Safety Matters: Change is in the Air

Big Changes coming to the aerial lift standard

William McCaffrey

William McCaffrey is a Board Certified Safety Professional with over 25 years of construction safety experience. He is Vice President, Environmental Health and Safety for Irex Contracting Group ( and Vice Chair of NIA's Health and Safety Committee. Mr. McCaffrey has worked for general, mechanical, electrical, and specialty contracting firms in the industrial and commercial construction markets. He can be reached at

February 1, 2020

In a previous Safety Matters column, we established that due to the location of much of the piping, ductwork, and other equipment requiring mechanical insulation; working at heights is one of the biggest hazards in the insulation industry. Aerial lifts have become invaluable for contractors, maintenance personnel, and insulation inspectors to safely access these elevated work areas. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published a new standard on aerial lifts—originally published in December 2018—that is set to take effect March 2020 and will bring about some significant changes.

ANSI is a nonprofit organization that develops voluntary consensus standards across many industries. Many ANSI standards have been adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and incorporated into law. The OSHA standard on aerial lifts, for example, is based on the 1969 ANSI standard. While the OSHA standard has not been updated since, the ANSI standard has undergone regular revision. If you want the most up-to-date, comprehensive standard on aerial lift safety, look to ANSI A92-2018.

One of the first changes readers will notice is a new name. What was formerly referred to as an Aerial Work Platform is now called a Mobile Elevating Work Platform, or “MEWP” (pronounced mee-oop). In addition to the new name, MEWPs have a new classification system as well. MEWPs are broken down into Groups A and B, and Types 1, 2, or 3. Group A identifies vertical platforms, commonly called scissor lifts; and Group B identifies all other lifts, primarily boom lifts. The Type designation refers to where the controls are located and if the machine can be driven in the raised position. The typical boom lift, for example, is now designated as a Group B, Type 3 MEWP.

ANSI A92-2018 is a set of 3 standards: A92.20 covers design, A92.22 covers safe use, and A92.24 covers training requirements. Manufacturers will have to comply with the A92.20 standard beginning next month in March 2020. One of the more significant design changes is a requirement for platform load sensing devices to prevent overloads. Tilt sensing will also be required on lifts. A machine that is overloaded or unstable will alarm and disable some of the control functions until it is brought into a safer condition. Wind ratings are also addressed in the new standard. Some smaller, electric scissor lifts will not carry a wind rating and will be clearly marked for “Indoor Use Only.” Swing gates on scissor lifts and foam-filled tires on rough terrain lifts are other changes users will notice on the new compliant MEWPs.

A92.22 addresses safe use of MEWPS and has several new requirements. One of the more notable additions to this section is the requirement for a risk assessment prior to using MEWPs on a site. The risk assessment should address equipment selection (i.e., using the right lift for the job), ground and work area conditions, overhead hazards, protecting other personnel nearby, and identifying control measures and safe work practices. The risk assessment also requires development of a rescue plan. The rescue plan addresses contingencies such as a work platform stuck in the air or rescuing a worker after a fall in a harness and lanyard. Another new addition to the standard is safety requirements for exiting or entering the work platform at height.

Training is covered in ANSI A92.24. Operator training must include theory (classroom) and a practical assessment (hands-on), and it is specific to each classification of MEWP. For example, an employee trained on a scissor lift would not be authorized to operate a boom lift. The content of both the theory and practical training is clearly defined in the standard. Familiarization training is also required for each different make and model. Familiarization training allows the operator to review and get accustomed to the specific features, functions, and controls on each machine. The standard requires dealer/rental companies to provide familiarization training, but only to those who request it. A familiarization checklist also will be listed in the operations manual of each MEWP.

Whereas previous standards only covered training for operators, the new standard specifies training requirements for occupants and supervisors as well. At a minimum, occupant training must cover fall protection requirements, how occupant actions may affect stability of the MEWP, and how to lower the lift in an emergency. Supervisor training does not necessarily have to include hands-on training, but it must cover proper MEWP selection, hazards associated with MEWP use, and safety rules and regulations for MEWPs.

Consensus standards such as those published by ANSI are voluntary and not legally enforceable. However, OSHA may look at the new standard as the basis for a General Duty clause violation as it requires employers to protect employees from “recognized hazards.” Regardless, employers who want to improve their aerial lift safety program and prevent serious accidents should look to the A92 standard. If not already in place, employers should develop a worksite risk assessment policy prior to using MEWPs and make sure all employees are properly trained, including occupants and supervisors. Although there may be some headaches initially, A92 should have a long-lasting, positive effect on
our industry.

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