Train and familiarize

With the arrival of this year's Construction Zone Safety supplement included with this issue, our focus turns to safety and what it means to rental businesses. There is no better time to analyze whetheror not you're doing everything you can to protect your employees and your customers.

Since 1999, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has required both familiarization and training for operators of aerial work platforms. While often misunderstood, the rental business' responsibility is to provide familiarization to the person designated by the receiving party. The receiving party is generally the entity who will be directing employees to operate the aerial lift (i.e., their employer).

To clarify the distinction, Aerial Work Platform Training Inc. (AWPT) has published a technical guidance on familiarization to assist in the understanding of the requirement for aerial lift operators to receive both proper training and familiarization before being authorized to operate an aerial lift. Titled "Technical Guidance - Familiarization," the document is available online and can be downloaded free of charge at

The following example illustrates why it's important to familiarize and train all operators: An employer had an individual that was properly trained to operate scissor lifts. When he was trained, he utilized a 19-foot electric scissor during the instructions. On a particular project, the work required a 50-foot internal combustion engine scissor lift. The operator was not familiarized with the machine when it was delivered and he didn't know that the machine was equipped with a safety device that prevented the lift from being driven when the platform was elevated above 25 feet.

As the job progressed, the operator's working height exceeded 25 feet and the lift would no longer drive. Believing that the machine had mechanical problems, the operator requested that an electrician on site look at the machine. The electrician was not properly trained to inspect and service the equipment. He examined the machine and put a "jumper wire" over the limit switch (the safety device) that prevented the lift from driving if elevated over the 25-foot height.

The operator believed the lift was fixed and continued with his work. His work progressed at 32 feet and since the safety device was compromised, he was able to drive in the elevated position without a perceived problem. When one part of his job required him to work at 50 feet, the operator tried to drive the lift and it tipped over. You can imagine the potential outcome.

The bottom line is that familiarization on a specific unit is required in addition to general training. Please do you part in ensuring safety on the jobsite by familiarizing customers on each and every delivery of aerial work platforms.