Bucket Truck Safety Tips
Bucket trucks are an essential piece of utility equipment. They aren’t just for construction sites, either. Bucket trucks are used in many industries for everything from film making to fruit picking.
There is an amount of inherent danger when it comes to using a bucket truck. Anytime you use a hydraulic boom to raise a worker to an elevated, inaccessible area, there are going to be some risks. You can never be too careful. Safe operation of these vehicles hinges on adherence to federal OSHA safety regulations and some common sense rules.
To protect your bucket truck from damage as well as ensuring your operator’s safety, it is crucial to follow all safety standards and guidelines. Remember you are working with complex machinery that requires special operator training.
Tips for Bucket Truck Safety
Daily Safety Inspection
Before using a bucket truck, the operator should perform a safety check of the vehicle to identify any damage to the vehicle or potential dangers. This is generally a visual inspection to identify broken or damaged parts, tire wear, and signs of oil or hydraulic fluid leaks.
Inspect the Job Site
Before setting up your bucket truck for a job, you should first inspect the work site. Be aware of structures or objects that may get in the way like vines, trees, poles, or overhanging wires.
Watch for uneven ground, holes, bumps, or ground debris. Remove them if possible, and avoid them if you can’t. The best surface for setting up your bucket truck is one that is level, solid, and won’t break apart or give way under the truck’s outriggers or during the strain of operation. Unfortunately, some work sites do not offer solid surfaces for operation. Depending on the surface structure of the site, you may need to use skids or pads to establish the most stable and solid surface available.
Positioning the Bucket Truck
When possible, position the bucket truck so that the pedestal is closest to the work area. When working on a pole, the pedestal should be positioned on the same side as the work to be performed. This will reduce the risk of falls for the bucket worker, since it minimizes the need for precarious stretching and reaching.
Before You Operate the Boom
Always set the brake and position the wheel chocks before operating the boom of your bucket truck. Also, be aware of overhead obstructions, and operate carefully around them if they are present.
It is important to watch weather conditions. Never operate the boom in high or gusty wind or if there is the threat of lightning.
Keeping bucket truck operators safe while working should be the top priority. Falling from an extended boom could lead to serious injury or even death. For this reason, always make sure the bucket operator always wears fall protection including a body harness with a shock-absorbing lanyard securely connected to an anchor point on the boom or bucket. Hard hats and gloves are also necessary for protecting workers in the elevated bucket.
While in the bucket, workers should always keep their feet flat on the floor. Stretching up to reach or standing on the toes may cause you to lose balance and potentially fall. Never sit or climb on the wall of the bucket, and never attempt to climb down from the bucket while it is extended.
Also, never use a ladder or step stool of any kind to extend the work height of the bucket. If your feet aren’t flat on the floor of the bucket, you aren’t working under safe circumstances.
If your bucket truck tips over, it could cause major damage to your equipment as well as injuries to workers. To avoid tip overs, always follow these simple rules:
- Never exceed the bucket’s load capacity.
- Never move the truck while the bucket is extended.
- Never use your bucket truck as a crane. If you need a crane, use a crane. It is only safe to use equipment for jobs they were designed for.
- Always properly position the truck’s outriggers.
- Never operate during high winds.
Avoiding Electrical Hazards
Be aware of overhead power lines, both while driving the vehicle and while operating the bucket. Never make contact with live (or potentially live) wires or cables. No bucket, even an insulated one, will completely protect the occupant from electrical currents.
Other Important Safety Tips
Here are some other general safety tips to keep in mind while operating your bucket truck.
- Always turn off the engine of your bucket truck before refueling.
- Never leave the bucket truck unattended unless it has been secured from unauthorized users.
- Make sure all controls are clearly labeled.
- Never engage in horseplay or stunt driving. Remember a bucket truck is a piece of complex machinery and should always be operated with seriousness and safety.
- Always clear the surrounding area of equipment and personnel before lowering the bucket.
- Only perform welding operations from bucket trucks that meet the equipment standards established by the Automotive Welding Society (AWS).
- Read your bucket truck’s operator’s manual before operation. Also, keep the manual in the bucket truck for easy reference.
- Read and follow all federal OSHA regulations regarding the safe use and operation of bucket trucks.
Because bucket trucks lift your workforce high into the air, they have greater risks than many other types of utility vehicles. When using a bucket truck for your company’s operations, it is important to always follow safe operating procedures both for the safety of your equipment and your personnel. Whether you are operating a brand new model or an older used one, learning how to safely position and set up your bucket truck will only help you be more productive in the long run.