How Scissor Lifts vs. Aerials Lifts Match Up

Ever wondered about the differences between scissor lifts vs. aerial lifts? Both types of forklifts are essential to the modern construction and logistics industries. The key difference between these lifts lies in their functionality. A scissor lift is a type of aerial lift that allows workers to complete tasks at heights. But, the lift moves only up and down. Comparatively, an aerial lift can move in different directions. It also comes in many forms.

Scissor Lift vs. Aerial Lift: What’s the Difference?

Aerial lifts and aerial scissor lifts are more alike than they are different. Even aerial work platform workers often fail to understand what makes each piece of equipment unique. Ultimately, the differences between scissor lifts vs. aerial lifts come down to OSHA definitions. 

OSHA defines an aerial lift as a machine used to lift workers. An aerial lift lets operators complete tasks at heights. In addition, the machine should only be used by an OSHA-approved operator. Otherwise, an unlicensed aerial lift operator risks operational or maintenance errors that can lead to accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Aerial lifts are frequently used for construction, maintenance, by those working on power or phone lines, while fighting fires in tall structures, for window washing, during safety inspections, and for orchard and tree care.

A scissor lift is similar to a standard aerial lift. This type of lift can move workers and equipment vertically. As such, a scissor lift enables operators to safely access work areas that commonly require a ladder, tower, or scaffolding. Professionals rely on scissor lifts to repair signs, clean gutters, provide safe access to high shelves, and for routine maintenance chores

It pays to know the similarities and differences between scissor and aerial lifts. Regardless of the type of lifts used across your business, your workers need OSHA-approved certification training, too. This training verifies that your employees know how to use different types of aerial lifts. It also confirms that your workers can do their part to identify scissor and aerial lift hazards and address them right away. 

What is an Aerial Lift?

OSHA’s aerial lift definition is the same as the one from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which considers the following vehicle-mounted rotating and elevating platforms as aerial lifts:

– Vertical towers

– Aerial ladders

– Articulating boom platforms

– Any combination of the above

Aerial lifts, or boom lifts, are classified as vehicle-mounted devices used to elevate personnel. They can lift workers both vertically and horizontally to reach exterior building structures, windows, trees, and power lines. They can be articulated to reach up and over structures, as well as access the top of roller coasters. The difference between an aerial lift and a scissor lift is that scissor lifts can only extend horizontally, and do not have the same reach power. 

Think of aerial lifts as a more versatile elevated work platform. Aerial lifts, unlike aerial scissor lifts or vertical scissor lifts, are typically used outdoors. However, they’re also used in some indoor facilities, such as heavy equipment manufacturing centers. 

What is a Scissor Lift?

Just what is a scissor lift, exactly? They do not fall within any of the above categories of aerial lifts, nor are there any OSHA provisions exclusive to scissor lifts. They do, however, meet the definition of a scaffold. Unfortunately, if you look at the general requirements for scaffolds (§1926.451), you won’t find scissor lifts mentioned. Anywhere on the page. Luckily, OSHA has made some improvements with their Scaffolding eTool. This page on the OSHA website makes it easier to understand what is a scissor lift and where it falls within the standards. It gives industry professionals some helpful background information on what makes a scissor lift.

According to OSHA, scissor lifts are “mobile supported scaffold work platforms used to safely move workers vertically and to different locations in a variety of industries including construction, retail, entertainment, and manufacturing.” Unlike aerial lifts, scissor lifts can only move vertically, directly above the base. It’s the recognizable criss-cross style beams that move the lift platform straight up and down. 

All scissor lifts are considered scaffolding, whether it’s a vertical scissor lift or aerial scissor lift

Additional differences between what is a scissor lift and an aerial lift are the use of fall protection. OSHA requires that operators use body harnesses and lanyards on aerial lifts at all times, but these personal protection tools aren’t requirements for scissor lifts. As long as there are functioning guardrails present, scissor lift operators don’t need to wear harnesses while on the platform. This applies to aerial scissor lifts and vertical scissor lifts

Why Use a Scissor Lift vs. an Aerial Lift?

Both of these unique tools come with their own pros and cons. Scissor lifts are simple to use and easy to move from one location to the next. They’re also easy to operate and can be used in diverse work environments – including the outdoors. Scissor lifts have bigger platforms, allowing more than one person to safely work on the lift at the same time. They’re cheaper than aerial lifts and are easier to store.

Aerial lifts, on the other hand, can reach up and around structures to access even the most difficult of areas. They can work at heights of 180 feet or greater. They allow workers to perform their duties safely, even on rough or uneven terrain. Small platforms mean operators can work in tight areas, and the ability to extend long distances horizontally allows for even more versatility. 

The Importance of Aerial Lift and Scissor Lift Safety

Perhaps the most important difference in scissor lifts vs. aerial lifts is their operation. Each lift has unique safety standards that operators must follow in order to prevent accidents. A little education can go a long way in keeping workers safe on the job.

We at have made it our mission to understand all OSHA standards and regulations completely, and we want to share what we know with your team. Our scissor lift training program covers what is a scissor lift, how to operate the various types of scissor lifts, how to perform inspections, and how to recognize and avoid hazards. 

We cover all the necessary scissor lift topics to be 100% OSHA-compliant, including fall protection, stabilization, and positioning for scissor lifts. To ensure students retain the information they learn, our program is self-paced and can be reviewed at any time. However, it typically takes trainees only about one hour to complete. And once they’ve worked through all the modules and have passed all quizzes and tests, students can print their operator certification card. 

OSHA compliance is paramount. It’s illegal to have anyone operate a scissor lift or aerial lift without proper training. With, we’ll take care of all your training needs. Plus, with refresher training, affordable prices and lifetime support, you’ll enjoy an OSHA compliance partner for life! 

Training for Scissor Lifts vs. Aerial Lifts

Regardless of whether you’re using aerial or scissor lifts on the job, it’s important to pursue the appropriate safety training. Failure to do so could put worker safety at risk and lead to expensive fines for your organization. Protect workers and your business with professional training via Our convenient online training makes it fast and easy to get in compliance with OSHA regulations – and it costs less than you might expect. Have questions about our offerings? Click here to contact us online or give us a call at (602) 277-0615

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