5 Tips for Choosing a Scissor Lift to Rent

Reach, platform size and stability are key factors to consider.

Scissor lifts are essential tools for all sorts of projects because they are often the best and safest way to reach an elevated work area.

What is a scissor lift? These machines lift workers and their tools to where the work is using a scissor mechanism that raises and lowers an aerial work platform. (If you can’t get directly where you need to work, you may need a boom lift instead.)

Choosing which scissor lift to rent isn’t just a question of how high you need to go. Here are five tips for renting the right scissor lift for your needs.

Types of scissor lifts: Electric or rough terrain?

In general, you can divide the world of scissor lifts into two categories: electric and rough terrain.

Electric Scissor Lifts

Electric scissor lifts are intended mainly for indoor work, though they can be used outdoors, too. They rely on a battery for power, so there are no hazardous emissions to contend with. They tend to dominate the lower end of the height spectrum and are suitable for movement over smooth or solid slab surfaces. Some models are equipped with non-marking tires, which are designed to avoid leaving unsightly black marks on the floor. Non-marking tires are helpful when working in retail storefronts, warehouses with light-colored floors and any finished building.

Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

Rough terrain scissor lifts are often diesel- or gas-powered and can handle uneven, rough or muddy terrain. They can reach 50 feet or more and typically have a larger work platform compared with electric scissor lifts.

Hybrid Scissor Lifts

Hybrid scissor lifts, which are much less common, allow you to switch from battery to diesel as needed.

Scissor lift sizes: How high do you need to go?

Your primary consideration when choosing a unit to rent is what scissor lift height you need. 19-foot lifts are popular since they reach high enough to access ceiling and ductwork inside buildings with 10-foot ceilings and will fit through a standard doorway even with the guardrails in position. Their narrow width makes them highly maneuverable.

30-foot lifts are a good choice for work around power poles and telephone lines, while 50- to 60-foot lifts can reach very tall treetops or sixth-floor exteriors. For high utility work, there are 60- to 70-foot scissor lifts.

A word about scissor lift height: Most but not all manufacturers refer to the height of the platform itself, which in practical terms gives you about 6 more feet when you consider the height of the worker (the working height).

How much load and personnel capacity do you need?

There are two load capacities to consider: the weight capacity and the personnel limit. It’s important for compliance with OSHA standards and safety to adhere to both. If you’re below the total load for a given lift, that does not mean you can add another worker to the platform.

Capacities vary greatly. At the low end, a 10-foot electric scissor lift can handle a 750-pound load and is rated for two people, while a 50-foot diesel model can lift 1 500 pounds and is rated for up to six people.

How big of a scissor lift platform do you need?

Platform size can make a big difference in efficiency and safety on the jobsite. Wider platforms offer better access and require less repositioning time as the job progresses, but you need to be sure the lift will fit in the space available. Another option: Some scissor lifts can be fitted with powered deck extensions, which give workers more forward horizontal reach.

How does terrain affect your choice?

If you’re working on uneven or sloped terrain, opt for four-wheel drive, available on many rough-terrain scissor lifts and even some electric scissor lifts (which may also feature pothole guards).

Ground clearance is another potential consideration. If you need to negotiate very rough terrain or travel over debris, you might want to look for a model with a higher ground clearance and specialized tires. This is rarely listed online in rental charts, so ask the sales rep.

Dave Johnson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been writing about all aspects of business and technology since before there was an internet.

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