Aerial Lift and Scissor Lift Training - FAQs

Scissor Lift Training Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between the different types of aerial lifts?
First, scissor lifts and boom lifts are not the same thing. In fact, they fall under different standards. But there are very similar principles involved with safely operating them, so we’ve combined them into one training program. Now, over the years various types of aerial lifts have come into the market. Each is better suited to handle certain jobs when compared to others. For this reason, it is vital you understand what type of aerial lift is best for the job at hand.

Generally speaking, there are five main types you should be familiar with

Scissor Lifts: Scissor lifts are perhaps the most common type of aerial work platform. Some have cushion tires for work in warehouses. Other scissor lifts have pneumatic tires and can traverse over rough terrain. They scissor up and down vertically and, depending on the type, can hold multiple workers at a time. Scissor lifts have controls on the platform and ground controls. They are self-propelled when lowered. Fall arrest gear may be required.
Boom Lifts: Boom personnel work platforms are also a very common site. They come in the form of stiff booms that do not extend outward, just up and down. Other boom lifts, called telescopic boom lifts, telescope out and have a higher reach. Both have controls that allow the operator to drive when lowered, or to raise, lower, tilt or rotate the boom as needed. Fall arrest gear is always required.
Articulating Boom Lifts (Knuckle Boom Lifts): Another type of hydraulic boom lift, these lifts knuckle or bend at various points along the boom. This allows operators to maneuver around obstacles or down into areas straight booms might not otherwise reach. Fall arrest gear is again required.
Vertical Lifts: Vertical lifts are typically used by one worker. The basket is attached to a mechanism that extends up and down a mast. They are great for small spaced. Fall arrest gear is required.
Vehicle Mounted Aerial Lifts: This type of aerial lift is commonly known as a bucket truck. They are primarily used by companies that deal with electrical wires, tree trimming, or signage. The buckets are often insulated for work around power lines. Some buckets, though, are made of metal and have a winch and hoisting capabilities.
How often do I need aerial lift training?
OSHA requires aerial lift training for aerial lift operators–on that there is no question. Where confusion exists is how often operators need aerial lift refresher training or recertification. Outside of the initial safety training class, it is common to see companies set re-certification at every three years. We are one of them. And here’s why:

As far as this 3-year aerial lift training certification goes, OSHA regulations are very specific when it comes to forklifts and a couple other pieces of equipment. However, on everything else they are not so clear. They just state the employer must regularly provide safety training for their aerial lift operators. Following industry best practices, we’ve adopted this 3-year term in order to help employers comply with the general standard of regularly providing and proving aerial lift training. Ultimately, it is up to the employer to determine how frequently their aerial lift operators need to be trained. Many of our customers require it more often, annually even. Others may stretch it out a bit. In working with OSHA, though, it is our experience that they like to see employers adopt the strictest standard when the regulations are not clear. For instance, we know of companies that didn’t train every three years and were reprimanded by OSHA for not offering additional training more often. It is not uncommon for OSHA to refer to the forklift standard as the pattern by which training should be carried out for other pieces of equipment. On a side note, OSHA is slowly but surely making training requirements specific for other pieces of equipment so there are no gray areas. Mobile cranes and aerial lifts, for instance, are all undergoing potential changes to the regulations that will reference training specifically.

So, with that in mind, we say aerial lift operators must be re-evaluated every three years to determine if they are still competent enough to operate. We also state that this every-three-year bucket truck evaluation is the maximum time that should be allowed to pass before an operator receives aerial lift re-certification. According to OSHA, there are several instances that will require additional aerial lift training and observation before the three year period is up:

Aerial lift operator is observed in an accident or a near miss
Aerial lift operator received a poor evaluation or is observed driving in a dangerous manner
The aerial lift operator is assigned to drive a different type of aerial lifts or the workplace has changed significantly enough to require additional bucket truck training (such as being transferred from operating an aerial lift used to hoist signs to a bucket truck used for trimming trees).
I’ve received scissor lift training. Can I operate an aerial boom lift, or cherry picker?
Not likely. OSHA requires aerial lift operators to receive aerial lift training for each type of aerial lift. On this term, “type,” there is much confusion. Generally speaking, by “type” OSHA means scissor lift vs. boom lift vs. hydraulic personnel lift vs. vehicle mounted aerial lift vs. telescopic boom lift, etc. For example, say you have always operated a scissor lift in a warehouse but have suddenly been asked to operate a boom lift on a construction site. In this case, you would need additional boom lift training specific to telescopic boom aerial lifts.

If you have received scissor lift training in a warehouse and have always operated a Genie scissor lift, but then are asked to operate a JLG scissor lift, you should be just fine to operate under the same scissor lift training certification received previously. Keep in mind though, controls can differ greatly from brand to brand, so in some cases you may need additional instruction or a quick refresher training to make sure you are clear on what each control does.

