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Aerial Lifts

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Information regarding the safe use of telescoping and articulating aerial lifts. The university requires training and certification in aerial lift operation to assure that operators have a basic understanding of related hazards and safe operation of the specific equipment used by the department.

Aerial Lifts Program Summary 

This program applies to all Virginia Tech personnel who operate aerial lifts for work-related purposes. Examples of aerial lifts include:

  • Articulating aerial lifts;
  • Telescoping aerial lifts;
  • Boom trucks; and
  • Scissor lifts (considerd mobile scaffolds by OSHA, but included in Virgnia Tech's Aerial Lift Safety Program).

Aerial Lift shall be designed and constructed in conformance with the applicable requirements of ANSI A92.2-1969 or later.

Virginia Tech requires that all aerial lift operators be trained and certified. This includes an online awareness level training on safe use of the lift and operator evaluation. This certification is valid for three years, and each operator will be issued a wallet card. These cards must be available upon request whenever the lift is in use. 

Aerial Lift Online Program


The university requires training and certification in aerial lift operation to assure that operators have a basic understanding of related hazards and safe operation of the specific equipment used by the department.

Each department that owns or uses aerial lifts (including rentals) must ensure that all operators are trained and authorized by the department to use such equipment. Machine-specific training must be provided by the department. General safety training and operator observation is conducted by Environmental Health & Safety (or departmental designee).

This program applies to all powered or manually operated personnel lifting devices being operated by Virginia Tech personnel regardless of location, such as:

  • Telescoping (ex. genie lifts): The personnel basket or platform only goes up and down. There are no hinged sections in the boom.
  • Scissor Lifts function similarly to telescoping lifts, but are actually considered mobile scaffolds by OSHA.
  • Articulating (ex. construction-type lifts): The personnel basket or platform can be maneuvered up, down, over, and sideways. There are one or more hinged boom sections. This type is generally used outdoors.
  • Boom Trucks: The personnel basket or platform is located on a large truck. There may or may not be hinged boom sections. This type is used outdoors for painting or overhead power line access. The boom may or may not be insulated.


Environmental Health & Safety is responsible for developing, implementing, and administering the Aerial Lift Safety Program. This involves:

  • Training all operators in the associated hazards and general safe work practices of aerial lifts.
  • Maintaining centralized records of training and certification records.
  • Providing technical assistance and resources to university personnel.
  • Evaluating the overall effectiveness of the program on a periodic basis.

Departments are expected to maintain a safe and healthy living, learning, and working environment for faculty, staff, students, and visitors to our campus. Departments must ensure equipment provided is of a safe design, appropriate for the work task and location, and in good condition. It is recommended that departments designate a responsible person(s) to coordinate the requirements of this program with employees.

Supervisors must ensure that machine-specific operational training is provided to potential operators, and that pertinent sections of the Operator's Manual (i.e. safety, limitations, proper set up and operation, inspection, etc.) have been reviewed by the operator prior to Environmental Health & Safety observation and certification.

Employees are expected to:

  • Complete Environmental Health & Safety general awareness level training (i.e. Aerial Lift Training).
  • Review the Operator's Manual(s) for the lift(s) to be operated.
  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, such as hard hats.
  • Perform pre-use inspections and function tests in accordance with the operator's manual.
  • Set up the equipment within manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations.
  • Operate the equipment in a safe and responsible manner.
  • Report any defects or deficiencies with the equipment to their supervisor for repair.

Contractors must comply with all local, state, and federal safety requirements, and assure that all of their employees performing work on Virginia Tech properties have been suitably trained. Contractors must also comply with the requirements outlined in Virginia Tech's Contractor Safety Program.

Training Information

Operator certification is a two-part process at Virginia Tech. For the first part, the operator must complete online general awareness level training. Part two involves machine-specific instruction and familiarization under the supervision of a certified operator. 

Operators must: 

  • Complete general Aerial Lift Training from Environmental Health & Safety (available online).
  • Complete Fall Protection User training if the use of a personal fall arrest system is required.
  • Read pertinent sections of the operator's manual for each lift to be operated, such as safe use and limitations, proper set up and operation, pre-use inspections, and emergency controls.
  • Operators must know how to perform the following during observation:
    • Inspection of the work site for hazards that could affect safety or safe operation of the lift;
    • Properly set up the lift, including leveling and the use of outriggers, if provided;
    • Perform a pre-use inspection and report any deficiencies;
    • Perform function tests prior to use;
    • Safely operate the lift;
    • Wear required fall protection equipment and/or hard hats; and 
    • Operate emergency (ground/lower) controls.

