The Hazards and Dangers of Scissor Lifts

The Hazards and Dangers of Scissor LiftsScissor lifts are a common piece of equipment used on construction sites that allow workers to perform tasks at higher elevations, typically one or more stories up. Sometimes called “aerial lifts” scissor lifts are sort of a mobile scaffolding that can move from place to place, rather than the type that stays in place until a job is complete. However, when not used properly or in the right conditions, or when a lift is defective, workers are at risk of serious or fatal injury.

What is a scissor lift?


Scissor lifts are work platforms used to safely move workers vertically and to different locations in a variety of industries including construction, retail, entertainment and manufacturing. Scissor lifts are different from aerial lifts because the lifting mechanism moves the work platform straight up and down using crossed beams functioning in a scissorlike fashion. Although scissor lifts present hazards similar to scaffolding when extended and stationary, using scissor lifts safely depends on considering equipment capabilities, limitations and safe practices.

Only workers who are trained properly should operate scissor lifts. OSHA notes that anyone who uses a scissor lift must be trained in safe operation, maintenance, following manufacturer instructions, and using personal protective equipment (PPE).

What are the most common scissor lift accidents?

Because scissor lifts are massive pieces of equipment, and because they elevate workers so high in the air, if something goes wrong, the aftermath can be tragic. The Las Vegas and Reno construction site attorneys at Claggett & Sykes can help with common scissor lift accidents like:

  • Tip-overs. Scissor lifts are prone to toppling over if the center of gravity is off. This can happen if the load is off-center, or a worker leans too far out of the lift – the entire machine can tip over and fall. High winds are particularly dangerous for scissor lifts, and workers should use care during bad weather. Other topple risks include inclines, potholes, and uneven surfaces.
  • Falls. Because scissor and aerial lift operators work at great heights, accidental falls are a common and fatal accident. OSHA recommends a fall protection system for jobs performed more than six feet off the ground. Most people think of harnesses when they think fall protection. But, OSHA considers the guardrails on scissor lifts to be fall protection and, therefore, many employers do not provide or require workers to wear harnesses while using scissor lifts. It’s still a good idea to wear a harness on a scissor lift when possible. Falls can be caused by a defect in the scissor lift, lack of maintenance, or improper use.. Other causes of falls include slips, vehicles colliding with the lift, or gusts of wind.
  • Electrocution. In April 2022, a man working for a tree service company in Reno died while “increasing the distance between the tree and the power lines, according to Reno Fire Chief Siebert. Scissor lifts often bring workers close to power lines and other sources of live electricity. Workers and their supervisors must always assume power lines are active and keep clear of them. Employers must train workers safe procedures for avoiding electrocution and power line accidents.

These types of accidents can lead to severe, disabling, or even fatal injuries.

What types of injuries result from scissor lift accidents in Las Vegas and Reno?

Because the majority of scissor lift and aerial lift workplace accidents involve falling from heights, injuries tend to be catastrophic. They can include:

It’s important to remember that as a construction worker, you have certain rights under the law.

What are my safety rights as a worker?

OSHA requires employers provide a safe workplace, training, and equipment regarding the use of scissor lifts. They note that “Employers need to assess the worksite to identify all possible hazards in order to select the appropriate equipment for the task. Employers who use scissor lifts need to evaluate and implement effective controls that address fall protection, stabilization and positioning.”

For example, safe use of scissor lifts in the workplace includes:

  • Fall protection, including guardrails
  • Stabilization, to prevent tip-over accidents
  • Proper positioning, to avoid electrocution or crushing accidents
  • Proper maintenance, to prevent equipment breakdown or malfunction
  • Worker training, to ensure employees understand how to safety operate and maintain scissor and aerial lifts to avoid potential hazards

OSHA also notes that as a worker, you have the right to:

  • “Receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards”

If you or a member of your family were injured in a scissor lift accident at work, the personal injury attorneys at Claggett & Sykes want to help. Our Las Vegas and Reno lawyers understand the severity of these types of accidents and how complicated it can be to recover compensation for your injuries. Whether you need assistance with filing a compensation claim or a third-party personal injury claim, you can count on our attorneys to help you through every step of the process.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced injury attorney, call us in Las Vegas 702-333-7777, or fill out our contact form. If you’re located in northern Nevada, call our Reno injury lawyers at 775-322-2923.