Choosing the Right Aerial Work Platform

An aerial work platform, or lift platform, is a piece of equipment that enables work to be carried out safely at elevated heights and minimizes the risk of falling for workers.

There are several models to choose from, depending on the characteristics of the work to be done and the location. You’ll need to take into account various criteria, such as whether the work will be carried out indoors or outdoors, the working height, whether the work area is easily accessible or not, the load, etc.

Lift platforms are used on construction sites, in logistics, for maintenance work in factories, on public highways, and in many other areas.

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  • What are the criteria for choosing an aerial work platform?

    HAULOTTE scissor lift

    HAULOTTE scissor lift

    There are many different types of aerial work platforms. Start by choosing the most suitable configuration for the intended use, then select the ideal model from the range of sizes and load capacities available in this category. Here are the different criteria to consider:

    • Work environment: This is the environment in which your aerial work platform will operate. The type of platform you should choose depends on whether your aerial work platform will be used for indoor or outdoor work. You should also consider the type of terrain it will be used on (stable, muddy, loose soil, etc.).
    • Working height: This is the most important criterion, and the easiest to define. It corresponds to the height the workers must reach in order to carry out their work. This criterion has a direct influence on which types of lifting mechanisms or which work platform models can be considered. 
    • Load capacity: This is determined by the number of workers and the weight of the material that will be lifted by the platform.

    • Mobility: Lift platforms are available with different mobility options. To choose the right one, you should take into account the environment in which the lift will operate and how often it will need to be repositioned. Self-propelled lift platforms allow the operator to reposition easily. Wheeled lift platforms are more suited for indoor work, while crawler lift platforms are better for outdoor use. Trailer-mounted aerial platforms are simpler and less expensive but require a towing vehicle to change locations. Vehicle-mounted aerial platforms are used when work is to be carried out on public roads.

    • Overall dimensions: The dimensions of the aerial platform must be taken into account to avoid any problems during use. Mast boom lifts are the most compact, and are therefore preferable for work in hard-to-reach areas and small spaces.
    • Lateral movement: Lateral movement refers to the ability to move the aerial platform horizontally in relation to the base. Scissor lifts have no lateral movement, so the platform can only go up and down. Articulated and telescopic lifts, on the other hand, are able to reach work areas while avoiding obstacles such as branches or electrical wires. They are also ideal for when the lift’s base cannot be positioned directly at the foot of the work area.
  • What are the different types of aerial work platforms?

    GENIE articulated boom lift

    GENIE articulated boom lift

    There are several different types of aerial work platforms.

    • Work platform or work basket

    This type consists only of a working platform with railings, also known as the work basket. It has no lifting mechanism. Lifting is carried out by a load-bearing machine such as a crane or forklift truck.

    This is the least expensive option on the market (from €400 to €2,000).

    This type of aerial work platform has a work basket mounted at the end of an arm with one or more joints. This configuration gives great freedom of movement, making it easy to get around obstacles and reach hard-to-reach areas.

    It can provide a working height of up to 40 meters.

    This type of lift is also known as a straight boom lift. Its work basket is placed at the end of a telescopic arm that extends straight out for a direct reach. Compared with other types of aerial work platforms, telescopic boom lifts have the greatest lateral reach, enabling them to access the highest working heights from the ground. Some models also feature a pendulum section at the end of the telescopic arm to facilitate approach in certain situations, such as overhanging work.

    It can provide a working height of up to 55 meters.

    Scissor lifts are equipped with a scissor mechanism, or a series of criss-crossed folding hydraulic supports, that allow the work platform to rise. Scissor lifts can lift heavy loads (up to 1,000 kg) compared to other types of aerial platforms (an average of 200 kg).

    They can provide a working height of up to 20 meters.

    This type of lift is ideal for indoor work that doesn’t require too much lateral movement. Mast boom lifts work well in confined, hard-to-reach areas.

    They can provide a working height of up to 12 meters. 

    Spider lifts are equipped with stabilizers integrated into the chassis, which enable them to operate on steep terrain. There are two types of configurations possible for spider lifts: articulated boom lifts with a multidirectional arm and telescopic boom lifts with a telescopic arm.

    They can provide a working height of up to 30 meters. 

    • Vehicle-mounted lift platform

    Lift platforms can be mounted on motorized vehicles, such as heavy trucks, light vehicles, small trucks, vans, utility vehicles, pick-up trucks, or tractors. The lifting system can be either a telescopic arm, an articulated arm, or a scissor mechanism.

    Lift platforms on light vehicles enable work to be carried out at heights of between 10 and 27 meters. 

    Lift platforms on heavy trucks enable work to be carried out at heights of up to 70 meters.

    • Suspended platform

    Suspended platforms, or suspended scaffolds, consist of a work platform suspended by cables and hoists. Unlike other types of aerial work platforms, suspended platforms are not operated from the ground, but from an elevated point, such as the roof of a building. This allows for work to be carried out at heights of over 100 meters. Suspended platforms can be installed temporarily or permanently, for example, to carry out periodic maintenance on a building.

  • Electric, diesel, or hybrid aerial work platforms?

    HINOWA diesel aerial work platform

    HINOWA diesel aerial work platform

    Aerial work platforms can be powered by electric, diesel, or hybrid (dual-energy) motors. The choice you should make mainly depends on the environment in which you will be operating.

    Electric articulated boom lifts

    These are battery-powered, though sometimes they need to be plugged in with a cable, and are primarily intended for indoor use.


    • No exhaust fumes, air quality is not affected
    • Quiet operation


    • Autonomy limited by battery capacity

    Diesel articulated boom lifts

    These have a diesel-powered engine and are best suited for outdoor work.


    • Unlimited autonomy, given there is access to fuel


    • Polluting exhaust emissions (CO2)
    • Much noisier engine

    Hybrid or dual-energy articulated boom lifts

    This more recent configuration combines an internal combustion engine, an electric motor, and batteries.


    • Versatility: The diesel engine can be used outdoors and the electric system indoors.


    • This technology is more expensive than the other two.
  • Should you choose a manual, trailer-mounted, self-propelled or vehicle-mounted lift platform?

    Niftylift trailer-mounted lift platform

    Niftylift trailer-mounted lift platform

    Manually-operated lift platforms are compact models used in logistics, warehousing, and storage, and are ideal replacements for stepladders and ladders. Their compact size allows them to easily move through aisles, and their electric lifting system allows them to move loads with little physical effort.

    Trailer-mounted lift platforms are compact and lightweight and only the lifting mechanism is motorized. They can be easily transported to job sites with company vehicles.

    Self-propelled lift platforms are equipped with wheels or tracks to move around the work area. They are able to frequently change locations.

    Vehicle-mounted lift platforms are integrated onto both heavy-duty trucks and smaller utility vehicles. They are ideal for repetitive work that requires constant repositioning, such as street lighting maintenance. 

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