Supervisors (or departmental designees) must provide operators with hands on, machine-specific instruction on any lift to be used by the employee. Operators should be supervised for a sufficient period of time while operating the lift in order to develop a basic level of proficiency prior to observation. 

Hands-on instruction must include how to: 

  • Perform a pre-use inspection per the operator's manual.
  • Properly set up the lift, including the use of outriggers.
  • Operate the lift (familiarization with controls, traveling, parking, etc.).
  • Use emergency (ground/lower) controls in the event of mechanical failure or operator incapacitation.
  • Report any deficiencies if the lift does not pass inspection.
  • Use any required fall protection system associated with the lift.

When the employee is comfortable operating the lift (under direct supervision by a currently certified operator), and supervision agrees, contact Environmental Health & Safety (or your departmental authorized observer) to schedule the observation portion of operator certification. Observation will include those items noted above for machine-specific instruction and familiarization.

Note: The supervisor, operator, and Environmental Health & Safety trainer will be required to sign off on the certification form that the employee has completed machine-specific instruction and familiarization prior to observation. If an operator receives a "Needs Further Instruction" rating during the final observation, the employee and supervisor must work on any deficiencies before rescheduling another observation by Environmental Health & Safety or departmental designees.

Operators who successfully complete operator training and certification will be authorized to operate the type of aerial lift specified on their wallet card. If other types of aerial lifts will be operated, an observation must be performed on each additional type of aerial lift.

Recertification is required every 3 years

Operator refresher training may be required before the recertification period under the following conditions:

  • The operator is observed operating the aerial lift unsafely.
  • The operator is involved in an accident or near miss involving an aerial lift.
  • Observation of operator knowledge and skills indicates a need for additional training and/or practice.
  • A different type of lift is to be used.

General Requirements

In Virginia, manufacturer's specifications and limitations applicable to the operation, training, use, installation, inspection, testing, repair, and maintenance of all machinery, vehicles, tools, materials, and equipment must be followed. This machine-specific information is contained in the Operator's Manual, and is critical to complying with this law.

Operators must review operating instructions and safety guidelines specified by the manufacturer in the operator's manual for the lift being operated as part of the training and certification process. 

Servicing and maintenance should be in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, and may require a qualified technician for certain maintenance or repairs. Operator's manuals must be available to operators in a weather-proof container on the lift.

Modifications to aerial lifts are not permitted without the expressed written permission of the manufacturer.

Work site surveys are performed for each job task involving the use of an aerial lift. Supervisors and operators must inspect the work location for hazards which may affect proper set-up and use of the specific aerial lift that will be operated. Any potential hazards must be addressed prior to proceeding. For example, setting up a large boom truck on a sidewalk on campus may need to be addressed by reinforcing the sidewalk with steel plates or setting up the lift in an alternate location due to the presence of steam tunnels under the sidewalk.

Items to look for include:

  • Underground hazards, such as the location of steam tunnels or utilities which may be present;
  • Drop-offs, holes, or unstable surfaces such as loose/soft ground;
  • Overhead obstructions or hazards, including overhead power lines;
  • Slopes, ditches, or bumps;
  • Debris and floor obstructions;
  • Floor loading limits;
  • High wind and other severe weather conditions;
  • Personnel working below; and
  • Traffic or heavy equipment in the area.

A work zone should be established around the lift and any overhead work and identified with danger tape and signage, as necessary.

Lifts must be inspected prior to use each day for general damage and defects which may affect the integrity or operation of the equipment. This should be performed before the lift is taken to the work location in order to identify potential issues prior to use. Report any defect to your supervisor, tag the lift "Out of Service" at the controls, and do not use the lift until repairs have been completed by a qualified technician. Inspection criteria for the lift is found in the operator's manual, and generally includes looking for:

  • Damaged, loose, or missing parts, including the guardrail system;
  • Check the tire inflation, if applicable;
  • Check the fuel level or charge of the battery;
  • Look for air, hydraulic, or fuel system leaks;
  • Loose hoses or wires; 
  • Steering and brakes functioning properly; 
  • Ensure the operating controls are working properly;
  • Ensure the auxiliary (ground) controls are working properly; and
  • Check the battery fluid, hydraulic reservoir, and coolant levels, if applicable.

Outriggers stabilize the lift and help prevent tip over. If outriggers are provided with the lift, they must be used unless otherwise specified in the operator's manual. Many types of lifts will not permit operation unless the outriggers have been properly installed and the lift is level. Refer to the operator's manual for machine-specific information.

If the lift is designed to be used on a slope or incline, the wheels should be chocked to prevent inadvertent movement. Aerial lifts can turn over if they are not set up on a firm, level surface. Avoid using aerial lifts near drop offs, holes, uneven surfaces, in soft soil conditions, on slopes, or where there may be an uneven weight distribution.

