Aerial Work Platform Safety

Aerial Work Platform Training

Aerial work platforms (AWP), also known as elevating work platforms, are mechanized, innovative industrial solutions that provide access to unreachable (or hard-to-reach) areas. They have numerous applications, especially in the construction industry that often calls for work at heights.

If not used or set up properly, aerial work platforms pose the hazard of falling for materials & workers. This can lead to serious harm, extra repair costs, and possible insurance expenses. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has set up several guidelines regarding aerial work platforms, which we shall delve into, as well as several tips on how to operate them safely.

Schedule On Site AWP Training

What Is an Aerial Work Platform?

An aerial work platform is a machine with a platform which workers can stand on to reach difficult or inaccessible elevated areas. They are most often composed of a mobile base, with inbuilt support structures (e.g., hydraulic stabilizers), an extendable boom, and the work platform -or bucket that holds the workers while in use. These three major components can be modified to fit the task being handled, and define the type of aerial work platform being used.

Daily inspections must be conducted prior to use. Total Equipment Training provides FREE aerial work platform inspection forms. You can also contact us to learn more.

Types of Aerial Work Platforms

Thanks to their versatility, AWPs are highly customizable, designed to fit the tasks they are used for. Despite this, they can still be categorized into 5 main types:

  • Spider Lifts – The name spider is attributed to the base of the platform, which has 4 extendable legs, making it look like a spider. The fixed base grants greater stability during operation, making it a good fit for construction sites, firefighting and lofty repair work.
  • Articulating Boom Lifts – The boom arm of these AWPs has joints (or knuckles) capable of bending and giving access over obstacles such as walls and buildings. Their swiveling joints give increased access to work areas that cannot be reached directly from below.
  • Telescopic Boom Lifts – These aerial work platforms have the longest reach thanks to their greatly extendable boom arm. They are designed to reach up and across, with some even having downward work platform position mobility.

Available Onsite Heavy Equipment Training Programs

  • Scissor Lifts – Called ‘scissor’ thanks to the crisscrossing design of the platform lifting arms, these AWPs are mainly used to provide direct upward access. The (comparatively) faster extension of the lift mechanism makes them very practical for use in warehouses and any sites that require frequent movement of loads or workers to elevated areas.
  • Cherry Pickers – Innovated from the necessity to efficiently pick cherries (thus the name), this type of aerial work platform uses a vehicle as its base. As they have relatively shorter boom arms, they are mostly used to reach low to moderate heights.

Modifications within these class types can be done to make the AWP more fitted to its task, like having a cherry picker fitted to a larger vehicle to provide greater base support for a longer and sturdier boom and larger platform.

Hazards That May Occur Around Aerial Work Platforms

Teams operating aerial work platforms should be aware and trained on the hazards that come while working with them, which include:

  • Falls from heights – Workers in the bucket are at risk of falling, and should harness themselves to the bucket’s railings. The boom operator must also ensure that the bucket is not slanted, and always clearly communicate intention of movement.
  • Tipping over – As the boom arm extends, especially at angles, the center of gravity for the entire mechanism shifts farther from the base. The farther (and higher) it extends, the higher the likelihood that it becomes unbalanced and will tip over. AWP operators should be aware of weight and extension limits (often included in the manufacturer manuals) before using them.
  • Electrocution – This is the most common hazard to AWP operation. All power and communication lines should be considered live. Shut down power supply for overhead cables in the work area, and have workers properly equipped with protective gear.
  • Entanglement – Overhead cables may tangle around the bucket, and should be kept clear of, or moved where possible.
  • Contact with other objects – lighting poles, signs, and the sides of buildings can be bumped into and cause equipment damage or a fall. Circuit boxes and exposed cabling at ground level also introduces an electrocution hazard, and the AWP base should keep clear of such obstacles.

Schedule OSHA Fall Protection Training

AWP training

AWP Safety Tips

To enhance AWP safety and better align with OSHA’s AWP regulations, here are a few tips of what to do and avoid.


Inspect the aerial work platform before use Exceed the lift’s load capacity
Look out for overhead cables Begin operation before an inspection has been carried out by competent personnel
Keep track of distances between the bucket and obstructions such as the ceiling or poles Move the base while the bucket is raised
Be aware of people or objects entering/leaving the work area Load objects bigger than the bucket/platform
Ensure outriggers are placed on flat, stable surfaces Exceed vertical or horizontal extension limits
Look out for holes, loose gravel and dirt, and ice in the operation area Operate the aerial work platform in severe weather conditions
Equip workers with full body harnesses and necessary protective equipment Set up the lift in a zone with potential of falling objects
Ensure workers have received AWP training Allow lift operation by uncertified personnel
Maintain safe distances between the aerial work platform base and obstacles on the ground.

10 Safety Tips for Aerial Work Platforms

  1. Read and understand safety rules and work regulations as defined by any managing bodies; from the employer to state or government.
  2. Carry out AWP equipment inspection before use.
  3. Operate the lift according to guidelines given by the manufacturer
  4. Maintain a 3-meter minimal distance between the AWP and any overhead cables, always assuming they are live.
  5. Always ensure all workers are properly dressed in protective gear
  6. Maintain a firm footing when on the bucket/platform, using safety harnesses whenever possible.
  7. Keep the platform floor clear of tripping or sliding hazards like water or loose stones
  8. Ensure all AWP operators are properly trained.
  9. Have a qualified signal person or spotter to identify blind spots and advise on maneuvers
  10. Keep the entry gate to the platform closed during operation.

Take our FREE Aerial Work Platform operator test to practice before becoming an AWP operator.

Onsite Aerial Work Platform (Awp) Operator Training

Equip yourself and/or your team with on the job AWP training and gain the skills to maintain safety at the workplace by working with Total Equipment Training.

TET is a nationally recognized, OSHA-compliant organization with a highly skilled staff with years of experience in the construction and heavy equipment industries. Contact us to review your site specific needs to ensure your aerial work platform operators are compliant with OSHA’s safety standards.

(610) 321-2679

Barb Fullman- CEO of Total Equipment Training
About the Author

As the owner of Total Equipment Training, Barb Fullman has been an active contributor to the heavy equipment training industry for over 23 years. Barb, a Penn State University graduate, is recognized as the highest ranking women-owned heavy equipment training business in the US. As a leading authority and provider of heavy equipment training, training manuals and tests based on OSHA Standards and Regulations, Total Equipment Trainings’ client list is composed of most of the Fortune 1000 companies focusing on energy, construction, heavy highway, and manufacturing.

Barb’s motto is “Stay safe, stay up to date”. She is committed to up-to-date & technically correct training, whether it is via in-person or through our library of online heavy equipment resources. With over 50 OSHA qualifying training topics to choose from with TET, the most popular heavy equipment training subjects are mobile cranes, NCCCO, all “dirt equipment”, rigging, crane inspections, and train-the-trainer.