Aerial Lift & Bucket Truck Safety Manual for 2011 – 2012
Aerial safety practices are important whether you are a professional or homeowner. Each work environment has its own problems regarding safe practices and fall protection. But all require safety guidelines, training and annual recertification. Due to the nature of your work, it may be necessary to use an aerial lift device. These devices are complex machines that require specialized training to operate. In order to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you it is important that you be properly trained and recertified annually.
Weather and Other Safety Variables
In the northern states, weather is an additional factor that affects safety in the winter. Low temperatures, moisture and high winds can have you working in dangerous conditions outdoors. Ladder spikes and tire chains will provide some added safety but, they are just a small part of a comprehensive safety plan. Freezing temperatures make equipment unreliable with brittle and unyielding panels, hoses, locks and so on. Hydraulic systems may have sluggish operation in the bitterly cold weather. Stress is always present on the job. Deadlines do not change because of unfavorable weather conditions or because someone is out sick. Straining to meet a deadline can mean adding unskilled workers without taking into consideration their training or skill level. You are responsible for everyone that you employ or lend equipment to.
Definition of Aerial Lift Trucks
Aerial devices include boom-supported aerial platforms such as:
- Bucket trucks (cherry pickers)
- Aerial ladders
- Sissors lifts
- Vertical towers
- Step ladders – are also included in this guide
Causes of Accidents & Injuries With Bucket Trucks
Causes of aerial lift device injuries include:
- Collapses and tipovers
- Getting caught between the lift bucket or guardrail and a structure.
- Being struck by falling objects
- Being knocked out of a bucket when the vehicle is struck by something
- Electrocution or physical injury due to electric shock
- Strains and injuries caused by improper lifting and climbing
Training Requirements For Operation Safety
Aerial lift devices and ladders have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Both have a mandatory requirement: training and certification for employers. OSHA clearly defines training requirements in 29 CFR 1910.268. The regulation says, "(c) Training. Employers shall provide training in the various precautions and safe practices described in this section and shall ensure that employees do not engage in the activities to which this section applies until such employees have received proper training in the various precautions and safe practices required by this section." If you are not trained and qualified on a piece of equipment you should not use it. Sending out unqualified workers may carry great risks, such as medical costs, lost work time, lower production and liability.
Some workers ask: "Why do I have to be qualified to use a ladder? I can just throw it against a building and climb up; what's the big deal?" Falling is the big deal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 1994 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 8.8 percent of occupational deaths are related to falling. Section 1910.268 (h) outlines ladder rules. Falling isn't the only hazard involved with using a ladder. Lifting the ladder itself also is a major cause of injuries. Using improper technique while lifting a ladder can lead to lower back injuries so severe that they may cause an employee to miss work or even suffer a lifetime of pain. Maneuvering a 100-pound ladder off a truck and through a typical yard, around obstacles such as lawn chairs and toys, can be challenging to say the least. Anyone who works with a ladder should be able to answer all of the following:
- How to inspect a ladder
- How to survey the area
- How to lift a ladder properly
- How to determine where the balance points are
- How to properly set-up a ladder
- How to properly climb a ladder
- How to secure one's body while working
- How to work properly
Aerial lift trucks
The aerial lift truck, more commonly called a bucket truck, is by far the most complex form of aerial lift device. In fact, OSHA has developed its own standards for aerial lift truck operation (29 CFR 1910.67). You may be thinking that operating a bucket truck is simple: All you have to do is jump in the bucket, hit a few switches, and you're there. But sometimes just getting a bucket truck to the work area is a job in itself. A small bucket truck weighs 10,000 pounds and cannot stop on a dime. This is why bucket trucks are notorious for hitting other vehicles in rear-impact accidents. They are also known for getting stuck in off-road situations, especially in wet conditions. In addition, bucket trucks have poor rear visibility and should not be backed up unless the driver finds it absolutely necessary and has a spotter. In short, no one should work in a bucket truck without proper training. Operating a bucket truck requires specific qualifications, which include instruction in the following operations:
- Proper work area set-up
- Performing an inspection
- Understanding hydraulics
- Correct use of fall arrest equipment
- Boom operation
- Maintain proper clearances
