Banner or Sail? You Be The Judge

We love seeing our country’s flag flown at sporting events, advertisers want us to see their messages on  banners, workers want to be comfortable in the sun. When it comes to hanging something from your aerial/scissor lifts or adding attachments for comfort, the answer is, just DON’T DO IT!

Aerial Work Platforms (AWP), also known as Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP), were created to perform temporary work at height when used properly by trained personnel. While they are built to lift and carry loads under various conditions, there are also limitations. One of them is they are not made to withstand the effects that wind may have when there is increased surface area.  This includes attaching flags, banners, wraps or umbrellas or adding building materials such as sheets of plywood. Any addition of these natures can create a sail effect, which can cause a lift to easily lose stability and tip over.

Most of the time, these additions or modifications seem like innocent things–we want more bang for our buck, so we use what we have on hand to get the job done. But the danger these decisions can put the company and/or the public in is just not worth the trade off.

Image courtesy of                                                              

For example, your company has been asked to loan or rent their AWP for an upcoming community event. They want to hang a banner or flag from it. Seems like a simple request, but what happens when it gets windy, the AWP destabilizes and tips over. One can only hope no innocent bystanders are around, as the general public probably doesn’t recognize the danger of being near a lift. The second hope is that the machine doesn’t suffer any damage either. If there are issues on either side, who will be liable?

In another example, you are on a job site. It’s hot and you are looking for some relief from the sun, a beach umbrella with a clip attachment seems like a harmless thing to add to the lift.  But what happens when there is a breeze and the umbrella now becomes a sail? It could become a projectile, maybe even push that lift over into the building you were working on, or cause the lift to topple all the way.

In a third scenario, an aerial lift is rented to use for lighting support on a photo shoot. Lights are hung from the lift and work commences, then something goes wrong…a picture is worth a thousand words.

What Do The Standards Say?

In the U.S., the current American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A92.5 for boom supported and A92.6. for scissors both say this:

  • 12 Modifications. Modification, alteration or remanufacture of an aerial platform shall be made only with prior written permission of the manufacturer. Should the original manufacturer no longer exist, a qualified person may approve such modifications. All modifications shall meet the applicable manufacturer’s requirements as specified in section 4 (Responsibilities of manufacturers) of this Standard.

ANSI has been working on updating these standards and has a new proposed A92.22 Safe Use standard in DRAFT format, which includes:

  • 1.1 Effect of wind forces on MEWPs. MEWPs shall not operate in wind speed conditions beyond the maximum allowed by the manufacturer. No modifications or additions to the MEWP that affect its wind loading and consequently its stability shall be made without the manufacturer’s approval. Where this approval cannot be obtained from the manufacturer, approval shall be obtained from an engineer.
  • 8.1.2 Effect of wind on equipment in the work platform. Care shall be taken when handling building materials, sheet materials, panels and other such materials which can act as sails.
  • 8.1.3 Local wind effects. The shielding and funneling effects of structures can cause high wind speeds and turbulence on days when the wind speed in open areas is low. Other sources of local high wind speed that shall be considered in relation to safety at worksites are at airports and along roadways.

U.S. OSHA allows for modification, but only when approved in writing by the manufacturer. See 1926.453(a)(2).

Lastly, one of the easiest things to always ask is, “What does the manufacturer say?” You need to refer to the lift’s manual, or if possible reach out to them. The manufacturer’s instructions can be incorporated by reference in a case of law. So when in doubt, ask.

Remember, Safety through Education is more than just our motto it is our guiding principle. If need to know more about proper aerial lift operation or need to train your team, check out our Aerial Lift Train-the-Trainer programs.

Note: Images included in this post were shared by individuals through social media or other blog posts, each image is linked to the original story. Manufacturers of the lifts do not support the usage in this manner.  Thank you to Craig Ihde and Jeff Stachowiak for your subject matter expertise in writing this post.

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