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Safety & Health

Working At Elevated Heights

Aerial Devices and Manlifts

Quick Tips #103.1

Aerial Devices

Aerial devices are any vehicle-mounted device, telescoping or articulating, or both, used to position personnel. OSHA defines a “vehicle” as any carrier that is not manually propelled and a “platform” as any personnel-carrying device (basket or bucket) that is a component of an aerial device. Aerial devices include extensible and articulating boom platforms, aerial ladders, vertical towers, insulated aerial devices designed for work on energize lines and apparatus, and any combination of these. Regulations regarding these platforms are found in 29 CFR 1910.67.


manlift is a device consisting of a power-driven, endless belt that moves in one direction only provided with  steps or platforms and handholds attached to it for the transportation of personnel from floor to floor. Manlifts are covered under 29 CFR 1910.68.

General Requirements

Aerial devices (aerial lifts) acquired on or after July 1, 1975 must be designed and constructed in accordance with ANSI A92.2-1969, Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms. Aerial lifts acquired for use before July 1, 1975 which do not meet ANSI A92.2-1969 requirements may be modified to conform with the applicable design and construction requirements of ANSI A92.2-1969.  

All manlifts and equipment installed after July 1, 1975, must meet the design requirements of ANSI A90.1-1969, American National Safety Standard for Manlifts. These manlifts are only intended for the conveyance of personnel who have been trained and authorized by the employer in their use. Moving stairways, elevators with enclosed platforms, gravity lifts and conveyors used only for conveying material are not covered by this regulation.

Specific Requirements for Aerial Devices

Summary of OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.67: Before a ladder or tower truck is moved for highway travel, aerial ladders must be secured in the lower traveling position. Lift controls for extensible and articulating boom platforms must be tested each day prior to use. A personal fall arrest or travel restraint system that meets 29 CFR Subpart I requirements must be worn and attached to the boom or basket when working from an aerial lift. Tying off to adjacent poles, structures or equipment is not permitted.

When preparing an aerial lift for use, brakes must be set, and outriggers (when used) must be positioned on pads or a solid surface. If the lift will be used on an incline, wheel chocks must be installed beforehand. Once a boom is elevated in working position with people in a basket, the vehicle may not be moved unless such equipment is specifically designed for this type of operation.

Articulating and extensible boom platforms designed as personnel carriers must have both upper (platform) controls and lower controls at vehicle or ground level. Although lower controls provide for overriding upper controls, they must not be operated unless permission has been obtained from the employee in the lift, except in case of an emergency.

Safety testing, including electrical tests and bursting safety factors for hydraulic and pneumatic components must comply with the requirements of ANSI A92.2-1969.

Content for A92.2 is now provided by the Scaffold Industry Association and was last updated in 2021 - ANSI/SAIA A92.2-2021.

  • Any welding operations must conform to the American Welding Society (AWS) Standards, specifically: Standard Qualification Procedure, AWS B3.0-41 (last revised in 1977 AWS B3.0:1977
  • Recommended Practices for Automotive Welding Design, AWS D8.4-61
  • Standard Qualification of Welding Procedures and Welders for Piping and Tubing, AWS D10.9-69 (replaced by AWS B2.1/B2.1M:2014 Specification for Welding Procedure and Performance Qualification)
  • Specifications for Welding Highway and Railway Bridges, AWS D2.0-69

Special Design Requirements for Manlifts

29 CFR 1910.68 specifies several requirements for the location and design of manlifts. The following is an overview of each requirement:

Floor openings: Floor openings for both the “up” and “down” runs must not be:

  • Less than 28 inches nor more than 36 inches in width for a 12-inch belt;
  • Less than 34 inches nor more than 38 inches for a 14-inch belt; and
  • Less than 36 inches nor more than 40 inches for a 16-inch belt

Also, the belts must extend not less than 24 inches, nor more than 28 inches from the face of the belt.

All floor openings for a given manlift must be uniform in size and approximately circular, and each must be located vertically above the opening below it.

Landings: Clearance between the floor or mounting platform and lower edge of the conical guard above it must be at least seven feet six inches. Space next to the floor openings must be kept clear at all times and must provide safe footing at all times. Lighting of at least five footcandles must be provided at each floor landing when the lift is in operation. Floor or emergency landings must be provided every 25 feet or less of manlift travel. Emergency landings must be accessible from both the “up” and “down” rungs of the manlift.

