How to Get Over a Fear of Heights in Construction

how to get over fear of heights in construction

Many people suffer from an extreme fear of heights to the point where they freeze up or cannot function when suspended high up in the air. This fear can be dangerous for construction workers, especially anyone working on an aerial lift. A person who is afraid of being high up off the ground may have difficulty functioning normally unless they learn how to get over a fear of heights..

Acrophobia is the official term for fear of heights. For aerial lift operators, learning the best way to get over a fear of heights can be a significant hurdle to performing your job correctly. Some aerial lifts can soar into the sky for hundreds of feet! Yikes!

Before you learn how to overcome your fear of heights in construction, it’s helpful to know you’re not the only one. In fact, it’s estimated that over 25 million Americans have some type of phobia.

What Causes a Fear of Heights?

Understanding the source of anxiety is the first step in learning how to get over your fear of heights. The main reason for this fear is as an amplified reaction to what is considered to be a natural fear of getting hurt when falling from a high place. While almost everyone has a natural fear of heights and the risks involved, the fear is exaggerated for those who have a distinct fear of heights.

A past fall that led to an injury can also cause the person to fear being in a similar situation again. If the injury was serious, the person may have a reason to fear such an issue again, causing them to panic whenever they are up high off the ground. The person may have seen someone else fall and be seriously injured or even killed, which would then cause them to develop a concern for the same situation happening to them.

Poor balance may lead to a fear of falling, which can cause a person to be afraid of being up high in the air. If they suffer from a dysfunction of the equilibrium, which provides balance, they may have a higher risk for falling, which will lead them to be afraid of such a situation.

Genetics and the environment can also influence a person’s fear of heights. If another family member was afraid of heights, it increases the likelihood that you will be, too. How caregivers respond to heights when you are a child can lead you to have the fear. For example, if your mother or father were always telling you to get down or you might fall with panic in their voice, you might associate heights with severe danger.

Recognizing Symptoms of a Fear of Heights

The funny thing about phobias is that we often don’t realize we have them until we’re staring at them straight on. A person can be fine with heights their entire life and then struggle to perform tasks while on board an aerial lift. Though training with a fear of heights in construction can be challenging, recognizing the signs and symptoms of such a phobia is the first step to overcoming this issue. 

Plenty of people dislike heights. Actual phobias are accompanied by symptoms like sweating, nausea, dizziness, trembling, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing. Some people even experience panic attacks when working at great heights. This is where a fear of heights can start to become dangerous. If a person is already shaky and unsteady, a panic attack may cause them to fall and injure themselves.

Jobs That Require Employees to Work at Heights

If you become an aerial lift operator, you will need to perform work at heights. There are many industries providing stable, well-paying employment as a lift operator. Here are some of the areas where certified lift operators are in high demand:


From connecting structural building components to installing ductwork, aerial lifts are a necessity in construction. Telescoping booms provide maximum elevation, but cherry pickers and scissor lifts are also commonly used in this industry.


Aerial lifts help workers get to unreachable areas safely and efficiently during the construction phase and they can do the same for the inevitable maintenance and repairs. Boom lifts are especially popular for maintenance jobs, as they contain bucket and workspace attachments that employees can work from.


Cherry pickers got their moniker from their early days working in the orchards. Today, aerial lifts are still used for picking fruit because of their agility and compact size. Portable scissor lifts provide workers with easy access to equipment and crops alike.

Tree Work

Nothing makes pruning, cutting, and caring for trees more manageable than an aerial lift. Whether it’s topping off a tree at 90 feet or maneuvering around obstacles, an aerial lift is a must for arborists and tree climbers. Man baskets on lift trucks prove especially useful during tree service appointments.

A fear of heights won’t disqualify you from earning a job that requires you to work on equipment high off the ground, but it can make it exceedingly difficult to perform everyday tasks safely and effectively. Thus, if you want to learn how to get over your fear of heights, you want to seek treatment to help you manage your fear. Over time, you may discover safe, effective ways to help you cope. At that point, you may even be ready to pursue work as an aerial lift operator.

Understand the Fear of Heights

Fear of heights is common because a fall can cause serious physical harm. 

People who deal with a fear of heights may experience vertigo, along with shaking, sweating, headaches, and other physical symptoms. Fortunately, people who have trouble getting over their fear of heights can pursue a wide range of treatment options, including cognitivebehavioral therapy and medication.

Several treatment options exist for the fear of heights. Everyone won’t respond the same way to each treatment, so you may have to try more than one to find success. 

It can be helpful to understand why you have this fear if you want to learn how to overcome your fear of heights. For some, they have fallen from a height, which causes them to worry about it happening again. You may have watched someone else fall and get hurt. The fear of heights can be hereditary with someone in the family suffering from agoraphobia.

