Tips for Aerial Lift Self Rescue

Author:  Dwayne Neustaeter, President – Arboriculture Canada Training & Education Ltd.

Aerial lifts increase the safety and productivity of working aloft.  However, aerial lifts can put an inexperienced operator into an environment that could test their knowledge and/or competence level beyond their capacity.  Do your operators know what to do if they are stranded in an aerial lift that quits working while they are fifty feet in the air?

Consider the following five points to improve the safe use of aerial lift units in your organization.

  1.  Develop and document current policies and procedures for aerial lift hydraulic malfunction.  Due to vague corporate regulations governing some aspects of working aloft, organizations often develop work practices and even safety guidelines based on the way we did it in the past.  Statistics show that this is flirting with disaster. 
  2. Ensure that aerial lift units are inspected and maintained regularly.  Routine inspection and maintenance goes a long way toward keeping equipment running properly.  Often avoidable equipment malfunction is the reason for operators finding themselves stranded or stuck while working aloft.  In many cases, the cause of stranded aerial lift operators is due to the equipment running out of gas. The regular practice of routine maintenance is why getting stranded in an aerial lift is relatively uneventful. 
  3. Make sure your aerial lift unit has an electric hydraulic override that is functional.  Regularly check to make sure the electric overrides are working.  Also, ensure that all operators know how to use the override.  Most new and modern aerial lifts manufactured today come with an electric hydraulic override, which solves the biggest cause of hydraulic failure.
  4. Be prepared by outfitting your aerial lift with a ‘self rescue kit’ or ‘evacuation kit’.  Many professional operators believe these kits are as important to emergency preparedness as a well-stocked first aid kit.  Self-rescue is an area of emergency response that is in a lower risk category compared to other aspects of emergency response.  It is easy for any aerial lift operator to imagine being stuck in an aerial lift and this thought of being alone and having no control of descent instills a small element of fear.  The good news is that there are very simple solutions to this problem.  Training, education and the equipment or kits necessary to make self-rescue a part of your company’s safety culture are available through many manufacturers and organizations.  Buckingham’s self-rescue kit and lowering device is one of the best due to its easy and safe operation.  This kit is available through any Buckingham dealer, such as Vermeer or Sherrill. 
  5. Provide quality training in the operation of your aerial lift units and the rescue of operators.  Safe, productive aerial lift operations require the operators to have a thorough knowledge of its operational capabilities, limitations, restrictions and safety features.  In addition, operators should seek guidance when installing and setting up a self-rescue protocol.   Aerial lift units are different from each other and often the control tower and anchor point locations are set up a differently from each other.  It is important to be able to think and adjust to surroundings and circumstances.  Workers that have been educated, trained and qualified in skills required to deal with the specifics of their job are safer and more productive.  A training company or organization that provides training for your operators can streamline the process and provide you with documentation that easily integrates into your safety policy and procedures manual and due diligence compliance documentation.

Emergency preparedness on the job means being prepared to deal with emergencies to the best of everyone’s ability.  Training, preparation and planning are all necessary in order to be ready to handle a self-rescue scenario from an aerial lift unit. 

Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Author:  Dwayne Neustaeter , President – Arboriculture Canada Training & Education Ltd.    This article was printed in the Transmission and Distribution World Magazine – January, 2010.

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