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High wind speed can negatively affect the safety of aerial lift operations and should be evaluated before engaging in such operations to minimize the risk of injuries or fatalities due to falls from the aerial work platform.
Safely working with aerial lifts in high winds requires comprehensive training and an awareness of the regulations surrounding aerial lift operations in high-wind environments. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers receive Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-approved aerial lift certifications and safety training. Such certifications and trainings teach workers about a wide range of boom lift wind restrictions and guidelines, including the following.
1. Never operate an aerial lift in winds over 20 miles per hour
According to OSHA regulation 1926.1431(k)(8)(i), “When wind speed (sustained or gusts) exceeds 20 mph at the personnel platform, a qualified person must determine if, in light of the wind conditions, it is not safe to lift personnel. If it is not, the lifting operation must not begin (or, if already in progress, must be terminated).” Falls are the leading cause of construction industry deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); falls are also among the top causes of aerial lift operator death and often occur due to work performed in high winds and other severe weather conditions. According to the Beaufort Wind Force Scale, which rates wind forces on a scale of 0 (calm) to 12 (hurricane), most powered access platforms and boom lifts should only be used when winds are rated less than Level 5 (fresh breeze).
2. Stay within the lift’s vertical or horizontal reach limits
Before operating an aerial lift, operators must read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions for vertical and horizontal reach limits. When these limits are exceeded, balance and stability issues can significantly worsen in high wind conditions. Generally, the higher the lift is raised, the greater the adverse effects of wind speed. It’s also important to consider the combined weight of the workers on the lift, along with any tools or equipment on board. Using outriggers and stabilizers helps steady a lift during high wind conditions.
3. Aerial lifts and power lines
Power lines present a safety hazard to aerial lift workers. When setting up a worksite, employers and workers alike must ensure that there are no potential hazards near an aerial lift as well as verify that wind levels are below the OSHA aerial lift wind speed restrictions. Remember that power lines may swing widely in high winds. Aerial lift operators must remain at least 10 ft. away from the widest arc of live electrical lines.
4. Use fall protection equipment
Fall protection equipment is designed to prevent injuries or fatalities due to falling from an aerial work platform. Protective equipment includes full-body harnesses, shock-absorbing lanyards, and platform guardrails.
5. Prioritize lift stabilization
Along with using fall protection equipment, proper aerial lift stabilization and positioning play critical roles in always preventing incidents. Stabilizations are even more critical in the presence of wind speed scenarios. Lift stabilization involves placing an aerial lift on level ground, load placement, and load configuration. Whatever the type of aerial lift, ensuring stability and security is crucial for safe operation.
ACRT Arborist Training provides entry-level through advanced arborist classes and certifications for line clearance companies, government agencies, tree care companies, municipalities, and individuals around the nation.
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