OSHA Standards for Scissor Lifts – Summary of Requirements, Potential Hazards and Penalties for Violations

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: August 16, 2011
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What is a scissor lift?

A scissor lift is a portable, hydraulic-powered lift with a platform that can be raised into the air directly above the base.

During the Fall 2010 college football season, a student who was also an employee of the University of Notre Dame, was killed while filming the school’s football team practice from a scissor lift.

The employee had not been trained to operate the lift and raised it over 39 feet in the air – heavy winds blew the lift over and killed him.

Besides this citation, Indiana’s OSHA agency also cited Notre Dame with five other serious safety violations, including failure to properly train the student employees in how to operate a scissor lift. The university was penalized over $77,500 by the agency.

Scissor lifts were previously covered under the OSHA standards for scaffolding. But following this tragic accident, the agency provided further guidance on the hazards posed by the lifts and how to make them safe to use for workers.


  Need to learn more about OSHA’s standards? Attend any of the following ComplianceOnline webinars:  

Scissor lift hazards

Scissor lifts present many safety hazards and organizations that have workers using scissor lifts to film events and functions must address these. Hazards associated with scissor lifts can include:

  • The lift falling over or a worker slipping off the platform if the lift is:
    • Used during bad weather or high winds
    • Positioned on soft or uneven ground, or on weak utility covers (e.g., underground sprinkler valve boxes)
    • Overloaded with heavy objects
    • Used with guardrails removed
    • Driven over uneven, unstable ground, or surface in poor condition, with the lift in an elevated position, or
    • Used with brakes that are not properly set
  • A worker being electrocuted if the lift makes contact with electrical lines.

Reducing scissor lift related hazards

Organizations can take the following steps to reduce the hazards related with scissor lifts:

Safe work practices
Organization should establish and follow safe work practices that include, but are not limited to:

  • Inspecting controls and components before use
  • Selecting work locations with firm and level surfaces away from hazards that can cause the lift to be unstable (e.g., drop-offs or holes, slopes, bumps or ground obstructions, or debris)
  • Selecting work locations that are clear of electrical power sources (e.g., power lines, transformers) – by at least 10 feet – and other overhead hazards (e.g., other utilities, branches, overhangs, etc.)
  • Operating lifts only during weather conditions that are safe for use (e.g., not in high winds, rain, snow, sleet, etc.)
  • Moving the lift to/from a work location safely, with the lift lowered, unless following safe practices allowed by the manufacturer
  • Setting the breaks and stabilizing the lift before raising it
  • Ensuring that the lift is not overloaded
  • Working safely from the lift (e.g., do not remove guardrails or stand on them for extra height)
  • Reporting problems and malfunctions

Training workers

  • Workers should be trained on established safe work practices and manufacturers’ recommendations for operating scissor lifts safely
  • Only trained workers should use scissor lifts
  • The workers should be able to show that they can use a scissor lift properly and only then allowed to use it


  • Scissor lifts should have a guardrail system that protects workers from falling
  • Inspection and maintenance
  • Scissor lifts should be tested, inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations

Additional Resources
Read OSHA’s scaffolding standards in full


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