Bucket Truck Training FAQs

 

Bucket Truck Frequently Asked Questions

How often do I need bucket truck training? 
OSHA requires vehicle mounted aerial lift training (bucket truck training) for bucket truck operators–on that there is no question. Where confusion exists is how often operators need bucket truck refresher training or recertification. Outside of the initial safety training class, it is common to see companies set recertification at every three years. We are one of them. And here’s why:

As far as this 3-year bucket truck 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 bucket truck training. Ultimately, it is up to the employer to determine how frequently their bucket truck 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 bucket truck 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 bucket truck recertification. According to OSHA, there are several instances that will require additional bucket truck training and observation before the three year period is up:

Bucket truck operator is observed in an accident or a near miss
Bucket truck operator received a poor evaluation or is observed driving in a dangerous manner
The bucket truck operator is assigned to drive a different type of bucket truck or the workplace has changed significantly enough to require additional bucket truck training (such as being transferred from operating a bucket truck used to hoist signs to a bucket truck used for trimming trees).
I’ve received bucket truck training. Can I operate any type of bucket truck?
Bucket trucks are much more similar from truck to truck, as opposed to, say, operating a scissor lift compared to operating a boom aerial lift. OSHA requires bucket truck operators to receive bucket truck training for each type of bucket truck. On this term, “type,” there is much confusion. Generally speaking, by “type” OSHA means insulated bucket truck vs. non-insulated vs. ladder trucks or vehicle mounted aerial lifts with winches used by sign companies. For example, say you have always operated a non-insulated vehicle mounted aerial lift to install signs on storefronts, but have suddenly been asked to use an insulated bucket truck near power lines. In this case, you would need additional bucket truck training specific to insulated buckets and the dangers of working near power lines.

If you have received bucket truck training on one brand and are asked to operate a similar bucket truck albeit a different manufacturer, you should be just fine to operate under the same bucket truck 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 bucket trucks 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 bucket truck training, a bucket truck written exam, and a practical bucket truck evaluation. There is no way around it. This goes for other types of bucket trucks 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 bucket truck 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.

I received bucket truck training at a different job. Do I need to be trained again by my new employer?
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 bucket truck and job. For example, if you bring a bucket truck 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 bucket truck 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 bucket truck training kits on CD or our bucket truck online training classes) OSHA does not recognize one company over another. They simply state that ‘training needs to occur’ and ‘here are the things a bucket truck operator should be trained on.’

When we do live training or offer bucket truck 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 bucket truck training or the training materials needed to help them bucket truck certify their employees.

How do I take the bucket truck practical evaluation if I take bucket truck training online?
The online bucket truck training class covers OSHA’s requirements for the classroom portion. Many employers prefer online training because they know exactly what bucket truck 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 bucket truck 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 bucket truck. When done, they can sign it and file it with your exam. This will satisfy OSHA’s requirements for bucket truck certification.

Do I have to wear fall protection in a bucket truck?
Yes. Fall prevention is a major concern at every worksite, yet there is a lot of confusion out there. 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, as far as bucket trucks are concerned fall protection including fall arrest gear is always required. OSHA requires it at heights six feet above ground level. Workers must be tied in with a full body harness and a shock-absorbing lanyard that is attached to an anchor point designated and load-rated by the manufacturer.

The lanyard should be such that the worker cannot free-fall more than six feet or contact any lower level or the truck below. Each day before use, all fall protection gear must be inspected for defects. If any defects are noted or if it shows signs of potential failure, the fall protection gear must be discarded and not used. The best practice, according to OSHA, is to inspect the fall protection equipment before each use, and not just at the beginning of the day.

Before you tie into a bucket truck, check the operator’s manual to determine any additional requirements made by the manufacturer.

Can I use a bucket truck to hoist a load?
No. Bucket trucks 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 bucket truck to lift a load if it was not manufactured to do so. Doing this will affect the stability and tipping point of your bucket truck and can easily lead to tip over. Consult your operator’s manual and bucket truck manufacturer if you have questions.

My trainee scored 80% on the 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 a bucket truck. 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.

What is a bucket truck?
Bucket trucks are vehicle mounted work platforms. They are typically mounted on trucks, but can also be mounted on trailers or industrial vans. They rotate at varying degrees and have hydraulic articulating arms that knuckle, or bend, to allow workers to work around obstacles or get a better reach. They are commonly used in the sign industry, for tree trimming, or along public roads and highways by public works, road maintenance crews or utility companies. Depending where you are, they are commonly referred to as bucket trucks, vehicle mounted aerial lifts, cherry pickers, boom trucks, truck mounted boom lifts, aerial lifts, basket cranes, personnel lift, flex truck, utility boom trucks, or truck-mounted articulated boom lifts. In some cases there are also truck-mounted scissor lifts.