Nearly 150 Years of Service Participate in Aerial Lift Safety Training at Saegertown

Many small towns celebrate 150 years of existence; they’re called sesquicentennials. To put that in perspective, the American Civil War began 155 years ago. On May 10, six highly experienced Saegertown employees—and the writer with less than two months of tenure—participated in aerial lift safety training. This group of six have a collective plant seniority of 147 years; nearly a sesquicentennial of experience and knowledge.

Everyone has seen aerial lifts; probably the most common are bucket trucks used by utility companies. Others include scissor lifts, ladder trucks, manual powered lifts and self-propelled boom lifts, the type used in our plant. In industry, these are typically called cherry pickers.

Leading into the training, the two biggest questions were: Could the instructor command and hold the attention of such long-term employees? And, could the group actually learn something new?

With a career-long history of industrial training experience, and a polished yet down-to-earth instruction demeanor, we selected the right man for the training job. For nearly three hours, and with just one short break prior to the final written exam, our instructor used a power point presentation and a wealth of real-life examples to keep the training interesting, upbeat and informative. In terms of the two questions, the answers were unequivocally “yes!”

Some of the topics reviewed and discussed included: OSHA and ANSI standards governing the manufacture and operation of boom lifts; training requirements; pre-use and annual inspections; load testing; lifting components; decals and warning labels; battery condition requirements (the plant’s cherry picker is a battery operated unit vs. diesel or gasoline); controls; stability; leverage; required personal protective equipment (e.g. safety harness and lanyard); and general safe operations.

We learned about the six most common reasons for aerial lift injuries and deaths: power line contact (30%); tip-overs (23%); falls from the platform (20%); struck or crushed by lift (12%); maintenance related (10%); and other (5%). For each category, our instructor provided examples from his own experience, and methods for how we can prevent such occurrences. Of particular interest in this segment was the review and discussion of accident profiles, what went wrong, and prevention strategies.

After taking and reviewing the written test, the group headed outside for the hands-on portion of their training. Unfortunately, it was one of those mid-spring days in northwest Pennsylvania where a nor’easter brought a strong breeze, intermittent rain, and even a few snow flurries. But the group persevered. While swirling, biting wind jabbed at their faces, and then reversed direction to attack their necks and backs, the instructor methodically explained and showed the proper way to conduct and document a pre-use inspection. Even those who had operated the unit for years learned something new during this phase of training.

Actual operation of the cherry picker showcased skills of some of the more experienced employees. For them, it was a review of what they’ve been safely doing for years, with reminders from the instructor on more efficient or safer methods they should consider. For those with less experience, ample time was provided to have them feel comfortable with the lift and its capabilities. Despite the wind and cold, the instructor gave everyone his undivided attention, and helped anyone who exhibited unease or hesitancy with a particular operating element.

As soon as employees completed the hands-on driving phase, they returned to their work assignments. From start to finish, training lasted about four hours and official training cards were issued by week’s end. As Saegertown moves forward to improve its overall Environmental-Health-Safety (EHS) culture, six experienced employees with nearly 150 years of combined experience, and one newbie, will help ensure that aerial lift operation is in good and safe hands for years to come.