- Emergency procedures
Summary of OSHA Bucket Truck Regulations
Aerial Bucket Truck safety and fall protection is only one of many areas we need to carefully evaluate under these circumstances. If training, equipment and supervisory enforcement of safety rules are being neglected to "get the job done" putting an individual thirty feet in the air is very likely to lead to an accident or serious injury. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations 29 CFR 1910.268 and 1926.502 and 503 cover many of the telecommunications requirements for aerial safety. These requirements are very specific regarding climbing gear and ladders. They are less clear when it comes to buckets on aerial lift trucks. Once you get more than four feet off the ground, personal fall protection is mandated by 1926.501 (a)(1) and (b)(1). Do we put someone in a body belt and lifeline or a full body harness and six-foot lanyard under these circumstances? As long as the person cannot fall farther than two feet, the belt and lifeline are acceptable. If they could fall farther than two feet, a full body harness and lanyard are required. In a bucket, any lines or lanyards must be tied off to the boom arm and not to the bucket. If we restrict the employee's fall to two feet, then the line cannot be more than two feet long and we restrict movement in the bucket, which is not always feasible. As a consequence, most of us in the industry have adopted full body harnesses and six-foot lanyards to meet 29 CFR 1926.501 and 502 requirements. While it is rare for an employee to fall out of a bucket, it is more common that one will bounce out when another vehicle hits the aerial lift truck. The harness and lanyard have saved life and limb on more than one occasion. 1910.268 further mandates that "safety straps and body belts shall be used while working on elevated work platforms," including ladders. Section 8 also mandates their use on poles, towers and similar structures that do not have adequately guarded work areas. Section (g)(1) puts all the responsibility on the shoulders of the employer, stating that the "employer shall ensure their use when work is performed at positions more than four feet above the ground." It further requires that every piece of equipment be inspected by a competent person prior to each day of use to determine that it is in safe working condition.
Pre-Use Lift Truck Safety Check
Check the following each day before using an aerial lift device:
- Operating controls and Emergency controls
- Safety Devices such as outriggers and guardrails
- Personal fall protection gear
- Wheels and tires
- Any other items specified by the manufacturer.
- Look for possible leaks (air, hydraulic fluid, and fuel-system) and loose or missing parts.
- All controls must be clearly marked as to their function.
- Aerial lift devices must always be maintained and operated according to the anufacturer's instructions.
Personal Protective Equipment
Aerial lift device workers are required to wear the proper personal protective equipment:
- ANSI-approved hard hat
- Eye protection
- Insulated gloves where there is a risk of electrocution
- Fall restraint safety belt system or full body harness fall arrest system
Follow all fall protection policies and procedures when working on aerial lift devices. Use a body harness or positioning device with a lanyard properly attached to anchor points supplied by the bucket truck/aerial lift device manufacturer on the boom or basket. Never belt off to an adjacent pole, structure or other equipment.
Check Your Work Area
- Make sure the lift is being used on a stable, level surface. Never work on a slope that exceeds slope limits listed by the manufacturer.
- Check the area for soft spots, holes, drop-offs, bumps, and debris. Also check for overhead power lines, trees or other obstructions.
- When work is completed – before moving the truck make sure that the boom is cradled and tied down and that all other equipment is secure.
Operating A Bucket Truck
- Set outriggers, brakes, and wheel chocks – even if you're working on a level slope. Automatic transmissions should be placed in park; manual transmissions in low gear. Note: Do not place automatic transmissions in park or manual transmissions in low gear if you are performing winching operations.
- If working near traffic, set up work-zone warnings, like cones and signs.
- Close and latch lift platform doors and attach the safety chain.
- Stand on the floor of the bucket or lift platform. Never use planks, boxes, a ladder or other items inside the basket to extend your reach.
- Do not climb on tool brackets in the bucket or lean over guard rails.
- Never exceed the manufacturer's load capacity limit. This includes the combined weight of the worker(s), tools and material.
- Never override hydraulic, mechanical or electrical safety devices.
- Establish and clearly mark a danger zone around the aerial lift support vehicle.
- Never move the truck with workers in the elevated platform unless the equipment has been specifically designed and certified for this type of operation.
- Do not position worker(s) in the basket between overhead hazards, such as joists and beams, and the rails of the basket. If the basket moves, the worker(s) could become trapped and crushed between the rails and the overhead.
