What is a Boom Lift and How do You Operate One?

what is a boom lift?

What Is a Boom Lift and How Do You Operate One?

You will likely see a boom lift on any construction site. They are used for interior and outdoor tasks, including painting, window washing, roofing, and more. In this article, we will discuss what a boom lift is, what it does, and how it differentiates from other aerial lifts.

What Is a Boom Lift?

A boom lift, also known as a cherry picker, is a type of aerial lift. Boom lifts work by connecting a hydraulic arm to a platform or bucket. The arm is attached to a massive four-wheeled base. Boom lifts are well-known for their capacity to travel in practically every direction, making them more versatile than other aerial lifts. They are classified into three types:

  • Telescopic booms: These types of boom lifts are retractable, single-boom work platforms that can reach heights of up to 100 feet. However, its ability to move horizontally is severely limited.
  • Articulating booms: These booms allow the operator more flexibility because they can be maneuvered vertically, horizontally and rotate 360 degrees.
  • Towable boom lifts: These boom lifts are lightweight, portable lifts that can be towed behind a vehicle.

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What Is a Boom Lift Used For?

Boom lifts provide a secure workspace for work at heights up to 180 feet, making them sought after for various industries such as construction, maintenance, and agriculture. Contractors prefer them for jobs at elevated heights requiring stability and different reach types. They have better mobility and greater reach capacity than other aerial lifts, making boom lifts a popular and efficient choice. Typical jobs that boom lifts are used for include:

  • Building scaffolding
  • Electrical work
  • Tree cutting and trimming
  • Maintenance projects
  • Exterior cleaning
  • Painting walls and ceilings
  • Roofing and sheathing
  • Fruit picking

How Do You Operate a Boom Lift?

Before operating a boom lift, the operator should conduct a series of maintenance checks to ensure the machine is in working order. Before starting the machine, the operator should secure the necessary tools and materials and analyze the project details.

Look for hazards such as unstable surfaces, holes, drop-offs, overhead obstructions (such as a sloping ceiling or power lines), and ground obstructions such as debris in the work zone. Check the weather. Boom lifts should not be used in icy or windy conditions. Here are some general principles for operating a boom truck:

  • While at ground level, turn the key and pull out the red kill switch.
  • Set the wheel chocks in position, engage the outrigger, and lock the parking brake.
  • When boarding the work platform, put on the harness. Check that the harness fits properly and that all buckles, fasteners, and straps are in working order.
  • Once inside the bucket, close the gate and pull out the console's red kill switch.
  • Control the boom's movement and bucket placement with the joystick on the console.
  • A different setting near the ignition on a telescopic boom lift will expand the length of the boom.
  • When elevated, keep an eye out for any obstructions such as trees, building extensions, or electricity wires.
  • Push the extension joystick forward to collapse the boom back into the shaft, shortening the overall length if you have a telescopic model. Pull back on the elevation joystick to lower the boom once the telescope has collapsed.
  • Disengage the outrigger and unlock the parking brake.
  • When finished, remove the key.

Lifts vary in model and brand, but these functions serve as a general guideline for their operation. It is best to reference the manufacturer's operating manual for precise instructions on operating a boom lift.

How Do You Get Boom Lift Certified?

To become boom lift certified, complete a training course, pass a written test, and practice in a practical setting. This ensures high-altitude jobs' safe and effective operation with proper training and arrangement. OSHA requires operator certification for boom lift operators to maintain their jobs safely.

Employers must provide boom lift operators with OSHA-approved training and certification to ensure compliance with aerial work platform (AWP) safety standards. This training ensures employees pass practical exams and stay updated on regulations.

One of the easiest ways to ensure thorough and compliant boom lift certification is to purchase online boom lift training from an OSHA-authorized online training provider like us. We'll cover all the classroom topics and ensure workers understand the material with quizzes and tests. We provide Articulated Boom Truck Operator Safety Course Training in various ways here at OSHA.com.

What Is an Aerial Lift? 

Aerial lifts or Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP) are large vehicles that use booms or other means to lift personnel to a desired work area. Many different kinds are used to reach heights differently, such as side by side or right under. Sound familiar?

What Is the Difference Between Boom Lift and Aerial Work Platform? 

Boom lifts are just another type of aerial work platform. Aerial lifts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common types of aerial lifts used on construction sites are: 

  • Scissor Lifts
  • Boom Lifts
  • Vertical Lifts
  • Bucket Trucks

Simply put, every boom lift is an aerial lift, but not every aerial lift is a boom lift.

