It’s important to realize working at heights always has its risks. In fact, falls continue to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and as of 2011, falls rank No.1 on OSHA’s top 10 most serious violations. OSHA requires the use of fall protection equipment anytime a fall of 6 feet or more is possible on a construction site.

Many construction contractors utilize scissor lifts for employees working at height. The first scissor lifts were built in the 1970s. Although improvements in materials and safety have been made since then, the basic underlying design has stayed the same. Scissor lifts use an “x” pattern, known as a pantograph folding support, to move the platform up and down vertically.  Several models also come equipped with an extending bridge, giving the user closer access to the work area.

basic fall clearance calculation, fall protection chart

The scissor lift remains a popular work tool, due in part to its ease of mobility and compact storage space. Once properly trained on its use, a worker can drive it directly to the work area and extend it to the desired height. When finished, it easily retracts and stores for future use. Today, scissor lifts can be found everywhere: retail establishments, manufacturing operations, construction sites and any place that may require access to heights.

According to the American National Safety Institute (ANSI), guardrails are considered an acceptable form of fall protection; however,  guardrails do not completely eliminate the possibility of a fall from a scissor lift. Most scissor lifts meet the height requirement for guardrails as the only form of protection required (42 inches, +/- 3 inches), but there still exists the possibility a worker could fall through the space below the mid rails or over the top rail. A competent person, as defined by OSHA, should evaluate the fall hazard and take corrective measures to eliminate it.

One such corrective measure is the use of an approved fall arrest system. A complete personal fall arrest system will include the anchor point, connector, body support and in the event of a fall, prompt rescue. Fall arrest systems are designed to arrest a worker’s fall and reduce the arrest forces on the worker’s body to an acceptable level.