Scissor lifts and man lifts are essential in many industries, providing safe and efficient access to high work areas. Knowing the distinctions between these aerial platforms, their safety mechanisms, and the risks they carry is vital for worker safety and project success.

This article delves into the main differences between scissor lifts and man lifts, their safety features, and the hazards of tipping or flipping that come with scissor lifts.

What is scissor lift used for?

A scissor lift is a type of aerial work platform that operates by raising and lowering a platform using linked, folding supports, known as a pantograph mechanism. It provides a stable platform for workers and equipment at elevated heights. These lifts are commonly used across various industries for different purposes due to their versatility and efficiency.

Applications of Scissor Lifts

  1. Construction and Maintenance: Scissor lifts are extensively used in construction and maintenance tasks. They provide workers with safe access to elevated areas, such as ceilings, roofs, or high walls, for tasks like painting, electrical work, or installation of fixtures. In construction, they’re vital for activities like installing drywall or framing.
  2. Warehousing and Logistics: Warehouses utilize scissor lifts for stock picking, inventory management, and loading/unloading goods from high shelves. They facilitate efficient movement of products and materials within the warehouse, optimizing storage space and streamlining operations.
  3. Retail and Displays: In retail settings, scissor lifts are employed for setting up displays, changing signage, and maintaining lighting fixtures. They enable stores to efficiently manage store layouts and create eye-catching displays to attract customers.
  4. Film and Entertainment Industry: Scissor lifts play a crucial role in the film and entertainment industry for lighting and camera setup. They provide stable platforms for lighting technicians and cameramen to achieve desired angles and shots, both indoors and outdoors.
  5. Event Management: Scissor lifts are used in event management for setting up stages, lighting rigs, and sound systems. They help event organizers create dynamic and visually appealing setups for concerts, festivals, and other events.
  6. Agriculture and Horticulture: In agriculture, scissor lifts are utilized for tasks such as pruning trees, harvesting fruits, or maintaining greenhouse structures. They provide farmers and horticulturists with safe access to tall crops or trees, reducing the risk of accidents.
  7. Facility Maintenance: Facilities such as airports, stadiums, and commercial buildings use scissor lifts for routine maintenance tasks like cleaning windows, servicing HVAC systems, or repairing overhead fixtures. They enable maintenance crews to work safely and efficiently at elevated heights.
An installation of metal structures of the building

Key Features of Scissor Lifts

  • Platform Stability: Scissor lifts offer a stable platform, allowing workers to perform tasks comfortably and safely at various heights.
  • Height Adjustability: These lifts can reach considerable heights, ranging from a few feet to over 60 feet, depending on the model.
  • Easy Maneuverability: Most scissor lifts are designed for easy manoeuvrability, allowing operators to navigate through narrow aisles and tight spaces.
  • Electric or Hydraulic Operation: They are powered by either electric batteries or hydraulic systems, providing efficient and quiet operation.
  • Safety Features: Modern scissor lifts come equipped with safety features such as guardrails, emergency stop buttons, and overload protection to ensure the safety of operators and bystanders.

In summary, scissor lifts are versatile equipment used across a wide range of industries for tasks requiring safe and efficient access to elevated areas. Whether it’s construction, maintenance, retail, entertainment, or agriculture, these lifts play a vital role in improving productivity and ensuring worker safety.

What is the difference between a scissor lift and a man lift?

Scissor lifts and man lifts are both types of aerial work platforms used to elevate workers and equipment to perform tasks at heights. While they serve similar purposes, there are key differences between them in terms of design, functionality, and typical applications.

Scissor Lifts

A scissor lift operates on a mechanism of linked, folding supports, forming a crisscross pattern, known as a pantograph. When activated, these supports extend vertically, lifting the platform. Here are some characteristics of scissor lifts:

  • Vertical Movement: Scissor lifts provide vertical movement only. They extend vertically but do not have the ability to articulate or reach horizontally.
  • Platform Stability: They offer a stable platform, ideal for tasks where workers need to stay in one position at a certain height for an extended period.
  • Lifting Capacity: Scissor lifts typically have a higher lifting capacity compared to man lifts, making them suitable for carrying heavier loads and multiple workers.
  • Transportation: While some large-scale scissor lifts have built-in wheels for movement within a worksite, smaller ones often require scissor lift trailers such as SureWeld scissor lift trailers for transportation.
  • Applications: Common uses of scissor lifts include construction, maintenance, warehousing, retail, and events.