Bucket Trucks Safety Features
- All bucket trucks are not idential. It is essential that operators be familiar with the specific bucket truck that they are working with.
- Buckets must be at least 39 inches deep so that for most workers the lip of the bucket is above waist level.
- Bucket trucks have additional safety features such as guards, outrigger interlock and ground fault interrupter circuits, and warning labels. These features must not be modified or removed.
Working Near Electric Power Lines
Observe where power lines are and never lose awareness of them while working. Maintain a minimum clearance of at least 10 feet from the nearest overhead line. Any conductive object that can be contacted must also be kept at least 10 feet from overhead lines. Conductive objects include:
- Wires and Transformers
- Pipes and Ducts
- Metal and some fiberglass poles
- Metal, wooden and some fiberglass ladders
Always treat overhead lines as energized even if they are down or appear to be insulated. In emergency situations due to accidents or adverse weather conditions, anything in contact with an energized conductor may conduct electricity. A trained, qualified worker (spotter) should be used to observe the clearance of equipment operating near power lines when the operator cannot judge the distance. SAFE DISTANCES TO EXPOSED ENERGIZED OVERHEAD POWER LINES AND PARTS (For qualified, trained tree trimmers & trainees)
Voltage range (phase to phase, RMS) Distance 300 V and less Don't touch Over 300V, not over 750V 12 inches Over 750V not over 2 kV 18 inches Over 2 kV, not over 15 kV 24 inches Over 15 kV, not over 35 kV 28 inches Over 35 kV, not over 46 kV 30 inches Over 46 kV, not over 72.5 kV 36 inches Over 72.5 kV, not over 121 kV 40 inches Over 161 kV, not over 169 kV 44 inches Over 230 kV, not over 242 kV 60 inches Over 345 kV, not over 362 kV 94 inches Over 500 kV, not over 552 kV 132 inches Over 700 kV, not over 765 kV 180 inches
Bucket Truck Electrical Protection
Insulated bucket trucks have three components that provide some protection from electrocution. Be sure to properly maintain these components in accordance with manufacturer and ANSI standards. 1. A basket liner will protect the portion completely inside the liner. Anything conductive that extends out of the liner will conduct electricity into the liner and make it ineffective. 2. The insulating section of the upper boom will prevent current flow from the boom tip through the boom to the elbow only. 3. The lower boom insert will provide an insulation section between the elbow and the truck chassis. Note: The boom tip contains metal structural support components and so it does not provide any insulation. Note: Insulated bucket trucks have a band of arrows on the upper boom which indicate the end of the insulated section. Covers and guards may provide some electrical protection, but you should not rely on them because they are not maintained or tested for this purpose.
Hydraulic Tools Hoses
Some aerial lift devices have hydraulic tools attached. These tools are connected to the bucket truck's hydraulic systems through nonconductive tool hoses. It is essential to inspect these hoses for wrinkling just beyond the fitting, which is a sign that a hose failure is about to occur. If the insulation is compromised and bridges across electrical lines it can cause an arc. The arc may melt a hole in the hose and then ignite the mist of hydraulic oil as it escapes from the damaged hose. Effects of Current on the Body Freezing Current – 5-25ma causes an involuntary muscle spasm.
- You could injure yourself by inadvertently striking something or falling, or you could grasp the source of current involuntarily.
- Knockout Current – 25-100ma causes breathing to stop or unconsciousness.
- A 100ma electrical shock is a very painful shock.
- CPR would probably revive the victim – if someone is near.
- Nerveblock Current – 100-200ma causes ventricular fibrillation or the heart stops.
- The difference between this and knockout is the path through the body.
- Death is almost certain without CPR.
- Frying Current – over 200ma cooks the portion of the body affected.
- Amputation is nearly always required for a limb.
- Death is instantaneous if the path of the current is through the chest.
