Scissor lifts are large pieces of construction equipment that lift a platform where workers can stand to heights otherwise unreachable. Scissor lifts are used to repair roofs, install lights in tall ceilings, do repairs in commercial buildings, install or change signage and other repair and maintenance tasks. Scissor lifts are common in commercial and industrial areas such as shopping centers, factories, malls and warehouses. Scissor lifts generally lift only up and down, and are powered by diesel engines or electricity. Workers must exercise caution when using scissor lifts, as there are problems that can occur with their use.
A number of the problematic issues with scissor lifts are safety related. Lifts tipping is a problem that occurs frequently. A scissor lift should only be operated on a solid surface such as concrete, tile, or a compacted road base. When lifts are placed on uneven surfaces or earth, mulch or gravel that is not compacted, the lifts may tip and fall over, causing serious injury or death to the people on the platform. Lifts are generally equipped with safety features such as warning buzzers or lights that activate when the lift is off-balance. However, if the operators are wearing headphones or operating loud tools, they may not hear the warnings. Uninspected lifts with bad tires and weathered components can also cause tipping, as can operators who sit on safety rails, drive the lift while elevated and hang tools on the safety rails.
Scissor lifts are rated for indoor use, outdoor use, or both. Diesel- or gas-powered lifts can only be used outdoors because of the fumes. However, they are much better for outdoor applications. Electric lifts are quiet and free from emissions and are rated for indoor use. However, they may not be suitable for the uneven terrain or challenging operating conditions in the outdoors. Using an indoor-rated lift outdoors or vice versa causes safety problems.
Ignoring Load Capacity
Another problem with scissor lifts is that operators ignore the load capacity warnings, causing failure of the equipment. The load capacity indicates the number of people and the amount of weight a scissor lift can handle. When this weight is exceeded, the lift motor may fail, or the lift can be thrown off balance. The supports could also fail.
Hydraulic scissor lifts use pressurized oil to move the platform up and down. Although this means it can be returned to the down position manually by releasing the pressure with levers if necessary, it also means there is a chance of failure if the hydraulic fluid begins leaking. Each scissor lift should be inspected regularly, and users should look the lift over themselves before beginning to use it.