Aerial Work Platform Safety
An average of 26 construction workers die each year from using aerial lifts. This is 2 to 3% of all construction deaths. On aerial lifts, the major causes are falls, electrocutions, and collapses or tipovers. For this article, aerial lifts include boom-supported aerial platforms, such as cherry pickers or bucket trucks, and elevating platforms, such as scissor lifts (OSHA regulates scissor lifts as mobile scaffolds, not aerial lifts). There are also 2 to 3 deaths each year from working on crane personnel platforms.
Electricians had the most deaths (25%), followed by construction laborers (15%), electrical power installers and repairers (13%), painters (8%), and carpenters (5%). These results do not show which trade is most at risk, because we don’t know how many workers in the various trades use aerial lifts.
Boom lifts accounted for almost 70% of the aerial lift deaths:
- Half of the falls from boom lifts involved being ejected from the bucket after being struck by vehicles, cranes, or crane loads, or by falling objects, or when a lift suddenly jerked.
- Two-thirds of the deaths from collapses/tipovers of boom lifts occurred when the bucket cable or boom broke or the bucket fell; almost one-third were due to tipovers.
- Half of the boom lift electrocutions involved body contact with overhead power lines, mostly involving electricians or electrical power installers and repairers. Over one-third of the electrocutions involved an overhead power line contacting the lift boom or bucket.
- In most of the caught in/between deaths, a worker was caught between the bucket edge and objects such as roof joists or beams while repositioning the bucket.
Scissor lifts accounted for over 25% of the aerial lift deaths:
- The causes of scissor lift falls were unknown for over half of the fall deaths; in one-fifth of the falls, the worker was ejected from the scissor lift, mostly when the scissor lift was struck by an object. The rest of the fall deaths occurred after removal of chains or guardrails, or while standing on or leaning over railings.
- Three-quarters of the tipovers of scissor lifts resulted in fall deaths; for the rest, workers died from being struck by the falling scissor lift. About two-fifths of the tipovers occurred when the scissor lift was extended over 15 feet, mostly while driving the lift.