Beginner's Guide: Scissor Lift Safety

Man on a scissor lift

Many pieces of equipment can help workers reach their destination when working at heights. The most common options in the UK are ladders, scaffolding, and platforms.

In this blog, we will learn about various uses of scissor lifts and mobile elevating work platforms. We will address how scissor lifts work, some common uses, and some dangers. We will also address best practices so you can use one safely and confidently if you need to.

What is a Scissor Lift?

Scissor lifts are a type of equipment commonly used in various industries. They are sometimes referred to as Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs). They consist of a platform and crisscrossing supports that extend vertically to elevate the platform. The crisscrossing supports are hinged at a central point, like handheld scissors.

How does a scissor lift work?

A scissor lift uses a powered lifting mechanism. It consists of crisscrossing supports or scissor arms that extend or retract to raise or lower the platform. This allows the lift to be extended to a variety of heights and retracted for storage.

Common Uses of Scissor Lifts in Various Industries

Scissor lifts are versatile and valuable in various applications. They increase efficiency and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries when used correctly. Scissor lifts' manoeuvrability and space-saving design make them valuable equipment for many workplaces.


In construction, people use these mobile lifts to install lights, set up heating and cooling systems, paint, or build or maintain them at height.


In warehouses, scissor lifts help pick items, track inventory, and reach shelves.


In the car industry, scissor lifts are a piece of garage equipment handy for fixing cars, vans or motorcycles, changing tyres, and cleaning them up.

Other Industries:

Many other industries use scissor lifts, too, like manufacturing, logistics, and event planning. These lifts provide a safe and steady place to work up high, making work faster and safer for everyone.

Preparing for Scissor Lift Operation

Before operating a scissor lift, it is essential to prepare appropriately to ensure the safety of the operator and those in the work area.

This may include obtaining the necessary training and certifications, such as a powered access licence or PAL card.

Also, it's essential to be familiar with the specific lift model and any safety features or limitations it may have. By preparing, operators can minimise the risk of accidents and ensure a smooth and efficient operation.

Essential Equipment and Resources Needed

Firstly, it is essential to have access to high-quality, well-maintained lifts. These can be bought, hired or leased.

Other essential equipment includes personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, safety harnesses, and high-visibility vests. Safety signage and barriers may also be necessary to mark off the work area and prevent unauthorised access.

Man using a harness to exit a scissor lift after receiving scissor lift training

Identifying a Competent Person for Supervision

When operating a scissor lift, it is essential to have a competent person present to supervise the operation.

What is a Competent Person?

A competent person is someone who has proper training and experience to allow them to oversee the safe operation of a scissor lift. This person should be familiar with safety regulations and be able to make decisions about correctly using the equipment. They should also be able to assess external factors such as weather conditions, terrain, and operator experience.

Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Operating a Scissor Lift

Operation requires proper training and adherence to safety guidelines. Here is a step-by-step guide to safely operating a scissor lift:

Step 1: Check Before Using

Before using a scissor lift, check that it's in good condition. Look for damage, leaks, or worn parts. Check the controls, emergency stop button, and safety features like guardrails. Also, ensure the battery or fuel levels are good and the lift has been serviced as needed.

Step 2: Position Safely

Make sure the ground is flat and free of hazards like loose objects. If the ground is uneven, adjust the lift's levelling. During work, distribute weight evenly. Don't overload the lift. Stay away from overhead hazards like power lines.

Step 3: Watch Out for Overhead Hazards

Be cautious when working near overhead hazards, such as:

  • power lines
  • tree branches
  • beams
  • low ceilings
  • doorways and
  • other machines and equipment operating in the area.

Plan your work to avoid these hazards and keep a safe distance. Follow safety rules and wear protective gear like hard hats. By being careful, you reduce the risk of accidents.

Step 4: Handle Materials Carefully

Secure materials correctly on the lift's platform and avoid overloading. Follow guidelines for maximum weight capacity. If you need to move materials, use the right equipment to prevent accidents. Be mindful of the lift's stability limits and avoid sudden movements. Handling materials safely ensures a smooth and safe work environment.

Step 5: Exit Safely

Before leaving the platform, secure yourself with safety gear like harnesses. Lower the lift and make sure all controls are off. Use three points of contact when stepping off to stay balanced. Following these steps prevents falls and keeps you safe when leaving the platform.

Recognising and Reducing the Risks of Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts are generally considered safe, but risks still exist.

Falling Risks

Falling from a scissor lift is dangerous. Operators must prevent falls by wearing a safety harness. The harness reduces the risk significantly when worn correctly. Always wear the harness while working at heights. Maintain three points of contact on the platform and avoid leaning over guardrails. Understanding and preventing fall risks ensures operator safety on lifts.

Avoiding Tip-Over Risks

Tip-over accidents are a serious risk with scissor lifts. Accidents can occur if the lift is misused, overloaded, or on unstable ground. Operators need to be aware of these risks and prevent them. This involves adhering to weight limits, staying at a safe height, and avoiding sudden movements. It's vital to ensure the ground is flat and secure. Regular maintenance and checks are essential to detecting issues early.

Scissor Lift Crushing Hazards

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms, like scissor lifts, can expose workers to crushing or entrapment risks. Activities involving lifts need careful planning and management to avoid accidents. Hazards include overhead structures such as beams, low ceilings, doorways, and other nearby machines. If a platform occupant gets trapped or crushed against an external structure, there's a risk of severe injury or even death. Staying alert and following safety protocols to prevent such accidents is crucial.

Importance of Safety Training

Proper training is essential for using lifts safely. Operators must learn how to use, handle, and care for a scissor lift. Training should cover safety rules, spotting hazards, operating the lift, and what to do in emergencies.

Getting a powered access license, or PAL card, shows you've had the proper training. The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) issues a PAL card to professional platform operators who have completed a specialised training course at an approved centre. This card is recognised worldwide and proves that the operator meets a minimum capability standard based on their training.

Does the Law require the IPAF Licence for Scissor Lift Hire or Operation?

Although IPAF training or a PAL card isn't legally required, it's necessary to have the right level of training for working at heights and using powered access platforms safely. Employers are responsible for providing sufficient training to their workers. Taking an IPAF course and getting a PAL card shows that you're meeting your responsibilities to ensure your workers can do their jobs safely.

Ladder and a small scissor lift

Working at Height Safety Course

Operators should also think about taking a course on working at height safety. This course teaches about the risks and best practices when working up high. It covers risk assessment, using safety gear to prevent falls, ladder safety, and what to do in emergencies. By completing this course, operators learn how to work safely at height, which applies to tasks like using scissor lifts.


Focusing on scissor lift safety is vital for avoiding accidents and maintaining a safe workplace. Training, maintenance, and safety rules help reduce risks in lift use. Following the guide, identifying dangers, and using the best methods can make work safer. Being informed, alert, and ready is crucial for promoting scissor lift safety in different industries.

Further Reading

Ladder Training: Safety and Compliance

Ladder Training: Safety and Compliance

Working At Height

Ensure compliance and reduce risks with ladder training. Learn about all of the relevant regulations when working at height.

Safety Ladder Training: Are Your Ladders Safe for Work?

Safety Ladder Training: Are Your Ladders Safe for Work?

Working At Height

Don't fall for unsafe ladders! Find out how to avoid faulty ladders in the UK. Improve safety in your workplace with safety ladder training and our helpful buying guide.

Bethany Wesson

Bethany Wesson

Bethany is a freelance content writer and has produced articles for the Commodious Knowledge Bank since 2023. She has written about various health and safety topics, from asbestos to mindful business practices.

  • Working at Height
  • Health and Safety