OSHA Releases Guide for Safely Working with Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts are on most typical construction job sites and they’re an often overlooked hazard.  Too often, liberties are taken with the lifts that create unsafe conditions, which can cause injuries and deaths.  OSHA recently released the results of their investigation of 10 fatalities and 20 injuries involving scissor lifts and released their findings in what the organization refers to as a “Hazard Alert.”

OSHA has determined that most incidents involving scissor lifts result from either lack of fall protection, stabilization, or positioning.  It’s important that all workers utilizing a scissor lift are properly trained before they’re allowed to use it (see 29 CFR 1926.21 and 1926.454 for more information).  That is both the responsibility of the employer and the employee.

Fall Protection

OSHA standards reference: 29 CFR 1926.451(g) or 29 CFR 1910.29(a)(3)(vii)

Fall protection is one of the most easily avoidable hazards when using a scissor lift, but it’s often the most violated safety practice.  As opposed to aerial lifts, like boom lifts, workers inside the basket of a scissor lift are not required to be tied-off, if the guardrails are properly maintained.  To stay safe, OSHA simply recommends that workers should make sure the guardrail system is in place, never stand on the guardrails, and avoid leaning away from the scissor lift.


The category of stabilization covers both tip-over and collapse. In the hazard alert, OSHA points out that most manufacturers do not allow the lift to be moved while it’s still elevated, the lift should be kept away from other equipment to avoid contact, lifts should be used on firm and level surfaces, and workers should avoid using lifts when there are high winds.  In 2010, a scissor lift tip-over made national headlines when a Notre Dame football student worker was killed after operating a lift 39 feet in the air during wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour.

Collapses are very rare, but in order to avoid those, workers should make sure the weight loaded onto the platform does not exceed the manufacturer’s load ratings, other equipment besides the scissor mechanism should not be used to raise the platform, and avoid contact with other equipment on site. 


Improper positioning of a scissor lift can create both crushing and electrocution hazards.  Be especially careful when operating a lift near other large objects and power lines.  To stay safe, OSHA recommends that employers implement traffic control measures, use ground guides, and stay at least 10 feet away from power lines.  If the work requires that the lift needs to be closer to a power source, ensure the worker operating then lift has the required electrical training.

Full Report: Hazard Alert- Working Safely with Scissor Lifts | OSHA