The August boom lift accident that occurred at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas highlights the real risks these machines pose for workers. Improper maintenance, lack of training, and inadequate supervision can cause severe personal injuries and wrongful death. Each year, roughly 26 construction workers die in boom lift accidents and many more suffer serious injuries.
Aerial Lifts at Work
Boom lifts, more commonly referred to as aerial lifts, feature platforms that are capable of elevating personnel to great heights. These extendable platforms feature articulating boom platforms, aerial ladders, and other features that make it possible for workers to perform maintenance tasks, complete construction work, etc.
Employers have a responsibility to their employees that includes ensuring that everyone operating the aerial lift knows how to safely operate the equipment. Proper training includes identifying hazards including electrocution, falling objects, and fall hazards. Many of these are among OSHA”s “Fatal Four” causes of workplace deaths. Employees must also demonstrate a firm grasp of the lift’s maximum load, controls, and safety features. Additionally, employers must ensure that all employees have the proper personal protective gear including safety harnesses and hardhats.
In addition to training, it is the employer’s duty to ensure that the lift is properly maintained and serviced. This includes making sure that all oil, hydraulic, and fuel systems are operational. Employers must promptly repair fluid leaks, damaged tires, malfunctioning controls, and other systems that could make the vehicle unsafe for use.
Known Hazards of Operating Aerial Lifts
There are numerous hazards inherent when working on aerial lifts. These include falls from height, ejection from the lift platform, collapse, entanglement, and electrocution. Workers walking below the lift can be struck by falling objects, and tip-over accidents can occur when the platform is overloaded or the boom suffers a structural collapse.
While many aerial lift accidents occur due to poor training and inadequate maintenance, a significant number are caused by conditions on the worksite. This includes objects and debris that change the vehicle’s center of gravity as it rolls across the site. Similarly, accidents can occur when the vehicle is forced to travel up or down steep grades. Many accidents also happen when the vehicle is operated in high winds, at which point the lift platform functions as a sail that can quickly topple the boom. In all cases, proper supervision, site preparation, training, and vehicle maintenance can prevent an aerial lift accident from ever happening.