Do You Need Aerial Lift Certification?

OSHA regulations state that "only trained persons shall operate an aerial lift," but does not go any further on safety training. As a result, it is the obligation of the employer to develop and provide safety training for their employees who work on, with, or around any sort of aerial lift, including a boom lift.

Online Aerial Lift Training

Just like any piece of heavy equipment, using an aerial lift is not a simple task. All companies must provide basic safety training, although some employers and states may mandate further training. Investing in safety training will benefit you and your coworkers regardless of the restrictions in your business. OSHA.com offers an online Articulated Boom Truck Operator Safety Course which satisfies OSHA's requirements for the classroom portion of operator safety training. Get trained so you’re ready to work today!

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How Much Weight Can a Boom Lift Handle?

Most boom lifts have a platform capacity of around 500 pounds, but you can find boom lifts with a capacity of up to 1000 pounds.

Articulated and telescopic boom lifts have different weight capacities, but it also varies by manufacturer and model. It's critical to pay attention to the maximum capacity and never exceed it.

Telescopic boom lifts can typically handle a larger load than articulated lifts. Both straight lifts and articulated lifts can have the upper end of boom lifts' weight capacity, but there are more straight lifts with 1000-pound capacity than articulated lifts.

What's the Tallest Boom Lift in the World?

When it comes to boom lift sizes, weight capacity is only part of the picture.

Height and range (the horizontal reach) are also important. Most commercial models of straight boom lifts are between 40 feet and 135 feet tall. Articulated boom lifts are a little shorter, between 30 feet and 80 feet tall. Generally speaking, horizontal reach increases with height, but the ratios vary by model.   

The tallest boom lift in the world is made by Bronto for servicing and repairing wind turbines, introduced in 2017. The Bronto Skylift S295 HLA has a vertical lift of 295 feet and an up and over capability of 190 vertical feet and 105 horizontal feet. Previous record-breakers from other manufacturers range from 185 feet to 210 feet.

Bronto also makes North America's biggest boom lift for firefighting. The Bronto Skylift F230 RPX – affectionately called The Beast – has a vertical reach of 230 feet for access to the 20th story of a high rise.

How Do You Operate a Boom Lift?

First of all, you need formal training or certification on how to operate a boom lift safely. If you're using a boom machine for work, a boom lift license is legally required, but even if you're renting a cherry picker for personal use, you want to take boom lift safety training.

Before operating a boom lift, you should inspect all vehicle components, lift components, and your work area for safety. Check fluid levels, safety systems, and other key mechanisms to ensure everything is in working order.

Look for hazards in the work zone, including unstable surfaces, holes, drop-offs, overhead obstructions (like a sloping ceiling or power lines), and ground obstructions like debris. Check weather conditions – boom trucks shouldn't be operated in icy or windy conditions.

When you operate the boom lift, you should engage all safety systems and set up work zone warnings. Engage proper fall protection and use outriggers or wheel chocks for stability. Stay within weight limits and horizontal/vertical reach limits. Pay attention to overhead hazards and stay at least 10 feet away from any power lines and communication cables.

How Do You Get Boom Lift Certified?

When people talk about boom lift certification or earning a boom lift license, they're usually referring to OSHA's compliance requirements.

OSHA requires operator safety training for anyone operating a boom lift on the job. There's a classroom portion as well as hands-on instruction and an in-person evaluation of an operator's skills.

Operators need to complete boom lift certification before they operate a boom lift on the job, and OSHA says employers should retrain operators when a different type of aerial lift is introduced, if they observe improper operation of the lift, after new workplace hazards involving the lift are discovered, and after a boom lift-related accident.

Periodic refreshers for boom lift training aren't required by the OSHA standard, but they can help workers remain compliant and save you a headache when OSHA inspectors come to visit.

Boom lift training covers many topics and needs to comply with OSHA standards. The classroom portion should include:

  • Information on fall, falling object, and electrical hazards
  • Procedures for preventing and mitigating hazards
  • Recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions
  • Instructions about the correct operation of the lift
  • When and how to perform inspections

One of the easiest ways to ensure thorough and compliant boom lift certification is to purchase online boom lift training from an OSHA-authorized online training provider like us. We'll cover all the classroom topics and ensure that workers understand the material with quizzes and tests.

That way, all you have to worry about is covering the manufacturer's requirements for your specific boom lift model(s) and overseeing the practical operating demonstration.

Enroll today!