Which is safer: an aerial lift or a ladder? At first glance, a ladder may appear to be the safer option. When you weigh the pros and cons of both options, however, you may quickly discover why an aerial lift can be safer than a ladder.
If you are considering an aerial lift or a ladder for work at heights, you should closely evaluate both options. Then, you can make an informed decision about whether an aerial lift or a ladder is the best choice.
Aerial Lifts vs. Ladders: What You Need to Know
OSHA defines an aerial lift as a vehicle-mounted device used to elevate workers. An aerial lift is constructed from metal, fiberglass-reinforced plastic, or other heavy-duty materials and can be manually operated or powered.
There are several types of aerial lifts, including:
✓ Articulating boom platforms
✓ Extendable boom platforms
✓ Vertical towers
Ladder and Aerial Lift Safety
Regardless of whether workers use ladders or aerial lifts, safety is key. When using a ladder or an aerial lift, a worker is completing tasks at elevation. In this instance, the worker needs to take proper safety precautions — otherwise, the worker could fall, resulting in injury or death.
OSHA offers guidelines that employers must implement to ensure that employees can safely perform work at heights. As an employer, it is your responsibility to follow these guidelines and teach personnel about them. You must also provide training to educate your workers about unsafe ladder use and other safety topics.
What Are the Risks Associated with Unsafe Ladder Use?
If workers cannot safely use a ladder or aerial lift, they pose risks to themselves, their coworkers, and bystanders. Fortunately, with proper training, employees can learn how to properly use ladders and aerial lifts. These workers can then use what they have learned to create a safe work environment. Plus, they can help a business minimize the risk of on-the-job accidents, injuries, and fatalities and avoid OSHA penalties.
Ladder Hazards You Need to Know About
Common ladder hazards include:
- – Ladder is cracked or damaged
- – Ladder is placed a slippery surface or uneven terrain
- – Ladder rungs are damaged or have mud or grease on them
- – Employees carry heavy tools or materials up and down ladder
- – Metal ladder is used near live electrical wires
Along with encountering ladder hazards, there are several mistakes that workers that can lead to ladder accidents and injuries, such as:
- – Standing on a ladder’s top step of step ladders
- – Using a ladder that is too small
- – Failing to inspect a ladder before use; in this instance, workers may miss broken rungs or other ladder damage that can make it unsafe to use the ladder
- – Using a ladder on loose or uneven ground
- – Overreaching while on a ladder; this can cause a worker’s center of gravity to shift beyond the ladder’s side rails, resulting in a fall
- – Ignoring three points of contact (two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet) when ascending or descending a ladder
- – Failing to face the ladder when descending
- – Skipping ladder rungs when descending
If workers ignore ladder safety, they risk falls that can result in accidents and injuries. They could also expose themselves to electricity, which could result in a fatal electrocution.
For workers who regularly use a ladder to complete tasks at heights, they must inspect the ladder before every use and position the ladder safely. These workers must follow ladder safety best practices to minimize the risk of falls and electrocutions, too.
In addition, workers must understand the importance of choosing between an aerial lift and a ladder relative to different applications. Since an aerial lift is generally a safer choice than a ladder, workers who can use a lift in lieu of a ladder can reduce their risk of falls and electrocutions at heights.
Why Use an Aerial Lift Over a Ladder?
There are several reasons to use an aerial lift over a ladder, including:
Aerial lifts weigh more than ladders, and as such, offer greater stability on a wide range of terrain. They are made from metal or reinforced fiberglass and feature a sturdy base that carries the weight of the extendable boom arm or platform with strength and durability.
Aerial lifts can handle more weight than ladders. Industrial ladders can hold up to 300 lbs., while many aerial lifts can hold as much as 1,000 lbs.. In fact, aerial lifts are made for withstanding the weight of workers as well as their equipment and tools.
Many types of aerial lifts are available, and they offer immense mobility in comparison to ladders.
Workers on ladders need to constantly climb up and down and disassemble and reassemble their ladders. The constant movement can cause operator fatigue and increase the risk of falls and severe injuries.
Meanwhile, aerial lifts can safely lower workers at heights, to the point where they can step off a lift platform, raise and lower the lift with the push of a button, and seamlessly move around a worksite.
4. Fall Protection
Even though ladders do not require fall protection equipment, falls are a very real hazard when working on them at heights, especially on ladders as tall as 40 ft.
With aerial lifts, body harnesses and lanyards are required and are easily attached to access points on the lift platform to prevent workers from falling and significantly reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on worksites.
Aerial lifts are more flexible than ladders, especially when it comes to getting into the right position for working at heights. Lifts can be placed directly underneath or an optimal position for accessing a work area and can be raised to the exact working height needed.
On the other hand, if a ladder is too short, workers may be tempted to stand on the top rungs or overstretch to reach a work area. Or, if a ladder is too tall, it may be set up against a wall and can slip out from underneath a worker.
Ladders offer less reach than aerial lifts. So, ladders cannot meet the needs of workers who need to conduct repair power lines, wash windows, repair buildings, or perform other tasks at heights. In these instances, workers can use aerial lifts to safely perform tasks at high elevations, without sacrificing safety.
Since aerial lifts are safer than ladders, they can help businesses lower the costs associated with falls and other accidents and injuries that take place at heights.
When it comes to deciding between an aerial lift and a ladder, the choice is clear: a lift is the best option. However, if you use an aerial lift, you must educate workers about lift safety. That way, workers can take the necessary precautions and use a lift safely.
Aerial Lift Safety Tips
To properly use an aerial lift, workers should:
- √ Inspect the lift to ensure it is working correctly before they use it.
- √ Conduct a work zone inspection to identify and address any risks before they use the lift.
- √ Avoid overloading the lift.
- √ Leverage fall protection equipment.
- √ Beware overhead objects.
It is crucial for workers to complete an aerial lift safety training program as well. In doing so, workers can receive comprehensive insights into aerial lift safety dangers and guard against them.
Offer Aerial Lift Safety Training to Your Workers
Now that you know about the benefits of using aerial lifts in lieu of ladders, you should enroll your workers in an aerial lift safety training program. Thanks to this program, your workers can become OSHA-certified aerial lift operators.
CertifyMeOnline.net offers an extensive aerial lift safety training program that lets your workers become OSHA-compliant lift operators right away. Our program provides fast, seamless access to a variety of learning materials. It also ensures your workers can earn their OSHA aerial lift safety certification at their convenience.
We are happy to provide additional details about our aerial lift safety training program. To learn more, please contact us online or call us today at (602) 227-0615.