Health conditions that cause dizziness, light-headedness, or vertigo can leave you feeling afraid of high places. You may worry about your symptoms getting worse or being unable to get down. Once you know the cause of your fear, you can have a better idea of how to cure lift phobia once and for all.

How to Get Over a Fear of Heights

Training with a fear of heights in construction can be emotionally challenging. Coping mechanisms are essential. With the right tools in your pocket, you can learn to overcome your fears and realize how little hold they actually have over you.

To get started learning the best way to get over fear of heights, practice these tips:

Realize that your fears are valid

Nearly everyone has some form of a fear of heights. Researchers have realized that this fear is an evolutionary trait, keeping us from standing on that steep ledge that can cause us harm. Face the fact that your fears aren’t silly, and then find ways to reduce these fears.

Tackle it head-on, slowly

If you are afraid of heights, start doing more activity where you’re up in the air. But don’t start by sky-diving. Take small steps. Go to the top of a 5-story building, then a 10-story building. If possible, see if your supervisor can assign you to lower heights as you work through your fear.

Take a buddy along

Sometimes, the fear of heights is made worse by being alone. If your job needs two or three workers for an aerial lift project, try going with a crew. Just talking and being around other co-workers should help.

Visualize success

With your eyes closed, visualize the specific security concerns that you will face in the situation you’re about to enter. Imagine the sturdiness of the barrier or aerial lift platform guard rail; feel the hug of the body harness; visualize sliding your hand along the guardrail and feeling your safety and security.

Try hypnosis

Hypnosis takes self-visualization one step further, and it’s actually helped a lot of people get past their fear of heights. It might not work for you, but it’s worth a shot, especially if everything else was useless.

Do’s and Don’ts for Training with a Fear of Heights in Construction

If you’re training with a fear of heights in construction, it’s important to acknowledge your anxiety upfront. Be honest with your colleagues about your concerns. Work together to double and triple check safety features and PPE before getting started. This can ease your fear about something going awry. Exposure to heights, over time, will see your anxieties start to dissipate. 

Of course, there is such a thing as too much, too soon. Rather than force yourself into a new challenge, take things slowly. Avoid pushing yourself too much all at once. Instead, allow yourself to tackle small challenges first to build up your confidence.

Aerial Lift Operators: Tips for Getting Over a Fear of Heights

If you want to know how to overcome fear of heights, the answer lies with training. Aerial lift operators face a number of challenges if they fail to face this fear. When workers are scared of heights, they’re less productive. That fear spills into workplace dynamics – if you’re worried about getting in trouble for being less productive, the fear can compound. Instead of stressing about losing your job, face your fear of heights head on.

In the case of a fear of heights and all types of phobias, learning more about the fear and the ways you can prevent any mishaps can help you in getting over your fear of heights. When you know more about something, you take away the power it has over you because the mystery and confusion are dissipated.

Completing an aerial lift certification program teaches you everything you need to operate an aerial lift properly, including how to recognize and avoid hazards, operate the controls, and assess the environment. As such, this program can help you learn how to get over your fear of heights. Because, when you understand all of the proper working processes and how to avoid hazards to protect your life, you will feel much safer working on an aerial lift, knowing you are equipped with the knowledge you need.

Why You Need Comprehensive Aerial Lift Training and Certification

Aerial lift certification involves both step-by-step learning and written testing, and an in-person practical assessment. This structure ensures that students learn the analytical components of operating an aerial lift, with the hands-on practice they need to be most prepared. If you would like to become an aerial lift operator and gain a recession-proof career with financial security, then the first step is understanding how to overcome your fear of heights.

The online portion of the training is not timed and is taken at your own pace so that you can feel comfortable and fully prepared to move onto the practical assessment. The practical test is led by a knowledgeable and patient instructor that will help you operate aerial lifts the right way, and the safe way. Knowing that your safety is everyone’s top concern can help you learn how to get over your fear of heights.

Having something broken down into manageable steps is often the best way to learn and can reduce some of the nervousness around training. Our aerial lift certification program covers the following:

Aerial lift and scissor lift training

Class 7 forklift training, which includes rough terrain forklifts, straight mast forklifts, and  extended reach forklifts

Fall protection training to help you understand exactly how to prevent falls from happening in the first place

Did “fall protection” training catch your eye? As someone who is struggling with getting over a fear of heights, receiving comprehensive fall protection training with your equipment operation certification feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders and a long, deep breath. You will learn how to get over your fear of heights and feel confident in your career as an aerial lift operator.

Want to Learn How to Overcome Your Fear of Heights? offers certification for aerial and aerial lift training, and also provides scissor lift certification, fall protection courses, and other classes. We’ll help you stay compliant with OSHA and your employer, and teach you how to get over your fear of heights

Sign up today for the fastest way to get certified and learn how to get over their fear of heights. They’ve been used by many companies and are very affordable, too! For any questions about setting up aerial lift training courses, please call us at (602) 277-0615. Plus, you can send a message or request a quote on our contact page.

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