One of the most common pieces of equipment on a construction site, boom lifts are a type of aerial lift that allows for both horizontal and vertical reach and are great for lifting workers. They are often used for both outdoor and indoor jobs like painting, window washing, roofing, and more. In this equipment deep dive, we'll talk about the different kinds of lifts, common sizes, manufacturers, and more.
Boom lifts are a type of articulated platform lift that makes reaching difficult places and heights easier than ever. A boom refers to the arm-like piece that connects from the platform to the grounded base. It is an extensible crane-like arm that uses hydraulics to extend and contract to achieve the desired height.
Providing a more secure workspace at high heights than other construction lift equipment, boom lifts are a safe way to get work done at heights up to 180 feet.
There are a few different types of lifts used in construction including scissor lifts, articulating boom lifts, telescopic boom lifts, towable boom lifts, forklifts, and telehandlers. While scissor lifts are a type of man lift, they are not boom lifts. The same goes for forklifts and telehandlers as they are more often used for material handling and not as an aerial work platform. Only articulating boom lifts, telescopic boom lifts, and towable boom lifts will be the emphasis of this blog.A rental yard of different types of boom lifts
The basic components of a boom lift are the base structure, the actual boom, and a bucket or working platform. The arm is controlled by a hydraulic lift system that allows it to extend both horizontally and vertically to carry people or materials to new heights.
The benefit of a boom lift vs a scissor lift is that boom lifts allow for a higher reach than scissor lifts but typically have a smaller work platform and a lower lifting capacity. This often means that most boom lifts can operate two people max while scissor lifts can hold up to four. Scissor lifts can also only lift vertically, limiting their versatility and movement around a construction site.
What's great about boom lifts is their range in providing stable platforms across various heights. Depending on whether you get an Articulating Boom Lift or a telescopic boom lift, also commonly called straight boom lifts, these machines can reach up to 180 feet.
Common sizes of articulating boom lifts are 30', 45', 60', 80', 120', and 150' while telescopic boom lifts typically come in 40', 60', 80', 120', 150', and 180' models. Towable boom lifts have models in the 36' and 50' range. The weight capacity for boom lifts typically ranges from 440 lbs to 1,000 lbs depending on the unrestricted or restricted platform capacity. Electric boom lift models are only available to a maximum lift height of 60' at this time.
Read our in-depth articulating boom lift spec guide.
There are rough terrain boom lift models available across much of the aerial lift equipment listed above, making them great options for different construction environments.
Whenever a project calls for work at elevated heights that require stability and different types of reach, contractors choose a boom lift. Their easy mobility and higher reach capability offer increased safety and can help make a job more efficient. Some common projects boom lifts can be used for include:
Tree cutting and trimming
Cleaning gutters and eavestroughs
Painting walls and ceilings
Fixing street lights or hanging signs
Roofing and sheathing
Fruit picking (which is why they can also be called cherry pickers)
To choose the best lift for construction there are a few things you're going to need to consider including whether the job is indoor or outside, the lift size you need, the boom lift weight capacity, and how much up-and-over reach you'll need.
The first consideration is whether the site is indoors or outside because this is the easiest limiting factor to make. If the job is inside, you will need an electric model while you can use an electric or dual-fuel model outdoors.
The next consideration is the size of the lift. By knowing the height you need to reach, you know if you only need a small boom lift or one that reaches over 100'.
You'll also need to consider how much weight you need the machine to lift. Are you planning on having two people in the basket or one? What type of material are you looking to lift? These will factor into the specs you need the machine to have.
Lastly, consider the type of job you're on as this will help you decide between an articulating vs straight boom lift. While an articulating boom lift is great at maneuvering around obstacles because of its hinge and knuckle points, they have less reach and lower platform capacity than straight boom lifts.
Fortunately, there are many man lift sizes, platform heights, and boom capabilities that you're sure to find a model that suits your needs. Many lifts also have self-leveling capabilities so that operators can set them up and start using them in a short amount of time.
Other questions you should ask before renting a boom lift include:
What are the jobsite conditions?
What kind of power source capability do you have on-site?
The answer to these questions will help determine whether it should be a wheeled machine or one with all-terrain capabilities. It should also make the decision clear to choose between a scissor lift or a boom lift.
There are many articulating and telescopic lift manufacturers including JLG, Skyjack, Genie, Snorkel, and Mec.
Selling its first lift in the 1970s, JLG has been on the leading edge of aerial lift innovation. Manufacturing both types of boom lifts, JLG has electric articulating boom lifts and telescopic boom lifts, as well as engine-powered ones. They have one of the most expansive product lines with models ranging from 30' to 185'.JLG boom lift
Some of their most popular products include the 450AJ, 400 series, and 600 series of construction man lifts. Because of their versatility, you cannot go wrong with a JLG lift.
