Scissor Lift Safety Tips: How Safe are Scissor Lifts?

Working at height can be risky. In fact, it is commonly cited as the highest cause of fatalities in the construction industry alone. However, many of the accidents caused while working at height can be avoided. You just need to use the right equipment for the job and operate it correctly.   Using a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) is one way to help support your personal safety. Scissor lifts and MEWPs are generally much safer and more efficient than ladders, scaffolding and other traditional methods for working at height. A scissor lift can have its dangers but avoiding these is easy if you use the machinery in a safe and sensible way.   Follow these scissor lift safety tips every time you use a scissor lift, and you will go a long way to keeping you and your team safe.

Scissor Lift Safety Checks

Staying safe in a scissor lift starts before you’ve even stood on the platform. Finding the right position and using a well-maintained lift are key parts of using any MEWP safely.   Always make sure you’ve ticked off all of these steps before you start.

Operator Training

The most important part of scissor lift safety is to complete the appropriate training. This means passing an accredited IPAF training course.   It is actually a legal requirement to be suitably trained before using any type of powered access platform for work. This is the role of IPAF training. Completing a course will give you all the information you need to use a range of MEWPs safely. It will give you an overview of all the checks you will need to carry out before using a scissor lift, as well as the regular maintenance needed to keep the equipment in safe working order.

Familiarise yourself with the operator’s manual & manufacturer specification

Even if you have recently completed IPAF training, or feel competent after years of using MEWPs, you should always check the operator’s manual for the specific scissor lift you are about to use.   Even small differences in how a scissor lift operates or a platform’s capabilities can have a big impact on how you safely approach a task.   Take time to familiarise (or refamiliarise) yourself with each particular model before you start - it won’t just make you safer but will probably save you time on the job too.

Carry Out Pre-use Inspections

Before elevating a scissor lift platform you should spend time checking the platform and the vehicle to make sure they are in good condition. In particular, check the lockout and cut out switches and inspect the guardrails of the platform. You should also check the tyres of the vehicle and the stability of any outriggers.   For a full list of checks that you should carry out during a scissor lift inspection, you can follow the IPAF Pre-Use Checklist.   You should also take the time to inspect your safety harness. This is something you should do any time you work at height.

Careful Location/Positioning

As well as inspecting a MEWP before using it, you should always closely inspect the area you’re putting it in.   Firstly, check the ground you want to position the scissor lift on. Check that it is firm and that it is level. One of the highest risks to a scissor lift is the platform tipping when it’s sat on uneven ground.m Some MEWPs can cope better with rough terrain than others, so if you need to use a scissor lift on bumpy ground, seek out a lift made for this purpose. As well as the ground, you also need to check the space above the scissor lift. Look for exposed power cables, branches and potential crush hazards. Don’t just check directly above the platform either, make sure to account for any sway in the platform while it is in use.

Check The Weather

Before extending the platform you need to assess the current weather conditions. Heavy rain could cause the platform to become slippery, but your main concern should be the wind. It’s important to check the wind speed as scissor lifts should never be used in winds that are 28mph or stronger.   You should also factor in wind direction when you’re positioning the scissor lift. It is best to position the platform so that the narrow end faces into the wind. If the broadside of the platform faces the wind, it is more likely to be tipped by particularly strong gusts.


You should always inspect a scissor lift right before using it, but it is also good practice to inspect and maintain powered access platforms in between uses.   Refer to the pre-use checklist above for guidance on how to carry out a routine inspection on a scissor lift, and refer to the operating manual for model-specific guidance.  

How To Stay Safe When Using a Scissor Lift

To stay safe while using a scissor lift, it is important to prepare by first following the appropriate checks above. It is also just as important to be responsible and safe when the equipment is in use too.   Here are four rules you must follow to maintain safety while a scissor lift is in use.

Get Ground Support

No matter how carefully you position your scissor lift, it is always good practice to have someone on the ground to guide you when you lift the platform. They will have a different view and will spot any hazards that may escape your notice while you work.

Do Not Exceed The Load Limit

All scissor lifts have a recommended load limit that must not be exceeded. If you go over this limit, you could end up damaging the lift. More worryingly, you could also affect the distribution of weight within the platform. This can lead to the whole scissor lift tipping over, endangering anybody on the platform or standing in the surrounding area.   Make sure to check the exact load limit for the MEWP you are using and don’t risk putting any extra weight on board. If you need to lift extra weight, then find a MEWP that was built to carry that load size.

Do Not Use Extra Height Equipment

Once the platform of the scissor lift is elevated, you should never use more equipment to get extra height. This includes using a ladder, step or even an upturned bucket to stand on. Any additional height gained from the platform will lift the worker above the guardrails so they will no longer be effective in stopping falls. It could also impact the weight and height distribution within the platform and cause the vehicle to tip over.   If you can’t reach the necessary height in a scissor lift, you will need to get one with a higher reach. This could mean finding another scissor lift or swapping over to a cherry picker.

Try To Avoid Moving The Scissor Lift Vehicle While The Platform Is Elevated

It may seem irritating or time-consuming to lower the platform every time you need to reposition the scissor lift. However, it is worth doing as moving an extended platform is very dangerous. Moving a cherry picker with the platform lifted is covered during IPAF training but, by and large, it should still be avoided. You won’t be able to see the ground, spot any hazards or tell if the ground is even enough to hold the lift. While moving, the weight distribution on the platform could shift too. Even with a ground guide, it is too risky. It is much easier and incredibly safer to simply lower the platform to move.   If you need a scissor lift for your next project, Star Platforms have a wide variety of machines to choose from. We offer scissor lifts for hire and to buy, depending on your needs. Get in touch with our team today for more information. Learn how to choose the best scissor lift for the job here.