Scissor lifts provide a safe and reliable platform for workers to perform job tasks when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When not used properly, scissor lifts can present a serious hazard to workers. Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe, so our blog is here to help with everything you need to know about Scissor Lift safety.

Before you start.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require an assessment to be carried out before starting any work at height. If the assessment determines that the work can be carried out in a way that avoids having someone working at height then this must be done. However, if the assessment confirms that there is no alternative to working at height then the work must be properly planned and organised in advance by a competent person to ensure that the most suitable work equipment is chosen. This may mean the use of a Mobile Elevated Lift Platform (M.E.W.P) Scissor Lift.

Who is a Competent Person?

A competent person is defined by the HSE as “someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly”

A person who has been adequately trained is able to make informed decisions regarding the correct use and operation of a Scissor Lift and the impact of external factors on the operation including but not limited to:

  • Weather
  • Terrain
  • Obstacles
  • Operator experience
  • Lift Capability
  • PPE required

What else do I need to consider?

When choosing the most suitable work equipment, you must follow the fall protection hierarchy. This states the order in which protective measures should be considered to prevent and mitigate the risks when working at height cannot be avoided.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) require the risks from using equipment at work to be prevented or controlled and specifically focuses on minimising the overturning risks associated with mobile work equipment such as MEWPs. This is particularly relevant when considering the ground, environmental and operating conditions that the MEWP may experience.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) require that all lifting operations are to be planned by a competent person and that any equipment used for lifting or lowering loads or people (including MEWPs) should be of adequate strength and stability and thoroughly examined at regular intervals thereafter.

Scissor Lifts are well known for their safety and simplicity of use. However scissor lift accidents still occur. Over the past four years, five people have lost their lives due to the equipment they were using tipping. When investigated, it was discovered that the locking system had failed – something which may have been spotted if regular checks had been performed before the scissor lifts were used.

Scissor Lift safety training (NPORS N109) incorporates:

  • Pre shift checks
  • Controls and operations
  • Manoeuvring and travelling
  • Hazard perception
  • Visual awareness of surroundings
  • Emergency procedures
  • Safe and efficient use
  • How to report faults
  • End of shift checks and safe shut down

In Addition to the N109 MEWP Scissor course, Kentra also offer Safe Working at Heights and Harness & Fall Arrest training, all of which can be carried out onsite or at our training centre in Middlewich.

Scissor lift safety

Using a Scissor Lift Safely

MEWPs are designed to provide a safe work platform for temporary work at height. In relation to the fall protection hierarchy, they are considered to be work equipment that can prevent a fall.

It is important that those responsible for selecting, specifying and managing MEWPs on site (the competent person) understand the risks associated with the use of a MEWP so they can advise on the precautions required to eliminate or control those risks. Planning is crucial to their safe operation and the stages below are designed to help you with your planning.

Selection criteria

There are many different types of MEWP with various rated capacities, working heights and outreaches.
Before you decide which type of MEWP is the most suitable for the job


, think about the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • What work needs to be done?
  • At what stage in the job will the MEWP be needed and what will the ground conditions or supporting structure be like at that stage (ie rough, prepared, poured slab, finished surface etc)?
  • What access is there onto the site to deliver/collect a MEWP and to travel it to and from the work location?
  • What terrain and gradient will the MEWP have to cross to get to the work position and is operator visibility and segregation adequate for the manoeuvre?
  • Are there any overhead power lines or subterranean hazards on site to be avoided?
  • How much space is available to position and operate the MEWP at the work position?
  • What is the maximum ground bearing capacity at the work area and along the route to and from the work positions?
  • How many people need to be lifted?
  • What is the required safe working load (SWL) of the machine?
  • What height and outreach are required?
  • Will the MEWP be expected to move in the elevated position?
  • Are there likely to be any overhead structures that the operator could be crushed against?
  • Are there any materials to be lifted and if so what is their weight/shape/length?
  • Are material handling devices required?
  • What interface is there with other vehicles and pedestrians and are there any unusual issues, eg aircraft, rail traffic, public highway?
  • What fuel type is allowed on site and where will refuelling take place?

Scissor lift safety

Positioning of the Scissor Lift before and during work

Consider the following:

  • What type of ground will the MEWP have to travel across before reaching its work position, eg hard, firm, soft, sloping, uneven terrain, soft spots, kerbs, subterranean hazards (such as tanks, cellars and culverts, inspection covers, sewers and service trenches), paved areas, footpaths, waterlogged areas, frozen ground etc?
  • Is a banksman or vehicle marshaller required when moving the MEWP across the site to its work position?
  • Will a wander lead be utilised and, if so, is it long enough to keep the operator at a safe distance?
  • Is the ground sufficiently level at the work location?
  • What is the ground bearing capacity at the work position and along the route to and from it? Is there enough space for the outriggers to be deployed?
  • What is the maximum point load (under a wheel, outrigger or jack pad)? Are spreader plates required?
  • Will the MEWP have to pass beneath any overhead power lines? If so, is there enough clearance and has the area been demarcated?
  • Will the MEWP have to be lifted into position by crane? Are the MEWP lifting points well indicated and is the weight of the MEWP and radius of lift known? Is there an Appointed Person to plan the lift?
  • Will the MEWP have to operate on ground floor slabs or slabs at other levels in the structure? Has the risk of the MEWP running off the edge of a ground floor slab onto soft ground or off the edge of an elevated floor slab been considered? How
    will the risk be controlled?
  • Have segregation/control measures been considered to prevent the MEWP encroaching into or over live vehicle or pedestrian routes?

