Aerial Lifts and Scissor Lifts: When to Use Them

aerial lift vs. scissor lift

Aerial lifts and scissor lifts are both vehicle-mounted devices used to “lift” workers to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. They are most commonly used in construction sites and to repair electrical lines. Lifts can elevate people as well as supplies to transport them throughout a worksite, including cargo and building materials. However, aerial lifts and scissor lifts are designed to be effective for different jobs, and their main difference is the mechanical method they use to elevate the passenger.

Aerial Lifts are mobile elevating platforms used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to areas of great height. Aerial lifts, or aerial work platforms, are used for temporary flexible access mostly for maintenance purposes, construction work, or for firefighters during emergencies. Aerial lifts can be powered by hydraulic pistons, diesel, gasoline, or electrically.

Aerial lifts are popular for a number of tasks, such as window washing and other maintenance projects taking place outdoors and indoors where heavier hydraulic machinery cannot be accommodated. Aerial lifts are the closest in structure to cranes, with a single, long pillar that holds the platform. They are also designed with multiple-jointed sections that allow them to move in different directions. One of the benefits of aerial lifts is that they typically come with useful extra features, such as the addition of electrical outlets or compressed air connectors for power tools. Other features include specialized equipment like the ability to hold and transport frames for windows. Aerial lifts offer more features and capabilities than scissor lifts, making them useful for more complicated jobs that require an extra level of extension, such as reaching corners.

Scissor Lifts are a type of elevated platform device that can usually move only vertically. Unlike aerial devices, they can’t extend “up and over” obstacles. Scissor lifts get their name from a linked, folding scissor-like crisscross pattern. Their upward motion ability is achieved through the application of pressure on the outside of the lower supports. Scissor lifts are powered by hydraulic, pneumatic, or mechanical systems. Scissor lifts may not require any power to descend to safe ground, but instead a release of hydraulic or pneumatic pressure. This fail safe is a reason scissor lifts are popular for many projects, especially those where the operator simply needs to be elevated. Although scissor lifts are similar in function to aerial lifts, they are not classified as so by OSHA. Rather, they are considered scaffolding, and they are only able to raise its operator directly above its base. As a result, they aren’t as effective at reaching inaccessible areas as aerial lifts and aren’t capable of the same stretch-power.

Although both aerial lifts and scissor lifts elevate workers or equipment into the air, the difficulty level of accessing the work zone, as well as the type of work needed, is what will decide whether an aerial lift or scissor lift is best.


No matter which lift your job requires, all workers need to be certified and trained to operate them. Without OSHA compliant training, it won’t matter what safety features or convenient additions are available; all workers’ lives and well-being can be compromised due to improper operation. Improve the safety at your workplace and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities with the fast, convenient, and affordable aerial lift and scissor lift training from

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