How to Operate a Scissor Lift

how to operate a scissor lift

Scissor lifts are characterized by the extendable platform and crisscross framework that makes them perfectly suited for construction and electrical work, interior maintenance, retail, and manufacturing. They are operated by workers in each of these industries, but one thing they have in common is that they learned how to operate a scissor lift and prevent scissor lift accidents through scissor lift training. 

How to Operate a Lift: General Tips

Scissor lifts aare technically scaffolding work platforms that are used to move workers vertically to access work areas at height. Even though scissor lifts may seem safer than aerial lifts, there are plenty of hazards that come with operating scissor lifts and not knowing how to move a scissor lift. Tip-overs are one of the top hazards involved with scissor lifts, which are often preventable with workers who have the proper training.

Training covers these basic yet important operational practices for new and experienced scissor lift operators:

– Check the work site to ensure there are no visible hazards, like drop-offs, holes, bumps, debris, or pedestrians
– Perform the pre-shift inspection before beginning work, which checks all operational and  functional components with the power off, and then with the power on
– Ensure safety equipment is in place, including the guardrails
– Wear the right clothing, including hard hats, rubber-soled shoes, and gloves
– Know how to operate a lift and perform maintenance according to the manufacturer’s instructions

How to Move a Scissor Lift

learn how to operate a lift and move a scissor lift

How to operate a scissor lift

OSHA considers scissor lifts to be mobile supported scaffolds, which puts them under a different regulation than aerial lifts. To move a scissor lift safely, especially with workers on the platform, the following steps and protocols must be in place, according to OSHA:

  • – The surface on which the scaffold is being moved is within 3 degrees of level and free of pits, holes and other obstructions
  • – A competent, experienced person must be on the worksite to supervise
  • – If used, outrigger frames should be installed on both sides of the lift
  • – The propelling force behind a power system, if used, should be applied directly to the wheels without producing a speed of 1 foot per second or more
  • – Workers are not on any part of the scaffold which extends outwards toward the wheels, casters, and other supports
  • – The height of the lift is no greater than two times the width of the base
  • – Manual force used to move the scaffold, like a forklift, shall be applied as close to the base as possible, but not more than 5 feet above the supporting surface
  • – When leveling is necessary after moving the lift, screw jacks or similar tools should be used
  • – Each employee on or near the scissor lift must be aware of the move

If all of these requirements for how to move a scissor lift safely are not present or met, workers must get down from the lift to move it. And as a general rule when moving a scissor lift, make sure to lower the platform to two times the width, at the most.

Understanding how to operate a lift properly comes with training and practice. Look into online scissor lift training to acquire the skills and knowledge you need in as little as one afternoon with

Top Scissor Lift Hazards and How to Operate a Lift Safely

The top accidents associated with scissor lifts are tip overs, collapses, malfunctions, objects hitting the operator, and the lift coming into contract with an object, like an overhead structure or a moving vehicle.

The keys to knowing how to operate a lift correctly and avoiding scissor lift accidents live in three important components: Fall Protection, Stabilization, and Positioning.

Fall Protection

The use of a scissor lift harness and lanyard is only required when there isn’t a working guardrail system present to prevent workers from falling out of the platform. Fall protection requires that workers check the guardrail system before beginning work, only stand on the platform, and keep work within easy reach from the platform.


Scissor lift operators must ensure that scissor lifts are stable to work on and won’t tip over or collapse on the work site. Stabilization protocols include keeping the scissor lift away from traffic, choosing firm work surfaces with level ground, and only working in good weather conditions.


Knowing how to move a scissor lift and positioning it correctly will help to prevent serious accidents like tip overs and electrocutions. Safety practices include being watchful of moving and fixed objects nearby lift and overhead objects like beams or door frames, and to select firm work surfaces at least ten feet away from live power sources.

Additional safety protocols for preventing accidents with scissor lifts include maintenance and operator training.

Maintaining Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts should be regularly maintained to ensure they are in safe working order for operators. Scissor lift maintenance should involve:

  • Testing and inspecting the controls and components before each use
  • Ensuring the guardrail system is in good working condition
  • Verifying the brakes are set and will hold the scissor lift in position


Only trained and certified workers should be allowed to operate a lift. Employers are responsible for making sure workers are skilled and know how to operate a lift safely, and ensuring that their training includes the following:

  • Manufacturer’s instructions for operating the scissor lift vertically and in transit
  • Handling materials on the lift
  • Worksite hazards that workers may encounter
  • Reporting any equipment defects or maintenance needs

Get Scissor Lift Training from

The scissor lift training course from teaches how to operate a lift safely and avoid hazards that can cause accidents. It fulfills OSHA’s requirements for scissor lift training by teaching how to operate a scissor lift vertically and while in transit, how to handle materials on the lift, how to move a scissor lift, how to avoid hazards, and how to report equipment defects and maintenance needs.

Our course can be accessed online 24/7 from any device with an internet connection, and completed in only about one hour.

Sign up and receive your OSHA-compliant scissor lift certification today!

Additional Scissor Lift Safety Information

Are Harnesses Required for Scissor Lifts?

No. And yes. Well, those are the answers to the question above. If that sounds confusing, you’ll need some additional context. Aerial lift harnesses typically get more publication than scissor lift protective equipment. And maybe that’s for a good reason. Aerial lifts operate at much higher heights than scissor lifts. But that still doesn’t mean that scissor lift safety isn’t important. In this post, our OSHA safety training experts discuss when to use a scissor lift safety harness. As you’ll see, the subject of harnesses and scissor lifts goes along the same lines as aerial lift safety harnesses. It all boils down to job site-specific requirements, or any safety standards established by a certain area (borough, township, county, etc.). Are harnesses required for scissor lifts? What other job type does OSHA consider scissor lift operators similar to? These answers to these and other pressing questions can be found by reading this post.

Top 5 Maintenance Tips for Aerial and Scissor Lifts

Maintenance is more important than ever with industrial equipment. Forklifts, pallet jacks, and other powered industrial trucks without a regular maintenance schedule are more likely to break down, cause accidents, and hinder productivity. Well, aerial lifts and scissor lifts are no different. Aerial lift and scissor lift maintenance is essential for job safety. OSHA can hand out large fines and penalties if any injuries or accidents are caused by a scissor lift or aerial lift that’s not working properly. And most of the time, poorly operating machinery is caused by lack of maintenance. Which maintenance tasks can your company perform that will improve safety and decrease the chances of an accident? This helpful post shows you how, including methods for better inspection, the importance of tire pressure, why fluid checks shouldn’t be skipped, and much more. Read it today!

This post was originally written in 2017, with new information and links to further reading added in 2018. 

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