Maintenance Key to Aerial Safety

March 1, 2009
Not only is proper maintenance of AWPs necessary for safe operation, but certain levels are dictated by ANSI standards.

A key component to aerial safety is maintenance. There are enough hazards on a jobsite without creating more because a machine isn't maintained properly. Not only is good maintenance simply good business, certain maintenance procedures are required by ANSI.

Aside from requested field repairs on your aerial work platform to keep the rental revenue clock ticking, ANSI requires some additional maintenance be performed. ANSI states that before an aerial work platform leaves your shop it shall receive a pre-delivery inspection — but this is just the beginning of a long road of responsibility.

With the aerial platform now on a jobsite being utilized by a potentially qualified operator, and no longer in your care or custody, ANSI has additional requirements. A frequent inspection is not just a requirement but an opportunity to evaluate equipment and the environment in which it is being used. Should the job go past deadline, or should a customer request extended usage past 12 months, an annual inspection will be in order.

A frequent inspection is required every 150 operational hours or 90 days; whichever occurs first. The content of this inspection can be reviewed in the current ANSI/SIA Manual of Responsibilities located in the weather-resistant compartment found on the aerial work platform. Personnel performing the maintenance shall be qualified as a mechanic in the following:

  • Responsibilities upon purchase
  • Machine manual(s)
  • Manual of responsibilities
  • Maintenance
  • Inspection
  • Repair
  • Pre-delivery preparation
  • Frequent inspection
  • Annual inspection
  • Maintenance and safety precautions
  • Replacement parts
  • Operator training

An annual inspection carries a bit more responsibility than a frequent inspection. ANSI states that this type of maintenance shall be carried out by a person(s) — yes, according to the national standard a two-headed technician could do this job simply because, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” ANSI goes into further detail defining the skill level these technicians must possess, stating that they be qualified as a mechanic on the specific type of aerial lift or one that has similar design characteristics.

But there is still more responsibility to accept as ANSI goes on to say that these inspections must be carried out in accordance with items specified by the manufacturer. Fortunately this means the detail of these inspections are not left up to our interpretation; they are spelled out in the service and maintenance manual.

Now, look into the maintenance manual on the specific make and model that will be worked on and we find more duties. It may read as follows: “Annual inspections to be carried out by a factory-certified service technician.” In operator training, the word “certified” can be very convoluted but thankfully the service manual spells it out for us. The manufacturer recognizes a factory-certified service technician as a person who has successfully completed their service training school for the subject product model.

The time it takes to complete the scope of these inspections differs by the type of aerial lift, the location the machine is at, available resources, and possibly even severity of usage. For example, a small electric scissorlift will probably take less time to complete these tasks than its larger rough terrain cousin. The same theory would apply to booms; a small electric boom will take less time than a much more complicated 80-foot articulating boom.

Further complicating this process is the necessity to check for the manufacturer's related service bulletins and to confirm that there are no unauthorized modifications as well as to confirm product registration if inspecting a second-party aerial lift. There are many factors that determine the time it will take to complete an annual inspection, especially when all malfunctions and problems should be corrected before placing the aerial work platform back into service. This process makes the time required to complete the annual inspection anywhere from just a few hours to more than a week.

Now that we're past the first part, we actually find ourselves performing the required maintenance and we may need specific tools. Again, depending on the make and model, whether equipped with an ALC (Aerial Lift Controller), ADE (Advanced Design Electronics), CANBUS (Close Area Network BUS communication), or just a simple PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) proportional hydraulic system, we will need the following: Hydraulic gauges and multiple fittings to test and adjust pressures, a handheld analyzer to check and adjust machine attributes, tachometer to confirm engine RPM — a critical factor in elevated drive speed — and laptop computer to interface with the machine or the electronically managed Tier-2 engine it is equipped with. An overhead crane would come in pretty handy when the time comes to replace the chains or cables when they meet the criteria. With all the responsibility set before us why would we attempt to do some of these inspections away from the resources of a fully equipped facility?

The simple explanation goes like this: Pre-delivery inspection shall be done prior to placing the unit into service; frequent inspections shall be done within three months or 150 hours by a qualified mechanic; and annual inspections shall be done between 12 to 13 months after previous annual inspection by a qualified mechanic who has been trained by the manufacturer on the specific make and model of the unit that the inspection will be preformed on. Asking an unqualified mechanic to do an annual inspection may not satisfy your due diligence even though the mechanic is just doing what is asked of him. After all, why wouldn't you want to protect your investment with consistent and accurate maintenance?

Lastly, talk to your service manager and ask if they are receiving the proper training as set forth in the standards guidelines and if they are allowing the proper time for us to fulfill our responsibilities. Before we blame the personnel, we have to look at the process.

Gary Riley is North American representative for IPAF, Schenectady, N.Y.