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Did you know that according to manufacturer-recommended procedures, the safe operation of certain aerial lifts requires attaching the outriggers and leveling the machine each time the work platform is to be raised? If this critical step is not performed, the lift can tip over, causing serious injury to the operator and workers in the basket.

Real lift Situation

What would you do to avoid a similar situation? A janitorial worker and a co-worker had been assigned to dust water pipes that were suspended from the ceiling of the first level of a shopping mall parking garage. A personnel lift had been set up beneath the drain lines adjacent to a support column, but without extending the outriggers to stabilize the lift. The janitor accessed the pipes from the elevated lift and used a brush to remove the dust.

The co-worker, located on the pavement about 10 to 15 feet away on the other side of the column, heard a noise and looked toward the personnel lift. He saw the lift tipping over and the janitor attempting to grab the pipe.

The lift continued tipping, and the janitor fell with it nearly 15 feet, striking his head on the pavement. The co-worker went to the nearby mall business office and summoned emergency medical personnel, which responded within minutes. The janitor was transported by helicopter to a local hospital and died 12 hours later.


Following the instructions would have necessitated lowering the lift to the ground, dismounting from the work platform, raising the outrigger leveling jacks off the pavement, and manually repositioning the lift after a section of pipe had been dusted. The outrigger jacks would then have to be used to re-level the machine before the worker could board the work platform and raise it into position to resume dusting.

Alternative methods of accomplishing the task without the need to work from elevation are possible. The pipe could have been dusted from the ground using a long-handled dust mop or perhaps pressure washing equipment with extended handles.

Even if the lift had been used, a long-handled tool or pressure washer may have decreased the number of times the lift would have had to be repositioned. This time-consuming procedure would have to be performed numerous times to complete the job and may have provided an incentive to perform an unsafe procedure.


The personnel lift in this incident was supplied with outriggers equipped with leveling jacks. These are intended to provide stability to the machine when being used for lifting personnel. The manufacturer’s setup and operating instructions, originally included inside a plastic container attached to the machine, specifically stated that all outriggers must be installed and the lift leveled before use. When examined just after the incident, the operating instructions were missing from the plastic tube.

The lift had been routinely used without outriggers for maintenance, such as replacing light bulbs, dusting signs, and cleaning windows inside the mall. The conditions inside the mall, where the floor was level, could have decreased the likelihood of tipping from instability.

However, using the lift on the slightly sloping parking lot pavement for horizontal reach from the platform likely contributed to the lift’s instability.

Key to Remember

Train your workers about the manufacturer’s recommended procedures, safe operation of the specific aerial lift used on the jobsite, and ensure if specific safety requirements must be performed, that workers know what these are.