only be used for the purpose(s) intended by the manufacturer. All manufacturer recommendations and warnings regarding operation, capacity, and safety precautions shall be strictly followed. Permanent labeling must be conspicuously posted to indicate lifting capacity and travel height.

Only devices approved for lifting personnel shall be used as aerial lifts. Loaders, forklifts, or other material lift devices shall not be used to transport individuals to elevated locations or as work platforms.

Maintenance inspections of aerial lifts shall be made every three months by qualified mechanics. Unauthorized modifications shall not be made to any aerial lift device. Buckets and bucket liners shall not be cut or drilled.


Safety belts/full body harnesses and lanyards shall only be used as intended by the manufacturer for employee fall protection. Appropriate devices shall be used to provide 100% fall protection. Where single 'D' ring safety belts are used, the 'D' ring shall be located in the middle of the back to minimize impact on the body in a fall.

All fall protection equipment shall be carefully inspected before each use and periodically throughout the day. Safety equipment showing any sign of mildew, torn or frayed fiber or fabric, burns, excessive wear, or other damage or deterioration which could cause failure shall be permanently removed from use. Safety belts/full body harnesses, lanyards, safety lines, and all other fall protection equipment shall be properly maintained and stored---kept dry and out of sunlight, and away from caustics, corrosives or other materials which could cause defect.

Hard hats and safety belts or full body harnesses shall be worn by operators in the bucket or on the platform of any aerial lift device while in operation. Loose-fitting clothing shall not be worn while working in any aerial lift device. High-visibility apparel is not required for operators 'in the air', but shall be worn before entering and after leaving the bucket or platform.

Consideration must be given to water hazards and appropriate precautions. When 100% fall protection is employed, OSHA water safety standards are not mandated. However, it is advisable to take minimum precautions such as readily available buoy and safety line.


Lift equipment shall be inspected and controls tested daily before use. On boom devices, one crew member qualified in the operation of the ground controls shall remain readily available on the ground at all times while the lift is operating. Only properly trained employees shall operate the lift. Ground controls shall not be operated without the permission of the operator(s) 'in the air', except in emergencies.

Before extending the boom or raising the platform, outriggers (if the vehicle is so equipped) shall be positioned properly and the truck level. Outriggers shall be placed on pads, blocking, or other solid surface, and shall not be used to level the vehicle. The parking brake (and mico brake if so equipped) shall be set and wheel chocks in place. Sufficient overhead clearance shall be checked before raising any aerial lift. For under-bridge units, adequate clearance beneath the boom shall be assured.

Operators shall keep both feet on the bucket floor while the bucket is moving, or work is being performed. Operators shall not attach themselves to an adjacent pole, structure or tree while working from the bucket, but shall remain connected by safety belt or full body harness and lanyard to the boom, boom eyelet, or boom strap and 'D' ring. Operators required to leave the bucket to gain access to a work location shall maintain 100% fall protection by connection of a lanyard to a safety line, structure or tree capable of supporting the employee(s). Operators exiting buckets in locations requiring 100% fall protection shall wear a full body harness. Tree spikes shall not be worn in the bucket. Buckets shall have an inside and outside step (portable 'E-Z step' or step through features are examples).

Platform lifts shall have a top and mid rail and kick plate, and a means for each person to attach a safety belt or full body harness and lanyard to the platform. A safety belt or full body harness and lanyard shall be used by each operator on the platform. Operators shall keep both feet on the floor of the platform; shall not sit or climb on the railing; or use planks, ladders, or other devices to raise the working height. The gate shall be closed before raising the work platform.

The carrier portion of an aerial lift unit shall not be moved (travel) while the lift is out of its cradle, unless the unit is designed to do so. When a unit is moved with operators in the air, they shall be aware of the move and be in communication with those moving the vehicle. Generally, for transport the boom shall be properly cradled and the outriggers properly stowed. Bucket covers shall be in place during transport to prevent loss of the bucket liner.

Tools, parts or any materials shall not be dropped or thrown from the bucket. When using welding or heating equipment from the bucket or platform, the vehicle shall be protected from sparks or slag and special care taken to protect or remove flammables.

Positioning of any vehicle on the highway pavement or shoulder requires maintenance and protection of traffic procedures in accordance with the State Highway Work Zone Safety Policies and Procedures.


When working near electrical lines or equipment, avoid direct or indirect contact. Direct contact is body contact. Indirect contact is when the body touches or is in dangerous proximity to any object in contact with energized systems. Always assume that lines are 'live' and carry high voltage. Electrical lines can only be considered 'dead' when verified by the utility.

All operations shall conform to the High Voltage Proximity Act, which applies to electrical systems carrying 600 volts or more and requires employers to:

  • Ensure operators are not placed in proximity to high voltage (within 10 feet up to 50 kilovolts).
  • Inform operators of the hazards and precautions of working near high voltage.
  • Post warning decals on equipment regarding 10-foot minimum clearance.
  • Ensure that when an equipment operator is unable to assess clearances a 'spotter' observes for clearance and directs the operator.
  • Notify the utility at least 5 working days before any work begins which requires the utility to identify voltages and clearances, or de-energize, insulate or relocate lines.

As voltages increase, minimum clearances increase and potential for arcing increases. Injuries or fatalities may occur even if contact is not made. Weather and contact with conductors such as tools can increase the possibility of arcing. Because most operators are not qualified to determine voltage, the utility shall be called to establish voltages and minimum clearances, and to render the work safe. Where prior notification cannot be made, request the utility to respond immediately.

Tree crews and traffic signal crews shall receive specialized electrical safety training because of their frequent work near energized electrical systems. Annual training shall be conducted, preferably in conjunction with or supplemented by training from local utility companies, and include characteristics, hazards and precautions for high voltage electricity.

Prior to the start of an operation where contact with energized electrical systems is possible, supervisors shall identify energized lines or equipment, and reference their location. Their location shall be discussed at a pre-work safety meeting of all crew members. All new employees shall be similarly informed.


Aerial Lift - A piece of equipment, extendible and/or articulating, designed to position personnel and/or materials in elevated locations.

ANSI - American National Standards Institute

Lanyard - ANSI approved line designed for supporting one person, with one end fastened to a safety belt or full body harness, and the other end secured to a safety line or structural member. Lanyards shall not exceed 6' in length, and preferably include a 'shock-absorber' to attenuate fall impact.

OSHA - Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Safety Body Belt/Full Body Harness - ANSI approved body device designed for fall protection, which by reason of its attachment to a lanyard and safety line or structure will limit a fall to 6' or less. A full body harness is the preferred device for fall protection in aerial lift devices. However, safety body belts may be used as 'positioning devices' in aerial lift equipment, where employees stand with both feet on the floor of the bucket or platform; and are an acceptable alternative to harnesses only in this application. Because aerial lifts have passive fall protection systems, the intent of the belt is to keep the occupant(s) in the device upon impact, not to attenuate a fall from it.

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