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Tips for Specing Equipment by Application

Mike Larson
Editorial Director
Lift and Access Magazine


Tips for Specing Equipment by Application

Expert Q&A - Jul 17

What are some criteria for specifying equipment for applications?

To paraphrase famous American author Mark Twain, the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

Similarly, the difference between choosing the right construction equipment for a job and an almost-right piece can make a vast difference in a job’s productivity and safety.

Choosing the right piece of equipment lets you lift people or equipment safely and quickly to complete work as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Choosing an almost-right piece of equipment can lead to ineffectiveness or even accidents caused by users trying to do more than the machine is designed for.

The first step in choosing the just-right equipment is defining what you need to accomplish and how a piece of equipment will help you do it safely. Doing a workplace analysis and risk assessment will not only help you identify potential hazards and figure ways to avoid or minimize them, it will also help you choose the best piece of equipment for the work you want to do. The process will help you look at the needed height, reach, clearances, ground conditions, obstacles and other factors vital to picking the right equipment.

Doing a workplace analysis and risk assessment will not only help you identify potential hazards and figure ways to avoid or minimize them, it will also help you choose the best piece of equipment for the work you want to do.

For guidance in assessing job site risk and picking the right aerial lift for a job, users can find excellent advice in the Statement of Best Practices for Workplace Risk Assessment and Aerial Work Platform Equipment Selection. The reference booklet was developed jointly by the American Rental Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the International Powered Access Federation and the Scaffold & Access Industry Association, as well as representatives from equipment manufacturers and users.

It is available from any of those organizations and can be downloaded, free as a PDF document from their websites.

Several things need to be considered when specifying an aerial lift. Here are six major ones, but this list definitely does not include all the possibilities.

  1. Required Elevation: How high do you need to go, and what kinds of work need to be done at height? A worker should be able to comfortably reach the work, and the height of the work area can dictate the kind of lift used. A few scissor lifts can generally reach up 50’ to 60’, and a few can even reach heights of almost 70’. The need to work higher than that eliminates scissor lifts from consideration. Currently, boom lifts can reach up to platform heights of about 185’, so for higher work, they may be the answer.
  2. Required Horizontal Reach: How close can the lift get to the worksite? If the lift can get almost directly under the worksite, a scissor lift may be the best choice. But if the lift cannot get close to the work because of obstacles, poor ground or some other reason, a boom lift is a better answer. Horizontal reach needs to be looked at in combination with the required height. For example, reaching out 32’ horizontally at a working height of 30’ takes a smaller machine than reaching out 32’ at a height of 120’.
  3. In looking at required horizontal reach, it’s also important to consider the required up-and-over height. A telescopic boom lift generally has a straight boom, so you may have to position it farther away from an elevated worksite if you need to reach over tall obstacles between the lift and the work location.

    Articulating boom lifts have a joint in the boom that lets them reach up with the lower portion of the boom and over with the upper portion. That ability to reach up and over may let an articulating boom lift work where a straight boom lift cannot.

  4. Required Capacity: How many people, how much equipment and materials and how much total weight need to be lifted? The lift must have the rated capacity to lift the needed people, materials and tools at the height at outreach to do the job. Some lifts have one capacity out to a specified radius and a lesser capacity at longer outreach. It’s important to know the capacity you will need at the radius (horizontal outreach) where the work will be done. 
  5. Some lifts are rated for a maximum number of people, even if their total weight doesn’t equal the machine’s weight capacity. For example, a boom lift that is rated to hold two people and has 650-lb capacity cannot be used to lift three people, even if their total weight is only 600 lb. So when you consider a lift, be sure to check its people capacity as well as its total weight rating.

  6. Ground Support and Driving Requirements: Ground conditions at the worksite are an important consideration when choosing a lift. Rough, sloppy or sloping ground calls for lifts designated as rough-terrain models. If the lift will work on a concrete slab, a “slab scissor” or non-rough-terrain boom lift may be the better choice. 
  7. Some other ground and driving considerations are whether the ground will support the weight and reactions from the lift, what space is available for the lift to drive in, whether there are finished floors that need to be protected and whether the lift will need to have outriggers to level it.

  8. Power Source: Will the lift be working inside, outside or both? If the lift will be working inside, a battery-powered or plug-in model that creates no exhaust may be required. If the lift will be working outside, especially on rough or rugged ground, a diesel-powered machine may be needed. Recently, hybrid-powered lifts that combine battery power with a diesel engine or an onboard diesel charger have come on the market. Hybrid power can let the same machine run on diesel power outside when it’s needed and on battery power inside.
  9. Access to the Work Area: It’s important to visualize the operation from beginning to end when choosing a lift. Where will it be delivered? How will it get from the delivery point to the areas where it will work? Will it have to travel up or down, maneuver through tight areas or fit through limiting doorways?  How much free space is available at the work area? Is there space for the machine’s turret to swing without hitting anything? Are there any overhead obstructions that must be worked around?

Again, for guidance when choosing an aerial work platform, check the Statement of Best Practices for Workplace Risk Assessment and Aerial Work Platform Equipment Selection mentioned above.

Although selecting the proper telehandler, crane or other piece of equipment requires you to consider different criteria, the process is the same. Start by defining what you want to do, consider the conditions you will work in and perform a job site analysis and risk assessment.