Best practices and AWPs
Best practices and AWPs

A couple of years ago, an email I received was one of those goofy messages with pictures that showed odd ways people were using tools. One photo was striking because it showed a scissor lift in its storage position with a ladder inside the bucket.

A conclusion one could make is that the end user just didn’t know how to use the scissor lift, but it was a perfect elevated platform to help reach the spot using a ladder.

To a novice, using an aerial work platform (AWP) can be a scary thing since it can take you up so high above the ground. When used properly by a trained operator, however, AWPs are among the safest pieces of equipment one can use, often safer than using an extension ladder. The rate of incidents involving AWPs is less than with other equipment, but AWP accidents often are more catastrophic.

This is why the American Rental Association (ARA) launched an industry-wide effort about four years ago with the help of rental stores, manufacturers and other associations. The result has been two “best practices” documents related to the operation of AWPs: Statement of Best Practices of General Training and Familiarization for Aerial Work Platform Equipment released during The Rental Show 2010 and Statement of Best Practices of Personal Fall Protection Systems for Aerial Work Platform Equipment released during The Rental Show 2011. A third document focused on risk assessment and how to select the right equipment for the work to be performed is scheduled to be released at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas.

Several rental stores already are singing the praises of these documents because they can help with training employees as well as customers on safety practices when it comes to AWPs, as you will find in our story about the documents on page 19.

ARA worked with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) and Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA), in collaboration with other industry safety experts to produce each statement of best practices.

The goal was to create documents that would clear up any confusion related to key AWP issues — like familiarization versus training or the use of personal fall protection equipment — in a format that would be easier for people to read and understand when compared to the technical ANSI standards.

The documents are available to ARA members for free via online download at under “Risk Management” as well as at the websites of all of the industry organizations involved.

While not quite akin to herding cats, bringing together different entities for such an important project and ending up with agreements on the finished products is quite an accomplishment and a testament to the commitment for AWP safety by ARA, AEM, AED, IPAF and SAIA.

The projects have been wholeheartedly supported by ARA Insurance and the ARA’s board of directors. The other organizations and individuals involved in the development of the first two best practices statements also are now eager to pitch in for the next one and beyond.

Carla Brozick, CAE, ARA’s senior director for education and training, says so many people are now involved that they are able to create sub-groups to handle specific tasks. “It’s not a hard sell to get people involved now and we’ve learned how to work smarter,” she says.

Help keep yourself, your employees and your customers safe. If you use, rent or are considering the addition of AWPs to your inventory, these documents are a must-read. Check them out and let us know what you think.

Wayne Walley is editor for Rental Management, the official magazine of the American Rental Association, 1900 19th St., Moline, IL 61265. He can be reached at 800-334-2177, ext. 253, or 309-277-4253; fax 309-764-2747;