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Choosing the Right Work Access Lift for your Steel, Aluminum, and Stainless Work Platforms

October 31, 2012

When selecting a work access lift, providing workplace safety is the ultimate goal.  By design, they move personnel, the tools and materials they are using, and provide portable ergonomic workstations for safe, efficient performance.  Each platform’s requirements vary by application use, environment, and custom design needs. Review the following to organize and prioritize your requirements for your next steel, aluminum, or stainless work platforms.

Platform size and configuration should always be the first consideration when selecting a work access lift. The surface area should be large enough so personnel are not crowded or cramped, and that their tools and any work aids will also fit comfortably.  When a straight-sided platform does not interact well with the item being worked on, the platform may need to be custom fabricated.  The footprint of the lifting mechanism beneath the work surface often dictates whether it is more appropriate to provide platform extensions, cut outs, or sometimes both.  Extensions may be permanent, fold down (hinged), or powered horizontal extensions; be sure the lift manufacturer is given an accurate dimensioned drawing of the platform profile that is required.

Platform surfaces should always be fabricated with a safety tread, there are many options available. Slip resistance, open grating, or wood surfaced.  The materials can be carbon steel, stainless steel, or aluminum and may be finished with industrial enamel, epoxy paint, zinc finishes, or metal safety coating products.  Hot dipped galvanizing is not recommended because it may cause warping.  Platform extensions may be of different material than the basic platform, if personnel will be standing on it frequently, slip resistance is still preferred.

There is a large array of add-on safety options to consider.  Guardrails can be designed in any configuration with many styles of gates or chains to suit the application’s needs; they can be vertical folding, swinging, removable, or retract into the platform.  There can be electrical interlocks to prevent vertical movement unless guardrails or gates are in place.  Personnel harnesses can be used, the best guide is to assess all possible uses and accommodating for each potential circumstance.

Once a list of work aids to include on the platform has been created, you can begin to add up the total weight on board.  Consider the weight of the tools, materials, and work aids; add the weight of the live load (personnel) and do not forget that, every once in a while, extra supervisors may wish to accompany the user.  Most manufacturers size their lifts in 2,000-pound increments, so you can round up to the next multiple of 2,000 pounds.  Safety factor should not need to be added, as reputable lift builders build to ANSI code MH29.1, which requires 3 to 1 safety factors.

To calculate travel considerations, first determine the maximum lift height.  Then subtract the lowered height of the stored platform lift, and that will yield the travel required.  Note that most single scissor lifts only can provide vertical travel that is 75 percent of the platform length or less.  If the platform length is too short for the desired travel, then you’ll need to move up to a multiple-scissor lift.  This will naturally increase the cost consideration as the cost of multiple scissors is greater than the cost of single scissor lifts, so if you are close, it may be less expensive to get a platform longer than you need.  Additionally, multiple-scissor lifts have a higher lowered height than single-scissor lifts; therefore, a step may have to be added on the end or side of the lift.  Be aware that if you intend to add a portability feature that this may add 2 inches to 10 inches to the lowered height, depending upon the specific features required.

Portability and mobility features must fit within all industry codes and standards.  ANSI MH29.1 does not allow for drive-around portable lifts, such as self-propelled work platforms covered by ANSI 92.6.  The MH29.1 units are limited to self-propelled units that are guided in some way, such as on tracks.  Units equipped with fork pockets or lifting eyes for pick and place portability are quite common.  Manually propelled scissor lifts with casters and floor locks are available.

The unique design of each work access lift application rules out purchasing any standard lift model, but with a little forethought and problem analysis, excellent solutions are fairly easy to achieve.  The advantages of lifts over ladders and scaffolding are obvious, and the benefits of worker comfort, efficiency, and safety indicate the investment in workplace safety improvements.

Renken, Henry J. “Choosing the Perfect Work Access Lift.” Occupational Health & Safety, 1 Oct. 2012.

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