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Tips On Operating A Scissor Lift Safely

Scissor lifts are a useful access solution suited to a wide range of activities. Whether using a scissor lift for construction work, building maintenance, or other activities such as manufacturing and warehousing, it’s important that the operator understands how to operate a scissor lift safely.

This article offers various tips on operating a scissor lift safely and effectively. Whilst operators of access equipment can use this information as a guide, we always advise to check the operators manual that came with the equipment been used in order to become familiar with the particular safety mechanisms and operating instructions/procedures for that particular piece of equipment.

A scissor lift available for hire from

Our Tips On Operating Scissor Lifts Safely & Effectively

Here are our key tips on operating scissor lifts in a safe and effective manner. Most of these tips can also be applied to other types of access platforms such as cherry pickers and truck mounted platforms, but as mentioned, be sure to check the operator’s manual of the equipment to be used.

Become Trained

Your first step to operating a scissor lift safely should be to become fully trained in your use of powered access platforms. In many countries including the UK, employers have a legal requirement to ensure their employees are adequately trained before using any mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs).

The IPAF logo.

The most popular training body for MEWPs in the UK is IPAF who will issue a PAL Card to successful candidates. You can find IPAF training courses from various accredited providers right across the UK. In fact, here at, we offer IPAF operator training courses for the following categories:

  • Static Vertical Booms (1b)
  • Scissor Lifts (3a)
  • Self-Propelled Booms (3b)

If operating powered access machinery in a country other than the UK, it is advised to check with your local health and safety bureau for any specific legislation and training requirements applicable to you.

Perform A Risk Assessment

Before undertaking any job using a scissor lift, you should perform a working at height risk assessment to help and identify any hazards, assess the risks, and put in place controls to help mitigate the risks. You should then record your findings and periodically review the controls to ensure they are still relevant and adequate.

For example, although safety harnesses are not usually required when working with a scissor lift, your risk assessment may identify the need for a safety harness based on the type of work you are carrying out. Various other factors can come to light during the risk assessment process.

Perform A Site Survey

A site survey should be performed prior to using any access equipment. This will help you to become familiar with your surroundings and be aware of any objects that should be avoided. For instance, you should watch out for overhead electrical cabling, gas pipes, low light fittings and other obstacles. You should then take steps to isolate any hazards or keep an appropriate safe distance from them.

During your site survey you should also check the ground conditions where you plan to operate the scissor lift. Is the ground solid or slab surface? Is it level? Will a scissor with outriggers or a levelling system be required? All of these factors should be considered before choosing and operating the appropriate access equipment.

You should also look out for and avoid driving over (or close to) manhole covers and potholes. Manhole covers may not support the weight of your equipment and potholes may pose a danger to those working with or nearby the scissor lift.

Read The Operators Manual

Whilst most scissor lifts operate on similar principles, it’s always important to read the operators manual to become familiar with the particular operation of your chosen machine. This can help you become familiar with the controls and any key safety features that your piece of equipment has.

All reputable scissor lift hire companies will provide an operators manual with each piece of equipment and here at, we always recommend that our customers read the operators manual provided with the access equipment.

Carry Out PRE-USE Checks

Reputable manufacturers of scissor lifts and other access platforms will publish a set of pre use checks that you should follow before using the equipment. These checks are often performed daily but may need to be followed more frequently in different scenarios.

You should pay extra attention to the emergency lowering system of your chosen scissor lift. This mechanism is vital should the platform lose power or experience other electrical issues during use.

Pay Attention To The Load

Each piece of access equipment should clearly mark its safe working load (SWL). This value is a combination of any persons and materials requiring elevation. You should never exceed the SWL, and some scissor lifts even feature scales and will fail to operate should this value be exceeded. Keep in mind that the SWL will be less if working on an extended deck.

You should also attempt to spread weight evenly across the platform, helping to balance the load and reduce the potential for the platform to sway or even tip over.

Have a Rescue Plan

It’s always advisable to have a second person on the ground who is adequately trained in the use of your chosen scissor lift. This person should be familiar with the emergency descent control system in case those working on the platform are unable to control the descent themselves.


Whilst operating a scissor lift safely may appear to be a daunting task, it’s actually quite easy to achieve once the risks have been identified and mitigated and operators have become trained in the use of the appropriate access platform. A site survey can also go a long way in helping to choose the best access equipment for the job.

Make sure to become familiar with your chosen scissor lift or other type of platform by reading the operators manual. Stay in check with the safe working load of your platform and avoid any hazards such as electrical cabling and uneven ground conditions.

If you are ever in doubt, has experts on hand to help recommend the most suitable type of access equipment for your needs. We offer this free of charge for all hires, so why not speak to one of our experts today by calling us on 01977 643 595 or emailing us at

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