Elevated work platforms are the best way to get legally high on the job. The type of high you go for will depend on where you’re working and what you’re doing.
Most aerial work platforms can be set up and operated by just one person. And many provide useful extra features, like electrical outlets, air compressors for power tools, and carrying frames. If you’re looking at hiring one, you’ll need to consider the type of work you’re going to be using it for. You’ve got a number of options, each one designed with different features and safe working loads.
If you’re hiring an elevated work platform (EWP), it is important to ensure the person who will be operating it has undergone the relevant training. A reputable course will cover:
- Hazard assessment;
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Safe planning of the work;
- Equipment checks – pre and post operation;
- EWP setup;
- EWP operation;
- Emergency procedures;
- Correct procedures for shutting down and securing the EWP.
Different types of Aerial Work Platforms
Also known as boom lifts (“articulated boom lifts” if you want to get technical, or “knuckle booms” if you want to sound like a boss), cherry pickers take their name from their original use: getting fruit pickers closer to their bounty. While they have expanded well beyond their origin story, it is still evident in their limited safe working load. Most can carry no more than 200kg and a decent chunk of that weight will be taken up by the operator.
There are electric powered models, great for indoor use, and diesel powered ones that are often used for servicing power lines and any equipment that’s up and out of reach. Some of them have a telescopic arm that works in tandem with the articulation. This gives you Inspector Gadget levels of control over the positioning of the worker.
Choose a cherry picker if: low weight capacity is not and issue and you need manoeuvrability to get up and over obstacles.
Unlike the cherry picker, telescopic lifts don’t articulate. Rather, they extend (as the name suggests) telescopically. Some people call them teleporters which is incredibly confusing for science fiction fans. While they definitely do not allow you to jump instantly through space and time, they are quicker to manoeuvre into place than articulated lifts.
Telescopic lifts also come in models capable of carrying much heavier loads. We’re talking tons rather than kilograms in weight capacity. However the safe load does depend on the extension of the arm. Your driver should be equipped with a load chart to help ensure calculations are accurate. Once again, it is vital the operator has undergone training to be able to handle the machinery safely and optimally.
Telescopic lifts are designed for mobility and you can get 4WD models, perfect for construction sites. There are arms with operator platforms and others designed purely for lifting loads.
Choose a telescopic lift if: you need a lot of height and/or reach, there’s rough terrain or other obstacles preventing close access.
Unlike their articulating and telescoping counterparts, scissor lifts are straight up and down. Their structure is pantographic, which is way less dodgy than it sounds. It involves a series of linked, supports that fold in a criss-cross pattern that has a scissor-like appearance in operation. Hence the name, “scissor lift”. They have a larger platform than cherry pickers and telescopic lifts and are perfect for raising workers and equipment to the required height.
Scissor lifts can be used both indoors and outdoors for all sorts of applications including painting, cleaning, changing signage and cleaning gutters. They come in a range of sizes, depending on how high you want to get and how much weight you want to take with you. Some models can have extending bridges attached to them to help overcome the restriction of the up-and-down only operation.
Choose a scissor lift if: you only need to go straight up and you’re working on pretty level ground.
Vertical mast lifts
The smallest of the elevated work platforms we’ve looked at, vertical mast lifts, or personnel lifts, are designed for indoor use. Many feature zero-turn capabilities as they are made with small spaces in mind. There are single mast and dual mast models available, depending on the weight capacity and height you’re looking to reach.
Choose a vertical mast lift if: you’re working indoors, even if you don’t have a lot of room.