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The Ultimate Guide To Choosing Your Scissor Lifts

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Scissor lifts are a type of mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) used to help us work at heights safely. Choosing from different heights and platform widths, you will be able to find a suitable powered access platform for your specific project. With a cherry-picked nationwide fleet of industry-standard MEWPs to choose from, you are sure to find a scissor lift that fits your needs. 

In this ultimate guide to choosing your scissor lift, the experts at Horizon Platforms share all you need to know to ensure you select the correct platform to safely complete your job at height. 

What Is A Scissor Lift? 

A scissor lift is a popular type of access platform and is commonly used to help people reach up and over obstacles safely when working from height. It is a vertical lift with a criss-cross ‘scissor’ mechanism and is a type of MEWP that can usually only move vertically.

Scissor lifts are often used to carry out a variety of tasks within industries including construction, manufacturing and facilities management. They are self-propelled machines that are powered in different ways depending on their use. 

Electric scissor lifts are mainly used for inside operations. Indoor scissor lifts also commonly utilise solid non-marking tyres and have the ability to work within narrow spaces thanks to their zero tail swing. On the other hand, rough terrain scissor lifts used outside are often diesel-powered access platforms, so they can gain the power required to travel over challenging surfaces. There are also new hybrid machines that feature both electric and diesel engines.  

What Are Scissor Lifts Used For?

Scissor lifts are ideal for undertaking maintenance, inspection, painting, decorating, construction and various jobs at height. They are ideal for indoor work especially if the project only requires up-and-down mobility. 

There are a handful of popular jobs for scissor lifts, including indoor maintenance in situations where the room ceilings are higher (schools, hospitals, libraries and more), warehouse organisation, management and general maintenance where accessing tall shelves needs to be done safely and without the use of a ladder. 

Scissor lifts can be used in a variety of different industries to help significantly improve the efficiency and safety of your work, including the following:

  • Building maintenance. Changing lights, hanging banners, laying bricks, accessing utilities and many other tasks can be made safer through the use of work at height equipment like MEWPs. 
  • Construction. Providing a mobile, versatile solution for dynamic construction projects that may have frequently changing environments.
  • Signage. With overhead signage often needing changing frequently, scissor lifts are ideal for ensuring this can be done quickly and safely. 
  • Production. Scissor lifts can help to improve operating efficiencies by helping employees quickly and safely reach high heights and lift heavy loads. 
  • Rail. Jobs around the railyard such as loading and fitting into narrow spaces to reach up high require the use of scissor lifts on a daily basis.
  • Retail. Store and warehouse shelves are undeniably tall, and products are often stacked up to save space. Small MEWPs are often used to reach products on these shelves safely. 
  • Warehousing. Investing in a scissor lift for warehouses can open new areas for use or expedite the retrieval process.

Anyone from small businesses and individual companies to huge corporate operations will find that hiring (or buying) a scissor lift can help employees accomplish their elevated tasks safely and more efficiently. 

The Benefits Of Scissor Lifts

Access Heights And Hard-To-Reach Places Safely 

Scissor lifts are safer for working at height than a ladder, due to them being equipped with numerous safety devices that protect operators from workplace accidents, falls, injuries and fatalities. Operators are also advised to wear a safety harness when operating a boom lift, though these a not usually essential when operating a scissor lift. 

Easy To Operate

Controls within a scissor lift are simple and straightforward to use, plus operators can be trained within a relatively short period of time to ensure they are operating the access platform safely and correctly. 

Compact In Size

Scissor lifts can be one of the most compact types of elevated mobile work platforms, meaning certain models can be utilised in tight, narrow spaces where access may be limited. 

Reduces The Risk Of Workplace Injuries

Scissor lifts are used to offer a safe and efficient method of lifting workers, materials and tools to the desired height. This greatly reduces the risk of workers suffering work-related injuries, as scissor lifts raise workers to the correct position so they can easily put loads away and complete their at-height tasks without needing to overreach. 

Different Types Of Scissor Lifts

A scissor lift provides a safe, steady enclosure and working platform to help workers complete precise tasks at height. With various scissor lifts available, there are many key differences between them, including size, application, and fuel type. Here are the five main types of scissor lifts:

Hydraulic Scissor Lifts

Hydraulic scissor lifts can be powered by either an electric motor or compressed air and are highly recommended for operation in warehouses, on construction sites and on infrastructure projects. The changing pressure of the hydraulic oil in the machine helps to operate the lift and move the platform up and down. They are easy to operate and usually require little training, making them a simple option when you have on-site lifting needs. 