Man Lifts (Boom Lifts or Aerial Work Platforms)

Man lifts, also known as boom lifts or aerial work platforms, are characterized by an extendable arm or boom with a platform attached at the end. They offer more flexibility in terms of movement and reach. Here are some key features of man lifts:

  • Articulation: Man lifts can articulate or extend horizontally as well as vertically, providing greater reach and flexibility for accessing difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Platform Size: The platform of a man lift is usually smaller compared to a scissor lift, accommodating fewer workers and lighter loads.
  • Height and Reach: Man lifts can reach greater heights than scissor lifts, making them suitable for tasks requiring access to tall structures or over obstacles.
  • Mobility: Most man lifts come with their own wheels, allowing for easy transportation within a worksite without the need for additional trailers.
  • Applications: Man lifts are commonly used in construction, maintenance of buildings and utilities, film production, and tree trimming.

Differences Between Scissor Lifts and Man Lifts

  1. Vertical vs. Articulated Movement:
    • Scissor lifts offer vertical movement only, while man lifts provide both vertical and horizontal movement due to their articulated booms.
  2. Platform Stability vs. Flexibility:
    • Scissor lifts provide a stable platform, ideal for stationary tasks, while man lifts offer greater flexibility and reach, suitable for accessing various positions and angles.
  3. Lifting Capacity and Platform Size:
    • Scissor lifts typically have a higher lifting capacity and larger platform size compared to man lifts, allowing for heavier loads and more workers to be accommodated.
  4. Transportation:
    • Man lifts are generally more mobile as they come equipped with wheels, enabling easy movement within a worksite. In contrast, some scissor lifts require trailers for transportation, especially larger models.

Are scissor lifts safe? Can it be flipped?

Scissor lifts are generally safe when used correctly and maintained properly. However, like any piece of heavy equipment, there are risks associated with their use, and safety precautions must be taken to minimize these risks. Let’s delve into the safety aspects of scissor lifts, including the potential for tipping or flipping.

Safety Features of Scissor Lifts

multicultural warehouse workers with digital tablet and clipboard standing on scissor lift
  1. Guardrails and Toeboards: Most scissor lifts are equipped with guardrails surrounding the platform to prevent workers from falling. Toeboards are also present to prevent tools and materials from accidentally falling off the platform.
  2. Emergency Stop Buttons: Scissor lifts are typically equipped with emergency stop buttons that allow operators to quickly halt movement in case of an emergency.
  3. Platform Controls: Controls within the platform allow operators to raise, lower, and move the lift safely from the elevated position.
  4. Outriggers: Some scissor lifts have outriggers that can be extended to provide additional stability, especially on uneven surfaces.
  5. Overload Sensors: Modern scissor lifts are often equipped with sensors that detect when the lift is overloaded, preventing operation if the weight limit is exceeded.
  6. Operator Training: Proper training is crucial for operators to understand how to safely operate a scissor lift, including how to position the lift, operate controls, and recognize potential hazards.

Risk of Tipping or Flipping

While scissor lifts are designed to be stable, there is still a risk of tipping or flipping under certain conditions:

  1. Uneven Surfaces: Operating a scissor lift on uneven or sloped surfaces can increase the risk of tipping. It’s essential to ensure the lift is on stable ground before elevating the platform.
  2. Overloading: Exceeding the weight capacity of the scissor lift can cause instability and increase the risk of tipping. Operators should always adhere to the manufacturer’s weight limits.
  3. Extension Beyond Capacity: Extending the platform beyond its recommended capacity can shift the center of gravity, making the lift unstable.
  4. Wind Conditions: Strong winds can affect the stability of a scissor lift, especially when the platform is elevated. Operators should be cautious and lower the platform in windy conditions.

Preventing Tipping or Flipping

To minimize the risk of tipping or flipping, operators should:

  • Conduct a pre-operation inspection to ensure the scissor lift is in proper working condition.
  • Position the lift on level ground and use outriggers if necessary.
  • Follow weight capacity guidelines and avoid overloading the platform.
  • Be aware of surroundings, including overhead obstacles and power lines.
  • Lower the platform in adverse weather conditions, such as high winds.
  • Use caution when driving the lift, especially on slopes or uneven terrain.

In conclusion

Scissor lifts and man lifts are key players in the industrial scene, giving workers a safe and efficient way to get to those high-up spots. Scissor lifts bring stability and can handle more weight, while man lifts are all about that reach and manoeuvrability. They’re kitted out with safety stuff like guardrails, emergency buttons, and sensors to keep things in check.

But it’s still on the operators to keep their eyes open to avoid mishaps, like getting tipped over or flipped, by sticking to the weight limits, keeping things steady, even on bumpy ground, and watching out for the weather, especially the wind. With safety first and solid training, companies can really get the most out of these high-flying work platforms, all while keeping the crew and gear safe.