I’ve operated scissor lifts for 30 years. Do I need to take a class, a written exam, and a practical exam still? Or can I just take a written test?
No matter how long you’ve been on the job, OSHA requires scissor lift training, a scissor lift written exam, and a practical scissor lift evaluation. There is no way around it. This goes for other types of aerial lifts too. The extent of the classroom training can be adapted by the instructor according to student needs. The written exam proves mental competency and understanding of the safety principles taught. And the practical evaluation proves the scissor lift operator not only understands but is capable of operating the machine safely. In the opinion of many, the practical evaluation is of the greatest overall value, but all components are necessary. Our aerial lift training online courses (scissor lift training) and our aerial lift training kits (scissor lift training) both meet these requirements and include exams.

I received aerial lift training/scissor lift training at a different job. Do I need to be trained again by my new employer?
Scissor lift training, boom lift training, bucket truck training–this is a common question, especially among laborers-for-hire who may sub out from job to job. Technically, it is your current employer who is responsible for saying whether or not you have been trained specifically for the type of aerial lift and job. For example, if you bring a scissor lift training certificate or wallet card to your new employer, they do not have to accept it. It is their right to require you to take their own training class. This is because if there is an accident, they will likely be responsible and need to prove to OSHA that they trained you on scissor lift operations.

Can you explain aerial lift certification? Who can train, evaluate, and certify operators?
This, above all, causes a lot of confusion. Bottom line, OSHA states that employers are responsible to train their employees. Generally speaking, there are three ways they can do this:

Train employees in-house with their own program
Hire a 3rd party to train the employees (on-site or off-site)
Use another company’s materials or online classes to train employees
In terms of using a 3rd part of a safety training companies materials (like our aerial lift training kits or our aerial lift training classes online) OSHA does not recognize one company over another. They simply state that ‘training needs to occur’ and ‘here are the things an aerial lift operator should be trained on.’

When we do live training or offer aerial lift training online, people often assume we are the ones certifying the trainees. This is not true for any training company. We are simply assisting the employer by providing live aerial lift training or the training materials needed to help them aerial lift certify their employees.

How do I take the aerial lift practical evaluation if I take aerial lift training online?
The online aerial lift training class covers OSHA requirements for the classroom portion. Many employers prefer online training because they know exactly what aerial lift training the operator will receive. In live classes, the training sometimes varies. A written exam is included at the end of our online training courses. After the aerial lift class and exam are finished, you and your safety managers will have immediate access to a practical evaluation checklist. This can be printed off and used by your supervisor to help him or her evaluate you on the aerial lift. When done, they can sign it and file it with your exam. This will satisfy OSHA requirements for aerial lift certification.

Do I have to wear fall protection in an aerial lift?
It depends. Fall prevention is a major concern at every worksite. Yet there is a lot of confusion. Depending on where you live, some standards require fall arrest gear (body harness, lanyard, anchorage point) at four feet above ground level, and other places require it at six or ten feet. You need to be familiar with your specific area. However, to make simple, fall protection is always required on aerial lifts.

On both scissor lifts and self-propelled boom lifts, the safety railings and gates constitute fall protection. Additionally, harnesses and lanyards are required at all times on boom lifts.

As far as scissor lifts are concerned, the guardrail is the minimum type of fall protection required. The reason for this is some scissor lifts are not rated to withstand the added weight of a fall. If fall protection was worn, the sudden increase could cause the scissor lift to tip, thus injuring others too. However, some scissor lifts are appropriately load rated, so certain manufacturers may require operators to wear fall arrest gear 100% of the time. Before you tie into a scissor lift, check the operator’s manual to determine if your particular lift allows for fall arrest systems.

Can I use a scissor lift, aerial lift, bucket truck, or boom lift to hoist a load?
No. Scissor lifts, aerial lifts, bucket truck, and boom lifts are not typically designed for this purpose. The one exception would be certain types of bucket trucks used in the sign industry. These vehicle mounted aerial lifts come equipped with a winch and hoisting capabilities. They are specifically designed to lift loads. But you should never use your aerial lift to lift a load if it was not manufactured to do so. Doing this will affect the stability and tipping point of your aerial lift and can easily lead to tip over. Consult your operator’s manual and aerial lift manufacturer if you have questions.

My trainee scored 80% on the scissor lift training exam. Did he pass or fail?
Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not dictate what a passing score entails. That is ultimately up to the employer whose responsibility it is to certify, or authorize, their employee to operate an aerial lift. If you want to pass him at 80%, fine. But what if a question or two among the 20% missed could lead to an accident or death? Is it worth it? Our recommendation is that you always go over any missed questions with your trainees—even if they just missed one. Once they understand the principle missed, have them write their initials by the correct answer. That way, you are protecting them and those around them from potential accidents in the future.