As the director of environmental health and safety at Ringling College of Art and Design, Carl Powell identifies risks associated with work performed on the Sarasota, Fla., campus and takes steps to prevent those risks from contributing to accidents. Powell says that ladders have always been a cause for concern because of issues with stability, over-reaching, portability, etc. So when he saw an advertisement for a personal portable lift, he was more than a little intrigued.
“The advertisement jumped off the page,” he said. “I immediately saw the personal portable lift as a safe alternative to ladders that could have many uses for our Facilities Department.”

The Facilities Department is responsible for more than 110 buildings on the 48-acre campus – everything from classrooms and dormitories to production studios and a foundry – all associated with one of the most innovative visual arts colleges in the United Sates and a leader in the use of technology in the arts.

According to Powell, the price of the unit was also appealing. “Most of the products I’ve looked at that are similar to this one in terms of capabilities are three times the price. So, before I even talked with anyone, I was thinking that this could be quite useful and just as importantly, fit within our budget.”

That was 14 months ago. The personal portable lift acquired by the college features a working height of more than 14 feet. The lift combines the portability of a ladder with a more secure work platform and weighs just 139 pounds. One worker can complete tasks with a 360-degree range of motion from the enclosed platform and attachable work tray, eliminating the need for an OSHA-compliant, two-person operation.

“When I put my safety hat on, it’s the safety aspects of the personal portable lift that are really appealing,” said Powell. “It gives workers the opportunity to work with both hands without doing the work precariously.”

Multiple Departments Use the Lift

First in line to use the personal portable lift were the college’s electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) departments. Both groups were engaged in a six-week project that included installing lighting and performing HVAC maintenance.

“They were able to share the personal portable lift and eliminate a lot of climbing up and down ladders to perform these tasks,” said Powell. “It’s convenient, too, in that it’s easy to break down and move to another location, which those in facilities really appreciate.”

In fact, the personal portable lift assembles in less than 30 seconds and can be moved through doorways without having to be taken apart. In addition, the lift is powered by an optional power pack or an 18-volt drill for increased flexibility and affordability.

As much as employees in the facilities department enjoy using the personal portable lift, they are not the only ones who recognize its value. The most recent request to use the lift came from the digital film department.

“They have reserved it for about six months to work on their sets. They can take lighting up and down and adjust lighting using the lift. They can use it to do small construction work on the sets as well. It’s a perfect application for the lift – one that supports safe working practices and increases productivity,” said Powell.

“They appreciate the convenience, too,” he added. “Digital film is located in one huge building, so they don’t need to break the personal portable lift down. They just put it on the caster wheels and off they go to the next location. It’s much easier than moving a ladder, because they don’t have to take it down, carry it, and then set it up again.”

While convenience and ease of use are important aspects of the new equipment, safety remains paramount to Powell. “Quite often I have trouble getting our employees enthusiastic about safety, and we struggle to get safety incorporated into the work they do,” he said. “But with this system, employees can truly see the benefits that the personal portable lift offers, and as a result, they are keen to get it into their department. That makes my job easier and theirs, safer.”

About the author: Randy Marzicola is director of channel development at JLG Industries Inc.