Founded in 1985, Skyjack entered the lift industry with scissor lifts but has expanded to boom lifts as well. However, Skyjack focuses primarily on the small boom lift market as they manufacture lifts to a maximum height of 85'. Their most popular models include the SJ46 AJ and SJ 61 T. Skyjack denotes their models as articulating with their AJ models and telescopic with their T models.Skyjack SJ30 ARJE boom lift
A brand under the Terex family, Genie was first founded in 1966. With a product line as expansive as JLG, Genie is recognizable from its blue-colored machines across thousands of construction sites.Genie S-80 boom lift
Their largest telescopic lift, the SX-180, can reach a height of 180 feet and has a 750 lb platform capacity while their latest articulating boom lift, the ZX-135, can reach 135 feet and has a 600 lb capacity. Genie also manufactures other lift equipment like telehandlers and scissor lifts.
Snorkel was founded by a man named Art Moore in 1959. Snorkel lifts include 11 straight boom lift models, 7 articulating boom lift models, 4 electric models, and 3 towable models. As of 2022, Snorkel produces the highest-reaching straight boom lift with a maximum reach of 210 feet! However, their articulating boom lifts have a much smaller range with a max height of 85'.
The last company to highlight is MEC. Founded in 1976, they currently have 7 boom lift models being manufactured with 6 telescopic and one articulating. As such, their product range is limited with their articulating lift reaching 45' and the largest telescopic lift reaching 65'.
Read our in-depth telescopic and articulating boom lift brand comparison blog.
Falls are one of the fatal four accidents recognized by OSAH in construction. Working at heights should be taken seriously and a worker should never become too comfortable working off the ground.
The boom machine itself poses potentially hazardous situations and, like with any kind of heavy equipment, should be handled with care. Never operate a boom lift if it is not safe to do so and always wear a safety harness. Fortunately, many models also now come with fall protection safety measurements, including fall arrest systems.
However, there are a few common hazards that are associated with boom lifts aside from falling: they are tipping, pinning, dropped objects, and electricity.
As soon as a machine raises material or people into the air, the center of gravity is thrown off. This is where unrestricted vs restricted platform capacity factors in because the machine cannot lift maximum weight across its full range of motion. While boom lifts are stable machines made to lift materials and people, this does not mean that they are immune to tipping.
To avoid tipping a boom lift, always refer to the manual to see the range of motion the machine can lift a specific weight. It's also a good idea to survey the job site before beginning work and test to ensure the terrain is solid, especially after rain or a storm. Wheels can become stuck or sink, posing the threat of tipping the machine or knocking off the operator.
Never exceed the maximum weight and range of a boom lift and always use personal protective equipment (PPE).
At maximum height, there are new kinds of obstacles that may cause potential concern. For example, overhead beams, moving against walls and working under ceilings can create the chance of being pinched or pinned.
To avoid pinching, always keep arms and legs inside the safety railings. Make sure to operate the bucket slowly around a job site and never work alone.
When working at a height, it becomes your responsibility to keep those under you safe. As the bucket lifts, it's important to not drop anything. Dropping a hammer or even something as small as a nail can cause serious injury to those below a lift.Man lift being used for roofing and sheathing
To avoid injuring those below you, always secure equipment and materials when working at heights. Use all the safety features and tools available and do not skip steps to save time.
While one of the most common jobs for boom lift operators is working with electricity, working near wires can be dangerous. Electricity is silent and can be very deadly.
Learn more about the most common hazards on a construction site and how to prevent them.
Electricians are aware of the dangers but those not used to working close to electricity may overlook or not be fully aware of the dangers. Look at site plans ahead of time to analyze the location of electric wires. Always treat wires like they are live wires unless you've made sure to turn off the electricity in your working area.
Other steps you can take to ensure the safe operation of a boom lift are:
Knowing where the lift emergency stop and lowering measure is and how to use it
Never operating a lift alone
Always wearing safety harnesses and other PPE
Securing all tools when working on a raised platform
Never working a boom lift with another worker standing under the platform
Use a boom lift only if the base is on even and stable ground or the stabilizer is being used
Survey the area up in the air where the operator will be working for exposed wires and other potential hazards
Having proper training
Boom lifts can tip just like any kind of heavy machine or vehicle. An operator should always take proper precautions and follow safety protocols to ensure that the machine remains stable and safe at all times. The best way to ensure they don't tip is to operate the machine within the suggested platform capacity and range of motion. This information will be found in the operator's manual.
Most lift accidents are caused by falling. To ensure you stay safe on a piece of lift equipment, always use the best safety measures including the fall arrest system, never extend too far over the railing, and harness yourself to the necessary areas.
The size of lift you need will depend on the type of job you're doing and the maximum height you need to reach. Other factors include platform capacity, horizontal reach, number of obstructions, and the terrain of the construction site.
All kinds of boom lifts including telescopic boom lifts, articulating boom lifts, and towable boom lifts can be rented. Find your next boom lift rental and see local prices on DOZR by searching for equipment near you.
Boom lifts can be rented for daily, weekly, and monthly rentals depending on your needs.
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