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 Example of how to wear a harness

  Harness Danger Warning

Manufacturer’s warning decal on a scissor lift



Harness Use in Elevated Work Platforms

Over the years there have been many questions asked about the use of fall arrest harnesses in various types of EWPs and I have tried to put together how the EWP industry views these. I have to say, the best document that I have come across, was one released in America in 2011 which was the industry guide to fall arrest systems and their use in EWPs. In my opinion this is the best publication available at this time, put together by people who know and understand what they are talking about.

The first line of protection from a fall in an EWP is the manufacturer’s guardrail system, which is designed to prevent a fall from the platform and is specified by the manufacturer’s standards as to how high this should be (nominally one metre).

Boom Style EWPs

The nature of the design of boom style EWPs, where the boom arms move beyond the base, has an inherent hazard where the booms may act as a catapult during an incident. This significant risk is always there, so a full body harness and lanyard must be used at all times, correctly connected to the manufacturer’s approved anchor point. This includes moving the machine at ground level. Operators have been killed at ground level by just driving over judder bars and being catapulted from the machine, breaking their neck on the road.

My personal preference would be a restraining lanyard adjusted as short as possible. The reason for this, is that while you are held within the confines of the basket you are at your safest. If you were able to fall over the handrail (which is very unlikely) because the fall is so small, you may be able to rescue yourself by climbing back up the guardrail into the machine. Your shoulder blades would not drop below the mid rail of the platform allowing you to self rescue.

I have an absorber in my lanyard which is designed to arrest me in a fall over 600mm, as many industrial sites insist on absorbers in lanyards. If the absorber releases I could find myself below the level of the basket and so self rescue is not a viable option. I then have to rely on other people carrying out the rescue plan that must be in place prior to operating the machine.

So my preference is being restrained in the basket for maximum safety. In all cases the lanyard should be adjusted as short as possible.

All harness points in boom lifts are designed for full fall arrest systems and the loads specified by the standards.

Scissor Lift EWPs

In America, scissor lifts have a different build standard to other machines and this is because the dynamic nature is very different to a boom. These machines also have a much larger work platform, so they are designed to allow the workers to move around the platform unencumbered. This style of EWP does not act as a catapult, and in some standards, harness points are not mandatory only suggested. You will also find that the majority of anchor points are only rated for restraining forces only and so in many cases, if you fell over the side with a full fall arrest harness and lanyard on, the anchor point may break off and fail.

Unless a job risk assessment indicates you should use a harness, it can be more dangerous wearing a harness on a scissor lift. If there is a chance of overreaching or falling over the guardrails, a restraining lanyard must be worn whilst doing the hazardous job. So in practical terms, you would operate and move the scissor lift into position and then attach your restraining lanyard and harness when you start your job or task if your JSA indicates it's use.

Reasons for not using harnesses in a scissor lift.

I have seen retractable lanyards used in large platform machines, this may allow an operator to fall and swing up to six metres into the side of a scissor lift causing massive physical damage to the operator, lanyards on large platforms also cause tripping hazards, the last thing you really need when you are trying to reduce the hazards.


Hazard assessment and task analysis must be carried out prior to operating EWPs.

Rescue plans must be in place prior to the start of work.

Full fall arrest harness and lanyard system must be worn on all boom style equipment, even at ground level.

Harnesses are not required on a scissor lift unless a specific task hazard exists.


Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, if it is a site requirement to wear safety harnesses on a scissor lift, it is MANDATORY that you comply on that site.