Falling from the platform

One of the biggest risks when using boom-type platforms is being thrown out of the basket if the boom swings, jolts or tilts away from the machine’s centre of gravity (this can occur when travelling in a MEWP), or if the operator overreaches (usually by standing on the guard rails). Other causes can be impact by other vehicles or snagging the boom or basket on obstructions.

The risk assessment must consider the use of personal fall prevention equipment. Where there is a risk of impact or someone falling from a boom-type MEWP, those people should wear appropriate fall prevention equipment. The preferred option is to stop the person falling from the work platform by using a work restraint system. A work restraint system should normally consist of a full- body harness (BS EN 361) connected to a lanyard (BS EN 354) which is connected to an anchor point on the MEWP basket. From the anchor point, the lanyard length should be short enough to prevent a person reaching a position where they could fall.

The lanyard may contain an energy-absorbing device (BS EN 355), but should still only be used as part of a work restraint system. Do not use retractable type fall arresters (BS EN 360) unless they are suitable and have been specifically tested in the proposed manner of use.

Working next to, or over water must be assessed to identify whether the greatest risk of injury to the operator is from falling from the MEWP basket or drowning, if the MEWP falls into the water. The decision can then be made as to whether it is most appropriate to wear a harness to address the fall risk or whether a harness should not be worn due to the risk of drowning. Life jackets, not harnesses should be worn where there is a risk of drowning.

Overhead hazards

Look for any overhead hazards such as power lines, steel beams, pipe bridges, arches or trees and take account of any risks they present and any control measures needed.

Trapping/crushing against overhead and adjacent obstructions

When operating a MEWP where there are adjacent or overhead structures, it is possible that the operator could be trapped or crushed against those structures. This entrapment can result in serious, sometimes fatal injury.

If there are structures against which an operator could be trapped or crushed, consider selecting a MEWP fitted with a secondary guarding device which will prevent, or mitigate against the consequences of trapping or crushing.

Handling materials

If MEWPs are to be used to install materials, it is essential to know the weight and dimensions of those materials and to properly consider any manual handling and load distribution issues.

Boom-type MEWPs generally have smaller baskets and lower lift capacities than scissor-type MEWPs and their platforms can ‘bounce’ at height due to the boom structure flexing. This may make them less suitable to use for installing long or heavy materials, or bulky materials that may obstruct the control panel.

Materials should never be balanced on the handrails of a MEWP. Instead, you should consider using a second boom-type MEWP, a scissor lift, a crane or a telehandler of appropriate capacity in conjunction with an appropriate material handling attachment where necessary. The combination of a MEWP used for access, with other plant to handle the materials, reduces the risk of overturning and minimises the risk of injury due to manual handling.

Remember, all people, tools, materials and material handling devices add to the safe working load of the machine. Never disable the platform overload system. Where the overload alarm has been activated or movement functions have cut out due to overload, remove the overload immediately if possible before attempting to recover the machine.

If you plan the work properly, the need for outreach may be avoided by, for example, preparing or reinstating the ground conditions in the area directly beneath planned overhead work or by adjusting the work schedule to delay the construction of low level structures until work overhead has been completed.

Exiting the work platform at height

MEWPs are specifically designed to lift people to a position where they can carry out work from the work platform and then return to the starting level. They are not intended to be used to transfer people from one level to another or for people to exit the basket at height.

Exiting the basket at height should be strictly controlled and may only be undertaken where a rigorous risk assessment carried out as part of planning the job indicates that this is the safest and most effective means of accessing a particular location.

Scissor lift safety

Training and certification

It is the employers responsibility to ensure that all MEWP operators have been adequately trained.

Once the training and assessment has been successfully completed, a training card will be issued, which clearly identifies the operator and lists the categories of MEWP they are trained to operate. This document can be updated as the operator undergoes further training on different types/ sizes of MEWP.

There are four different type of M.E.W.P. accreditation available.

Variations of Mobile Elevated Work Platforms are:

Scissor Lift type machines

1A Static Vertical – Driven into position and cannot drive elevated
3A Mobile Vertical – Can drive elevated

Boom Platforms

1B Static Boom – Trailer Mounted, Van Mounted, Lorry Mounted and spider lift. Cannot drive elevated
3B Mobile Boom – Can drive elevated

You should check the expiry date of the training certificate or card, the HSE recommends refresher training every 3-5 years depending on the frequency of use or earlier if there is an accident or incident.

For any further information regard training for a MEWP, Scissor Lift or Boom please give us a call on 01606 832 556 or email the office. Here’s a link to our website ‘Get in Touch’ page.  We have course syllabuses available to send over with great details of the training we can provide for the equipment and working safely while at heights.

Regards The Kentra Training Team

Scissor lift safety