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Aerial lifts revolutionized the construction industry. Now, we can reach higher heights for longer periods of time than ever before. Yet, as with every great innovation, the aerial lift has its drawbacks, the biggest of which is the danger it can pose to operators and construction workers.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk involved with using an aerial lift. Some of these steps include thorough employee training, methodical inspection of the construction site and consistent pre-use checks of aerial equipment. In addition to these steps, health and safety law states that employers should ensure that lifting equipment is meticulously inspected at least once or twice a year.

But what exactly is a meticulous aerial lift inspection? Read on for the ins & outs of equipment examination to keep your equipment, your employees and yourself safe and happy.

Who: A Competent Person

You want whoever is doing your inspection to be well-informed, careful and highly competent. Your inspector should have appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience with the lifting equipment they are examining. This will enable the inspector to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess the importance of those issues in relation to the safety and continued use of the lifting equipment.

Essentially, this person needs to have experience with aerial equipment and the overall understanding to be able to notice not only a present problem but also a potential problem.

You can easily get one of your trusted employees certified to be a lift inspector through the Crane Institute of America’s Aerial Lift Inspector & Operator program. In just three days, the employee will understand the latest OSHA and ANSI standards and be given an inspection checklist he or she can use to ensure the safety of your equipment.

What: A “Thorough Examination” That Meets OSHA and ANSI Standards

Your inspector should perform a methodical and systematic inspection of your equipment. The basics of this inspection can be found on OSHA’s Aerial Lifts Fact Sheet. It’s also a good idea to take down details surrounding the inspection for bookkeeping purposes. This might include information such as the date of the examination, the address of the premises of examination, and the date of the last thorough investigation, in addition to reports of any defects found which presently or potentially could become a danger to lift operators and surrounding employees. Thorough documentation of your inspections will help to ensure that you perform them well in a timely manner.

You should trust your inspector to use their professional judgment when choosing methods of examination. Some of these methods might include visual and functional checks, measurements of wear and load testing. Whatever the preferred method may be, ensure that all matters concerning the safety of the lift equipment are thoroughly covered. Many companies choose to draw up an inspection scheme with their inspector beforehand. An inspection scheme specifies the parts to be examined, the methods used, and the intervals for examination and testing.

When: That Depends

Depending on the type of equipment you have, how long you’ve owned it and how frequently it is used, there are different guidelines for when inspections should take place. Of course, it is always better to be cautious and perform too many inspections rather than not enough. Remember that defects could become present at any time. In general, however, here are some times when inspections should absolutely take place:

Before first use: It’s always a good idea to start off a new piece of equipment with a solid inspection. This is especially important if the equipment was assembled on site. The inspector needs to ensure that assembly was carried out correctly.

After assembly: Some equipment needs to be constantly disassembled and reassembled from site to site. Make sure that an inspection is done on this equipment after every assembly, as one careless assembly could pose major danger.

Regularly while in service: Lift equipment is subject to regular wear and tear, especially when it is left out in the elements. Many aerial lifts are used in extreme heat, snow, ice, and wind. All of these factors can cause substantial damage, even if the lift hasn’t been in service for very long. LOLER, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations established in Great Britain in 1998, generally suggests inspecting equipment that lifts people every 6 months, all lifting accessories every 6 months and all other lifting equipment every 12 months.

Where: A Safe Environment

Perform your lift inspection in a place where it would be safe to operate a lift normally. Remember that many lift inspections call for testing of the equipment, so choose a spot that meets the following rules:

- No drop-offs, holes or unstable surfaces, such as loose dirt
- No inadequate ceiling heights or overhead obstructions, such as electrical power lines or communication cables
- No slopes, ditches or bumps
- No debris or floor obstructions
- No high wind, ice or other severe weather conditions

Why: It’s the Right Thing To Do – and It’s the Law

OSHA and ANSI exist for a reason – to protect you and your employees from potential dangers in the workplace. Take care of your employees and your business by fulfilling these manlift inspection requirements. No amount of saved time is worth losing a life!