Fixed guards on underside of floor openings: A bevel guard or cone must be provided on the ascending side of the floor opening.

Protection of entrances and exits: Entrances and exits at all floor landings to manlifts must be guarded by a maze (staggered railing) or handrail equipped with self-closing gates. Rail construction must comply with ANSI A12.1-1967, Safety Requirements for Floor and Wall Openings, Railings and Toeboards and 29 CFR 1910.23.

ANSI A12.1-1967 has been cancelled and replaced with ANSI-A1264, Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access; Workplace, Floor, Wall and Roof Openings; Stairs and Guardrail Systems, which was last updated in 2017.

Guards for openings: Openings shall be guarded on all sides not used for movement by a wall, railings or panels. Guards must be at least 42" high on up-running sides and 66" high on down-running sides.

Bottom arrangement: Specific design requirements cover location and maintenance of the bottom landing, lower pulley, mounting platform and location of guardrails.

Top arrangements: There must be a top clearance of at least 11 feet above the top terminal landing and a clearance of at least five feet between the center of the head pulley shaft and any ceiling obstruction. If the distance to the head pulley is more than six feet above the top landing, an emergency grab rail or bar must be provided at the head pulley.

Illumination: Both up and down runs of a manlift must be illuminated at all times when the lift is in operation.

Weather protection: The entire manlift and its driving mechanism must be protected from the weather at all times.

Mechanical Requirements for Manlifts

Brakes: Brakes used for stopping and holding must be inherently self-engaging with an external source to disengage. The brake shall be electrically released and capable of stopping and holding the manlift when the descending side is loaded with 250 pounds on each step.

Belt: Belts shall be strong enough to meet ANSI A90.1-1969 and have the following width requirements:

  • Not less than 12 inches wide for a travel distance not exceeding 100 feet;
  • Not less than 14 inches for a travel distance greater than 100 feet but less than 150 feet; and
  • 16" for travel distance exceeding 150 feet.

This Standard was last updated in 2015 as ASME A90.1-2015, Safety Standard for Belt Manlifts.

Speed: The maximum allowable design speed of a manlift is 80 feet per minute.

Platforms or steps: Steps must be between 12 to 14- inches deep and at least as wide as the belt to which it is attached. The distance between steps shall be equally spaced and not less than 16' from the upper surface of one step to the upper surface of the next step above it.

Handholds: Handholds attached to the belt must be installed between 4' and 4' 8" above the step tread. The grab surface shall not be less than 4 1/2" in width nor less than 3" in depth and shall provide 2" of clearance from the belt. All handholds must be of the closed type.

Up limit stops: There must be two separate automatic stop devices to cut off the power supply and apply the brake when a loaded step passes the upper terminal landing.

Emergency stop: An emergency stop must be provided within easy reach of ascending and descending runs of the belt.

Instruction and warning signs: Conspicuous and easily read signs stating Face the Belt, Use the Handholds and To Stop Pull the Rope must be placed at each landing. Additional signs are required for top floor warning and visitor warning.

Operating Rules and Inspection of Manlifts

No freight, packaged goods, pipe, lumber or construction materials of any kind shall be handled on any manlift. Manlifts need to be inspected by a designated, competent person at intervals of not more than 30 days, and limit switches shall be checked weekly. These inspections must be maintained in a certification record.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between an articulating boom and an extensible boom?

A: An articulating boom is raised and lowered by two or more hinged sections. An extensible boom is raised and lowered through a telescoping motion.

Q: Can spliced belts be used on manlifts?

A: A belt that has become torn while in use on a manlift shall not be spliced and put back in service.

Q: Can workers keep their lunches on a manlift?

A: No. An early OSHA ruling interpreted a lunch box as a packaged good, which is prohibited.


29 CFR 1910.67, Vehicle-mounted Elevating and Rotating Work Platforms

29 CFR 1910.68, Manlifts

ANSI/ASSP A1264.1-2017, Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access; Workplace, Floor, Wall and Roof Openings; Stairs and Guardrail/Handrail Systems

ANSI/SAIA A92.2-2021 - American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices

ASME A90.1-2015, Safety Standard for Belt Manlifts

American Welding Society 


The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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