Aerial lifts, perhaps better known as cherry pickers or bucket trucks, are handy tools. Their mobility and ability to reach high places safely make them indispensable to workers in industries like electrical linemen and other public utilities, construction, forestry, and farming, to list a few. The dangers inherent in using an aerial lift can outweigh the cherry picker’s efficiency if the lift is unsafe; the operator refuses to follow safety protocols or never received the proper training on how to safely use a bucket truck. Failing to observe the hazards associated with using a cherry picker in New York, or anywhere else for that matter, can have disastrous or fatal consequences.
Dangers Related to Using Bucket Trucks
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), dozens of people die each year on the job site when using aerial lifts of one variety or another, including cherry pickers. OSHA describes truck-mounted buckets as “articulable platforms” or “extensible platforms.” Hundreds of additional workers suffer severe personal injuries from incidents involving bucket trucks annually. OSHA indicated that the primary causes of death and severe injury when using a bucket truck are:
- Falling from a height,
- Material dropping from the lift onto workers below,
- The lift tipping over,
- Workers being thrown from the bucket or platform,
- Structural failure of the boom or lift mechanism, causing a collapse,
- Striking another object while the bucket is in motion, hitting an object above the operator when raising the platform, and getting caught in construction materials.
Certain professions rely on using cherry pickers to perform an essential function of the job. Electricians as a profession tend to suffer fatal injuries more frequently than other professions. Construction workers and electrical line workers also have high mortality rates when using an aerial platform. Painters and carpenters also experience fatal accidents when using bucket trucks.
Federal Standards for Using Bucket Trucks
OSHA regulates the use of aerial lifts on the job site. Consequently, the agency issued comprehensive regulations which govern the use and specifications of aerial lifts. OSHA takes a firm stance that training is the most effective method of maintaining a safe work environment. Therefore, OSHA regulations mandate that only workers trained in the safe operation of a bucket truck can use one.
Proper training is the responsibility of the employer. The employer must ensure the safety of the workers in the area of a cherry picker in use and the operators themselves. Proper training, according to OSHA, far exceeds an explanation of which lever lifts the arm up and down. Instead, adequate training for cherry picker use includes instruction about:
- Thoroughly inspecting the lift before use. A thorough inspection includes checking the hydraulics, safety mechanisms, horns, alarms, steering, and braking systems, in addition to ensuring the structural integrity of the bucket itself.
- Inspecting the work area for possible hazardous conditions such as hills, bumps, uneven surfaces, loose surfaces, as well as overhead threats like overhanging wires, iron girders, roofs.
- High wind areas.
- Ensure that the area around the truck is clear and free of debris, obstructions, and pedestrian traffic.
- Maintaining a safe distance from electrical and telephone wires. Cherry picker operators should be trained to assume each line he or she encounters is a live wire and should stay at least ten feet away from wires.
- Using the bucket safely by utilizing safety harnesses, observing the weight restrictions of the bucket, confirming gates are closed, and not climbing over or on the walls of the bucket.
These are the minimum safety requirements OSHA mandates for the use of cherry pickers or bucket trucks in New York work zones. The employer bears the responsibility to ensure the safety of the workers on the site. Therefore, employers must retrain employees who commit a safety violation or otherwise prohibit that employee from using the bucket truck.
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