How to Care for Your Aerial Lift: Tips for Preserving Your Equipment
How to Care for Your Aerial Lift: Tips for Preserving Your Equipment
Reading time: 6 min
Aerial lifts are an essential type of heavy equipment capable of hoisting workers high into the air to reach hard-to-access work areas. While they’re most commonly used in construction, aerial lifts are versatile machines with applications in numerous industries, from manufacturing to film production.
Some popular types of aerial lifts include boom lifts, cherry pickers and scissor lifts. While each type of aerial lift has a different design, they share the common purpose of providing workers with a stable work platform at great heights.
Like all heavy equipment, however, aerial lifts need to be properly maintained in order to operate efficiently and safely.
Because falls continue to be the most common cause of fatal construction accidents, it’s of paramount importance that operators and fleet managers understand how to properly maintain aerial lifts.
In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of aerial lift maintenance, including preventive maintenance guidelines and safety best practices. Through properly maintaining your aerial lift, you can improve your team’s efficiency and keep them safe.
Preventive Maintenance for Aerial Work Platforms
Aerial Lift Battery Maintenance
As aerial lifts are commonly used for indoor applications, many models are battery-powered. Properly caring for the lift’s battery represents one of the most important preventive maintenance objectives.
Generally, battery-powered aerial lifts feature deep cycle batteries. A deep cycle battery is a particular type of battery designed to supply consistent power over a sustained period of time.
In most cases, aerial lift batteries are also flooded, meaning the battery’s cells are submerged in an electrolyte solution which must be regularly topped off with distilled water.
To get the most out of your aerial lift’s battery, you should implement a few simple practices:
- Flooded batteries should be watered (topped off) after each charge
- Only use distilled water for flooded batteries, as impurities in the water may corrode the battery’s cell plates
- Do not over water your aerial lift’s batteries;, the water level should rise to about 1/4" below the well cover
- Always keep your batteries clear of dirt and debris
- For a longer battery life, deep cycle batteries should never be discharged beyond the level recommended by the battery’s manufacturer
- Prior to storing, fully charge the battery and disconnect it from the machine
- During periods of activity, store the battery in a cool, dry place where temperatures will not drop below freezing
While the above practices will help you get the most out of your battery, older batteries will eventually need to be replaced.
If your aerial lift’s battery no longer holds a charge, or if charge times become excessively long, then you may need to replace it.
Maintaining Other Key Components
In addition to your lift’s battery, other systems need to be regularly maintained as well. Here are some key maintenance areas that should form the basis of your preventive maintenance program:
- Fluids- Depending on the type of lift, and whether it is fuel- or battery-powered, your machine will have varying fluids that need to be routinely topped off and changed. Fluids that may need to be maintained include battery water, oil, coolant, fuel and hydraulic fluid.
- Brakes- Your lift’s brake system needs to be routinely inspected. Worn or damaged components should be replaced.
- Tires- Before each shift, your operators should inspect the lift’s tires. Tire pressure level should be maintained according to the levels provided in your machine’s service manual. Damaged, punctured or chipped tires should be replaced.
- Safety Features- Features designed for the safe operation of the lift, such as lights, gauges, backup alarms, horns, seatbelts and guardrails should be regularly inspected for damage. Damaged or loose components should be fixed or replaced before operating the lift.
- Dirt and Debris- If you are using your aerial lift outdoors, mud may accumulate on the machine’s tires and in the wheel wells. Regularly clean your lift so that mud and other debris do not become stuck to the machine, which could cause it to lose balance.
Because they are used to lift personnel into the air, inspecting aerial lifts prior to each use is a critical safety requirement. By inspecting the lift and ensuring its safety features are operational, you can help prevent accidents.
In fact, aerial lift inspections are so important that OSHA provides direct guidance for conducting these inspections. According to their guidance, the following areas should be inspected at the start of each shift:
- Vehicle Components
- Proper fluid levels
- Fluid leaks
- Wheels and tires
- Horn, gauges, lights and alarms
- Steering and brakes
- Lift Components
- Operating and emergency controls
- Personal protective devices
- Hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel, and electrical systems
- Insulating components, such as fiber glass
- Missing or unreadable placards, warnings, and operational markings
- Mechanical fasteners and locking pins
- Cable and wiring harness
- Outriggers, stabilizers and other structures
- Loose or missing parts
- Guardrail systems
Aerial Lift Safety Practices
When it comes to ensuring the safe use of aerial lifts, safety practices can be broken down into operator safety and machine safety. Operator safety involves properly training operators to perform safety checks, while machine safety involves maintaining the physical components of your aerial lift.
Before operating an aerial lift, all operators should receive adequate training. Some important aspects of operator safety include work zone inspections, personal protective equipment (PPE), and work platform awareness.
Work Zone Inspections
Operators should be trained to inspect their work zone prior to operating an aerial lift. During work zone inspections, operators should look out for and address potential hazards such as drop-offs, holes, unstable surfaces, bumps, debris and other obstructions, overhead obstacles (especially power lines), inclement weather and the presence of other personnel in the work zone.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Operators should use personal protective equipment at all times. This includes basic gear - hard hats, gloves and safety vests. Where applicable and recommended or required by law, operators should also use harnesses or leashes to secure themselves to the work platform.
Work Platform Awareness
Importantly, operators should exercise a very high level of caution while working atop the elevated work platform of an aerial lift.
Operators should be well-trained to remain inside the work platform at all times, and should never attempt to climb over the guardrails or breach the work platform in any way. Operators should only enter and exit the work platform while the lift is in a lowered position and using the dedicated safety gate.
Operators should be well-trained to inspect their aerial lift and ensure it is safe to operate before using it. When maintenance issues that adversely impact the machine’s safety are discovered, operators should report those issues and address them before operating the equipment.
In addition to improving job safety for you and your operators, taking proper safety precautions will help your team remain in compliance with legal requirements established by organizations like OSHA and ANSI.
For example, ANSI standards require a thorough inspection of aerial lifts every three months or 150 hours. Training your team to meet these requirements, as well as others, will help keep your team compliant and reduce your liability in the case of an unforeseeable accident.
While aerial lifts are incredibly useful for a wide range of applications, they must be properly maintained in order to keep your team safe from accidents.
EquipmentShare is here to help you rent, purchase and maintain aerial lifts for your team. Our online shop carries OEM and aftermarket parts for various aerial lifts, making it easier than ever to keep your lift in good working condition. Can’t find the part you need? Contact one of our parts experts for personalized assistance.