Laborers can achieve up-and-over access for a wide range of obstacles, such as stair railings, when using lifts with slide-out extensions. Ladders and scaffolding can’t always access these types of obstacles without putting operators in tough — and sometimes, dangerous — situations.
Easy. Efficient. Ergonomic. Contractors would love to say these three words to describe the equipment they use on a busy jobsite. Unfortunately descriptions for equipment, including ladders and scaffolding, usually involve adjectives such as bulky, time-consuming and unproductive for the task at hand.
Contractors work at heights regularly to complete a range of construction projects, from snaking electrical cables to applying the last coat of paint. How they reach those working heights — and what they can bring with them — can make all the difference for maximizing overall productivity, safety and potential profits.
Initially contractors might consider buying ladders or scaffolding because it seems like a quick fix or an inexpensive option. Ladders and scaffolding can be cost-effective options for small-scale maintenance, such as changing a light bulb or touching up painting projects, but their size and safety issues can put contractors at risk for workers' compensation claims and missed deadlines. For extensive projects, such as installing wiring or hanging drywall, low-level access lifts are the most efficient and safest alternative.
Move More with Ease
With elevated projects, operators usually come to a point where they can't reach any farther off a platform to work efficiently; they need to move their equipment to continue or have a platform extension to work from. Adjusting efficiently to changing work environments determines whether or not laborers complete a job ahead of schedule or on time; and the right piece of equipment is key to adapting.
Aerial lifts easily adapt to changing work environments. These lifts are available in push-around, electrically driven and hydraulically driven models — each with specific features and benefits that virtually eliminate extra labor associated with ladders and scaffolding.
Since ladders require constant up-and-down movement and scaffolding need repositioning, it's worth considering using lifts that support a wide range of materials and tools. Along with more support, pushed or driven lifts allow for faster movement around the worksite. Some lifts also include slide-out extensions, providing laborers up-and-over access for a wide range of obstacles, such as stair railings, where ladders and scaffolding can't access without putting laborers in tough — and sometimes, dangerous — situations.
Aerial lifts that have quick scissor lifting capabilities offer a big advantage over ladders and scaffolding by eliminating the extra time and work needed to climb up and down them. Some push-around lifts reach an 11-foot working height in less than 9 seconds. Taller, electrically driven lifts reach 20-foot working heights in as little as 15 seconds. Quick up-and-down movement when loading building materials and reaching the elevated worksite shaves time off the production schedule, widening profit margins.
Some manufacturers offer lifts with a compact footprint that are easy to move through a jobsite. These lifts easily work in tight areas on jobsites that are typically reserved only for ladders or scaffolding. For the best maneuverability, look for a compact footprint and a zero-turn radius, which means easy navigation around corners, through hallways, and under overhead fixtures and support beams. These lifts are narrow enough to fit through doorframes and even inside elevators.
Ladders and scaffolding require multiple trips and more effort when moving and gathering materials and tools — where lifts can carry most materials needed for the job in one trip.
Some low-level lifts support as much as 750 pounds, making them ideal for lifting heavy materials, such as drywall and wire spools, and one or two laborers.
A few lift models — because of equal weight distribution throughout the wheel load — can move safely across sensitive surfaces, including tile and stone floors, without damage. For example, a lift with a 670-pound capacity could have a wheel load as low as 113.6 psi. This design allows for reduced pressure and for more material to be transferred across surfaces, such as newly laid flooring or freshly poured concrete.
Sacrificing Safety? That's Risky Business
Lifts have numerous safety benefits over ladders and scaffolding that minimize the risk of workers' compensation claims. That also reduces costs associated with training new employees to replace injured operators.
Recent studies show that falls account for more injuries than almost any other workplace incident. A 2012 report from National Council of Compensation Insurance shows that falls accounted for more than a quarter of worker compensation claims during a five-year period. For the most recent three years of data available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA cites that $93 million was spent each year for falls from ladders and scaffolding for those in carpentry professions alone. Individual claims average $98,000 apiece for medical care and lost wages. Those costs cut profits and can result in expensive downtime. When working at heights, operators on ladders and scaffolding have a high risk for falls from physical factors, such as instability and overexertion.
Ergonomic features, such as low step-in heights and full swing gates, go a long way to minimize operator fatigue, a major contributor to falls. Full-swing gates open inward, so laborers don't have to duck under a bar or chain and possibly strain their body. Fewer and lower steps — as low as 20 inches — decrease the chance of tripping and falling versus climbing metal scaffolding or an unstable ladder.
Platform stability is also key to enhancing worker safety for work-at-height projects. Stability contributes to workers' confidence, helping them feel safer to work faster because they feel less likely to fall. Robust scissor stacks and oversized pins provide that stability.
Occasionally lift manufacturers incorporate features, such as fully enclosed railings and kickboards around the platform, to protect laborers above and below. This keeps materials and tools safely inside the platform, preventing any from falling and potentially hitting another worker.
Profit with Low-Level Access Lifts
Low-level lifts might not only change contractors' vocabularies in how they describe their equipment, but might mean the difference in terms of productivity and profits down the line.
Swapping ladders and scaffolding for lifts means safer working environments and increased efficiency, which builds trusted reputations that can help win future bids for contractors.
By using lifts rather than ladders and scaffolding, contractors can finally say they have the easiest to use, most efficient and ergonomic choice of equipment on their jobsite.
About the Author
Justin Kissinger is the marketing manager for Custom Equipment, Inc., which manufactures Hy-Brid Lifts. He joined the family-owned business in 1998. During that time, he has gained knowledge across all areas of the company, including assembly, engineering, service and sales. He also has attended every major tradeshow in the lift industry since 2007. Kissinger earned a bachelor's degree in business from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Wisconsin. Contact him at 262-644-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.