Operators must be familiar with the maximum lifting capacity of their lift. It should be indicated on the lift itself, and may be expressed as the maximum weight to be applied to a platform, and/or the maximum number of people permitted on the platform.

Refer to the Operator's Manual for maximum capacity if it is not indicated directly on the lift.  Always be familiar with the limitations of the lift you will be operating.

Do not exceed the maximum capacity. When determining the load being applied to the lift, estimate 250 pounds per person on the platform, plus the weight of any tools, materials, and equipment that will also be on the platform to ensure limits are not exceeded. If additional personnel and tools/materials are necessary for the task, a larger lift may be necessary, and departments should make arrangements to have one available. Do not put materials on the platform that are larger than the platform.

The working height of a lift should never be extended by standing on makeshift devices or mid-rails, sitting on the top rail of the platform or bucket, or using ladders. The guardrail system or bucket can only protect personnel if they are within the boundaries of the system. If a lift with a greater reach is necessary, departments should make arrangements to have one available. 

All lifts designed to the required ANSI standard have fall protection systems incorporated into their design - either an appropriate guardrail system, sufficient basket height, and/or designated anchor points. Some types of lifts (i.e. articulating lifts, boom trucks, and most telescoping lifts - unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer) require the use of personal fall arrest/positioning systems in addtion to the protective system of the platform or basket. Operators must attend Fall Protection User level training where the use of personal fall arrest or postitioning systems are required.

In general:

  • Movable chains or bars provided at access points must be attached or properly placed in order to maintain the protective system when the lift is in use. 
  • The operator should always be within the protective system (i.e. feet on the floor and not over-reaching beyond the guardrail system). 
  • Do not connect (tie-off) to adjacent structures or poles. Always use the designated anchor point provided on the lift.
  • Do not exit the platform onto another structure while in an elevated position. Contact Environmental Health & Safety for review if there are extenuating circumstances where this may be necessary.

Aerial lifts operated outdoors should not be used in adverse weather conditions, such as approaching thunderstorms, high winds, or if lightning is in the area. Unless otherwise specified in the Operator's Manual for the make and model of lift being operated, do not operate aerial lifts if the wind is 28 MPH or greater. Refer to the operator's manual for limitations of the lift if it will be operated in severe temperatures or adverse climates. 

Aerial lifts must not be operated within 10 feet of overhead power lines, unless the operator is an Electrical Qualified Person and has the training, knowledge, protective equipment, and tools necessary to work within the minimum approach distance safely. This 10-foot clearance applies to any part of the lift, the operator, and any tools, materials, and equipment in use. When Electrical Qualified Persons are operating within the 10-foot clearance area, personnel on the ground must not be in contact with any part of the aerial lift. If the boom is insulated, it must be maintained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and insulating qualities verified by annual dielectric testing. 

In general, lifts are not designed to be moved to another location while the platform or basket is raised, or for long distances. Refer to the operator's manual for traveling to the worksite. If the lift is designed to be driven by the operator to the work location, such as various locations on campus, it should be done so with the platform low to the ground (2-3 feet), and with an escort vehicle following behind. Scissor lifts must be used in accordance with applicable mobile scaffold requirements.

All lifts should have auxiliary (i.e. emergency, lower, ground) controls so that the platform/basket can be safely lowered to the ground in the event that operator platform controls fail, or the operator becomes incapacitated. Operators should never attempt to climb out of the basket, or climb down the boom in the event of mechanical failure (unless there are hazardous conditions in the area that warrant immediate action). Ground controls can be operated by another certified operator in the area provided that permission is given by the stranded operator. Permission is implied if the operator is unconscious.

When the lift will be operated on construction sites, or in areas where there are overhead structures, class "G" or "E" hard hats must be worn. Where overhead, high voltage, electrical hazards are present, class "E" hard hats must be worn. Hard hats must comply with requirements specified in the Personal Protective Equipment Program.

Provided the aerial lift guardrail system has not been altered or damaged and the operator is using the lift appropriately, (i.e. feet on the bottom of the platform and not overreaching) a full body harness does not need to be worn.

Fueling or battery charging of the lift should be conducted according to the manufacturer's recommendations and the requirements of the Fire and Life Safety Program. In general, no sparks or open flames in the area, and adequate ventilation must be available.

Telescoping lifts

Telescoping lifts typically sway during use, but it is unlikely that the operator would be ejected from the platform or basket as with articulating lifts. Refer to the operator's manual for fall protection requirements. It is critical that telescoping lifts are properly leveled and set up on a firm surface prior to use, and that outriggers are used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions specified in the operator's manual.