OSHA guidelines recommend that CPR training be a general program element of a first aid program. OSHA does not require bucket truck operators be trained in first aid or CPR. OSHA recommends employees be certified annually to perform CPR, and first aid training should take place at least once every three years. CPR consists of chest compressions and rescue breaths and is intended to maintain a flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and the heart until emergency workers arrive. A person beginning CPR must be prepared to continue it without stopping unless someone else is present who can take over. This is essential for successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage. The chance of survival is greatest in patients whose heart is in a condition that facilitates shocking back into a normal rhythm with a defibrillator. Emergency first aid and CPR is a messy job. People cough up fluid, vomit and mess themselves. Even without these deterrents people, trained or not, are reluctant to preform CPR. If your close friend is lying there you may become so excited that, in performing chest compressions, you will break a rib. Annual training may prepare you for this or it may not. In 2008, the American Heart Association recommended that chest only compressions without rescue breathing are acceptable for the following reasons:
- CPR with rescue breathing interrupts the rhythm of regular chest compressions which provide blood circulation to the heart and brain. Time is lost and the rhythm is interrupted when workers attempt to give rescue breaths with chest compressions.
- Cardiac arrest victims frequently gasp prior to collapsing so the oxygen level in their blood is fairly high. They need chest compressions to circulate their blood more than they need additional oxygen (from mouth-to-mouth).
- During chest compressions, some air is sucked into the lungs so the victim is still getting small amounts of oxygen with chest compressions alone.
Tree Trimming Safety in a Forestry Bucket Truck
You may have used a chain saw without incident or protective headgear for many years, but consider this: If you get sawdust in your eyes while on the ground you can set the saw down, walk away and use an eyewash. What will you do if the same thing happens 30 feet in the air? Working in a forestry bucket truck is like no other discipline. Tree trimming adds more risk because of falling debris and dangerous tools. The following came directly from OSHA Chain Saw Operation Fact Sheet series 1 no. 1. PPE must be inspected prior to use on each work shift to ensure it is in serviceable condition. The following PPE must be used when hazards make it necessary
- Head Protection*
- Hearing Protection*
- Eye/Face Protection*
- Leg Protection
- Foot Protection
- Hand Protection
Tree Trimming & Bucket Truck Safety Training
Employers involved in tree removal/logging are required to assure that their employees are able to safely perform their assigned tasks. When loggers are trained to work safely they should be able to anticipate and avoid injury from the job related hazards they may encounter. Training requirements include:
- Specific work procedures, practices and requirements of the work site, including the recognition, prevention, and control of general safety and health hazards.
- Requirements of the OSHA Logging standard, Bloodborne Pathogens standard, First Aid, and CPR training.
- How to safely perform assigned work tasks, including the specific hazards associated with each task and the measures and work practices which will be used to control those hazards.
- How to safely use, operate, and maintain tools, machines and vehicles which the employee will be required to utilize in completing the assigned requirements.
Before Starting the Saw
- Check controls, chain tension, and all bolts and handles to ensure they are functioning properly and adjusted according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Fuel the saw at least 10 feet from sources of ignition.
- Check the fuel container for the following requirements:
- Must be metal or plastic
- Must not exceed a 5 gallon capacity
- Must be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory, Factory Mutual (FM), the Department of Transportation (DOT), or other Nationally Recognized Testing Lab.
While Running the Saw
- Keep hands on the handles, and maintain secure footing while operating the chainsaw.
- Clear the area of obstacles that might interfere with cutting the tree or using the retreat path.
- Do not cut directly overhead.
- Shut off or release throttle prior to retreating.
- Shut off or engage the chain brake whenever the saw is carried more than 50 feet, or across hazardous terrain.
- Be prepared for kickback; use saws that reduce kickback danger (chain brakes, low kickback chains, guide bars, etc.).
Summary: Always Think About Safety
As problems arise and deadlines approach, it is tempting to cut corners on safety. But pressure to finish a job makes safety training and recertification, equipment maintenance, and enforcement of rules even more important. Falling causes 8% of occupational deaths in the United States. Ladder safety is important for that reason, as well as for the hazards of simply handling the equipment. Aerial lift trucks require training for driving as well as operation of the bucket lift. To preserve life, limb and property, set up and maintain a comprehensive aerial safety training and recertification program. Working with and around aerial lift devices always presents some risks. With everyone working together you can minimize that risk. Follow all safety policies and procedures, and if you are ever unsure about how to safely operate or work around an aerial lift device, see your supervisor immediately or refer to manufacturers guidelines.
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This manual was written by Jesse Rietz, a professional bucket truck operator and enthusiast.