Diesel-Powered Scissor Lifts

Diesel-powered scissor lifts are powered by traditional diesel engines. These scissor lifts are less environmentally friendly as they emit exhaust fumes and can be noisy. They are generally fitted with larger platforms and are recommended to be operated on outdoor construction projects, well-ventilated indoor spaces and in environments where engine noise will not distract or cause a nuisance for the community around you. 

Electric Scissor Lifts

Powered by electric batteries rather than a combustion engine, electric-powered scissor lifts are more environmentally friendly, and we’re proud to have an impressive fleet of electric scissor lifts here at Horizon Platforms. These are ideally suited for indoor operation due to the lack of loud noises or exhaust emissions when operating. They are generally more compact in size and have small, narrow platforms ideal for restricted, tight spaces. They are also fitted with non-marking tyres to prevent floor damage during operation.  

Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

These are specialist MEWPs which offer increased power for operation in tough outdoor conditions. They are typically powered via diesel to provide the necessary power for operating across rough terrain and drifting heavier loads. They come equipped with high weight capacity, heavy-duty tires, and additional safety mechanisms like fall restraints and arrestors, making them ideal for worksites with uneven surfaces and slopes. 

Pneumatic Scissor Lifts

Pneumatic scissor lifts are air powered which results in an incredibly clean and maintenance-free lift. Using air pressure to raise and lower the platform, this type of MEWP is ideal for those who want to be more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint. 

Boom Lift vs. Scissor Lift: What Are The Differences? 

What is a boom lift?

A boom lift is a piece of equipment that elevates a worker and their tools in a compact work platform. It features a grounded base and hydraulic lift system. Electric boom lifts can be used indoors or outdoors and their hydraulic arm allows for greater manoeuvrability, and in some models can rotate 360 degrees. Boom lifts are lightweight and narrow, great for navigating in tight spaces where the desired area might be harder to reach. 

The differences between a boom lift and a scissor lift

When deciding between a scissor lift and a boom lift you will need to consider what kind of job you are doing, the environment you will be doing it in and how much power you will need. 

Boom LiftScissor Lift
HeightTelescopic lifts can raise workers anywhere from 30 to 210 feet.
Articulating lifts can extend from 30 to 135 feet.
Scissor lifts can raise workers up to 60 feet. 
DirectionMany can rotate workers 360 degrees. Telescopic boom lifts can direct workers straight up or outward, or a combination of the two. 
Articulating boom lifts can provide access around obstacles in tight spaces.
Scissor lifts are limited to straight up-and-down (vertical) lifts. Some models may have a small extending platform.
Platform Capacity Boom lifts can carry up to 500 pounds, making them effective for small and moderate loads.Heavier models can bear heavier loads. For example, a 19-foot electric lift might be able to lift 500 to 700 pounds, while a 50-foot rough-terrain scissor lift might carry up to 2,250 pounds.
Terrain Diesel boom lifts may be equipped with tough treading on their tires, making them well-suited to outdoor maintenance and construction jobs.Some models come with four-wheel-drive engines and are fueled by powerful diesel engines specifically designed to work on rough terrain.

How To Choose The Right Scissor Lift Platform

Choosing the right scissor lift is crucial to ensuring your project is completed efficiently and safely. You will need to consider factors such as terrain, power supply, the weight of the items you need to lift, height, loading method and the desired platform size. All these factors must all be considered together when selecting a scissor lift for your next project. 

Here are a few questions you should consider when hiring a scissor lift: 

  • How high is the area I want to access? 
  • Is horizontal and vertical reach required? 
  • How many workers are involved in the project at one time? 
  • What is the job site’s terrain? Indoor or outdoor? 
  • Does the platform need to be mobile?
  • How narrow or restricted is the space I need to access?
  • What power source is appropriate?
  • How heavy is the equipment I’m planning to use? 
  • What is my budget? 

Whether you need  quiet, clean operation with an electric scissor lift or you are looking for an access platform that can manoeuvre over rough terrain, here at Horizon Platforms we can offer you an expert opinion on selecting from our nationwide selection of rental scissor lifts. Need help selecting your ideal platform for your project? Check out our Platform Finder today.

Who Can Operate A Scissor Lift?

To operate a scissor lift you will need to be over 18 years old, carry the right licence and have suitable training qualifications to legally operate a mobile elevated work platform. Those who hold a standard vehicle driving licence will be able to operate a scissor lift under 3.5 tons (or under 7.5 tons, if your driving licence was acquired before 1994), any piece of equipment over this will require you to get additional categories added to your driving licence plus undertake additional training. 