OSHA considers scissor lifts to be mobile supported scaffold work platforms, and requirements may vary slightly from those specified for aerial lifts. General information on mobile scaffods can be found in 29 CFR 1926.451 and .452(w). Refer to the operator's manual for manufacturer's requirements for safe operation.

Articulating lifts

Articulating lifts not only sway during use, but bounce as well, and may result in the operator being ejected from the work platform. Because of this inherent quality, personal fall protection systems (i.e. full body harness with connecting device attached to the designated anchor point) are required to be used by the operator. Refer to the operator's manual for more information. In addition to bouncing hazards due to traveling, the possibility of heavy materials at the work location falling onto the platform/basket and resulting in a springing motion are also possible. The lanyard or connecting device should only be attached to the manufacturer approved designated anchor point, or to an alternate anchor point approved by a safety representative, such as a boom strap.

Articulating lifts are often used on construction sites, and may involve traveling from one work location to another. Always lower the platform to approximately 3 feet or less above the ground when traveling. If you must travel on roadways, such as on campus, an escort vehicle traveling behind the lift is highly recommended.

Boom truck requirements

Boom trucks not only sway during use, but bounce as well, and may result in the operator being ejected from the work platform. Because of this inherent quality, a personal fall protection system (i.e. full body harness with connecting device attached to the designated anchor point) is required to be used by the operator. In addition to bouncing hazards due to general use, the possibility of heavy materials at the work location falling onto the platform/basket and resulting in a springing motion are also possible. The lanyard or connecting device should only be attached to manufacturer approved designated anchor point, or to an alternate anchor point approved by a safety representative, such as a boom strap.

Due to the weight of boom trucks, special consideration should be taken when selecting the set up location. Soft soil conditions, underground steam tunnels, etc. can result in sudden shift or movement of the lift, possibly resulting in tip over or operator injury. Sidewalks on campus often follow or cross over sections of steam tunnel. Always consult knowledgeable personnel prior to set up where such conditions may be present. Use outriggers in accordance with the operator's manual for additional stability. 

Boom trucks which are also designed to lift materials (i.e. have a crane feature), or to dig holes (ex. digger derricks) must be used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. Refer to the operator's manual for details.

Boom trucks with insulated booms must be maintained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations and insulating qualities verified by annual dielectric testing. Records of testing must be maintained by the department. 

When setting up boom trucks in roadways or right-of-ways, Temporary Traffic Controls must be implemented. Refer to the current version of the Virginia Work Area Protection Manual for details.


Aerial lift (device): Any vehicle-mounted device, telescoping or articulating, or both, which is used to position personnel, including extensible boom platforms, aerial ladders, articulating boom platforms, or vertical towers.

Anchor point: A secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices.

Articulating boom platform:  An aerial device with two or more hinged boom sections. 

Connecting device: A flexible line used to secure a body harness to a lifeline or directly to a point of anchorage.

Fall arrest: A system used to stop a fall from heights and decrease the impact of forces on a body to minimize the extent of injury. It consists of an anchor point, connecting device, and full body harness.

Fall restraint: Equipment used to keep a person from reaching a fall point, such as the edge of a roof.

Insulated boom: The boom is separated from other conducting surfaces by a dielectric substance (including air space) offering a high resistance to the passage of current. 

Maximum capacity or maximum intended load: The total load of all employees, tools, materials, and other loads reasonably anticipated to be applied to a personnel platform at any one time.   

Outriggers: A device used to increase the stability of the lift. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is training mandatory? If so, when? Yes. Certification is mandatory for employees who use aerial lifts or manlifts. Training must be performed prior to use of this equipment.

Class length: 1 hour

Available online: No

When is refresher training required? Every 3 years

Please see the online class schedule for more information.

Yes. Regardless of who owns the aerial lift, operators must be trained and certified through Environmental Health & Safety.

Refer to the operator's manual for specific requirements established by the manufacturer. Scissor lifts are considered "mobile scaffolds" by OSHA, and personal fall arrest systems may not be required provided that the guardrail system is fully intact and the operator is using the lift properly (i.e. feet on the bottom of the platform and not over-reaching outside of the basket). Best practice is to always wear a harness when working at heights greater than 4 feet above the next lower level at Virginia Tech.  

Yes. Related hazards basically remain the same where personnel lift equipment is used.

If another person familiar with the lift is nearby, he or she may use the auxiliary controls to lower the platform or call to get additional help. The only circumstances in which the operator should attempt to climb onto a nearby structure or climb down the boom is if there is an imminent danger situation requiring immediate action.

Contact Information

Robin McCall-Miller, Occupational Safety Program Manager

Phone: 540-231-2341