Anyone working at height, including those operating access platforms such as a scissor lift, is required by law to be able to demonstrate appropriate training. While there’s no legal definition around the level of training required to be deemed appropriately trained, it’s considered best practice for all cherry picker operators, managers, demonstrators and inspectors to undergo relevant IPAF training

What Training Is Needed To Operate A Scissor Lift?

When operating a scissor lift, the most effective way to ensure you are doing it correctly and safely is to take part in a certified training course, such as IPAF. IPAF training provides the industry standard qualification for powered access platforms, so all operators should ensure they complete the correct access platform training for the MEWP they are operating.

A PAL (Powered Access Licence) or digital ePAL card is issued which demonstrates the type of access platform the operator is qualified to operate. These cards are valid for 5 years, with the option to renew your IPAF training ahead of the expiration date. For more information, take a look at our Ultimate Guide To Access Platform Training

Health And Safety When Operating Scissor Lifts

Before using a scissor lift, you should consider the potential risks and put control measures in place to help minimise them. Scissor lifts may often be operated in challenging, narrow spaces and therefore you firstly need to be aware of your surroundings and any obstacles within the vicinity of the project as these could increase the chance of an accident.

Before operating a powered access platform you must ensure you do the following: 

  • Conduct a pre-use inspection to ensure the machine is fully functional, including the brakes and emergency stop button.
  • Confirm all scissor lift operators have received training and are familiar with the MEWP  in use for the day.
  • Clear the surrounding area of potential safety hazards.

It is always important to conduct a pre-use inspection as this allows operators to familiarise themselves with the machine they are operating, whilst identifying any potential problems or faults.  Remember – as part of PUWER (1998), it’s your legal responsibility to ensure all MEWPs are maintained and repaired ahead of the operation. 

Choosing A Reputable Scissor Lift Provider

With a whole host of scissor lifts available to hire or buy, finding the right powered access platform for your project’s needs can be a challenge. Here at Horizon Platforms, we strive to make your hiring process as simple as possible. Providing over 16,000 platforms nationwide to help you carry out work safely at height, offering fast, reliable delivery, competitive costs and impressive accreditations are just some of the reasons why you should choose a reputable scissor lift provider like Horizon Platforms. 

  1. An Extensive Fleet of Powered Access Platforms

At Horizon Platforms we are proud to offer a cherry-picked nationwide fleet of 16,000 access platforms and only offer quality machines from reputable, trusted manufacturers. Whether you are looking for a scissor lift or boom lift, you can rely on us to find the correct MEWP for your next project. We can source a suitable scissor lift in no time no matter where you’re based. 

  1. Professionally Inspected, Repaired and Maintained 

We offer scissor lift maintenance packages which cover your entire powered access platform servicing, maintenance and repair needs. This ensures your MEWP is always in good working order, fully operational, safe and compliant at all times. 

Here at Horizon Platforms, we will also ensure our access platforms are thoroughly inspected before arriving at your site. Ensuring they have a full-service history and regular inspections so you have full peace of mind that your hired equipment is ready to use from the get-go. 

We also offer a nationwide repair service, so in the unlikely event of machine failure, you’ll have access to an expert within 15 minutes and an engineer on site within three hours if needed.

  1. Impressive Accreditations

With the triple crown of ISO standards, Safe Contractor certification and IPAF Rental+ Gold, our accreditations separate us from the pack and ensure we are providing the highest guarantee that you’ll receive excellent standards of service when you work with us. Horizon also recently acquired a silver medal from EcoVadis, reflecting our sustainability credentials.

  1. Fast Process From Start to Finish 

We don’t just offer quick delivery – we pride ourselves on offering a speedy, professional service from start to finish. Simply open a credit account in just a few minutes and get a decision within one hour from Monday to Friday so there’s no hanging about. 

Looking for some help when hiring a scissor lift? HireHub is designed to make the hiring process easier than ever. It’s an online platform that allows you to have complete control of your account. From quotes and orders, to off-hires and invoices, it’s all there at the touch of a phone screen or the click of a mouse.

  1. Expert Advice 

Always on hand to offer advice on which scissor lift is right for you, our expert team of specialists will help you find an access platform that’s perfect for your project. We know you don’t work the standard 9-5, and we don’t either – call us 24/7, and we’ll be there to help out.

For more advice on choosing the right MEWP for your project, including more information on cherry pickers, check out the Horizon Platforms guide or get in touch on Facebook