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Widely used in commercial construction, electric scissor lifts are ideal for working at height on projects requiring plumbing, hanging drywall, electrical work, painting and a multitude of other tasks. Frequent use of electric scissor lifts mandates keeping them well maintained to achieve optimal performance while lengthening equipment lifespan. Inspections and maintenance play a key role in scissor lift safety by helping reduce accidents on the job. It also ensures the lift is working as intended. Finally, regular scissor lift maintenance can lower overall repair costs and reduce downtime by fixing small problems proactively before they become more expensive and labor intensive.

Regulatory Compliance

ANSI A92.20 provides guidelines for frequency of scissor lift inspections, stating that frequent lift inspections should take place if the MEWP has been out of service for a period longer than three months. Yearly inspections cannot exceed 13 months from the date of the last inspection. Inspections should be performed by a person qualified to inspect the specific make and model of the lift.

Keep in mind there are several types of scissor lifts with different maintenance requirements. The five main types of scissor lifts include battery powered scissors that feature either hydraulic or electric drive or rough-terrain machines which feature batteries with electric drive, diesel or dual fuel engines with hydrostatic drive systems. Because each model has different components and features, the service technician must refer to the original operator’s manual and service and maintenance manual for guidance on proper inspection and maintenance.

Pre-Start Inspections

Each day and each shift must begin with a scissor lift inspection and function test. This allows operators to find and fix problems prior to starting the job. Inspections can also catch problems that may go unnoticed before creating a hazard. Walkaround visual inspections should occur daily, at shift changes or any time a new operator takes over the machine. Daily scissor inspections typically include:

  • Checking for visible leakages (oil or battery fluids) or foreign objects.
  • Looking for dents, weld or metal cracks or other visible damage.
  • Checking the machine decals and placards to be sure they are clean and legible.
  • Inspecting scissor arms and centering link, as well as the platform gate to ensure it closes properly.
  • Checking the hydraulic fluid levels and cleanliness.
  • Verifying all applicable manuals are located on the machine.

A function check must also be completed before each use in an area free of overhead and ground-level obstructions. Accessories and attachments should also be inspected.

General Maintenance Checklist

Below are OSHA’s guidelines for scissor lift maintenance. Again, be sure to reference the machine’s factory-issued manuals to ensure complete compliance.

Operational

  • Check all fluid levels including oil, fuel, coolant and hydraulics. Inspect the machine thoroughly for leaks.
  • Check the wheels and tires. Look for worn tire treads and cracks or bubbles in the sidewalls. Make sure tire pressure is at the correct psi. Check wheels for any structural damage.
  • Test the steering and brakes to ensure they are fully operational.
  • Check the battery and charge level to ensure power isn’t lost on the job.
  • Test all emergency controls to make sure they are working. This includes horns, gauges, lights and backup alarms.
  • Make sure all personal protection devices are in place and working properly. These include safety harnesses, fall protection gear and more.

Structural

Inspect these areas for signs of any problems: air, electric, pneumatic and hydraulic systems; insulating components; written warnings, placards and instructions; mechanical fasteners and locking pins; cable and wiring; outriggers and stabilizers; guardrails; loose or missing parts.
If any scissor lift components are damaged, missing or not working correctly, do not use the lift until it has been fully repaired. Work zone hazards must be removed or enclosed by barriers to keep the lift at a safe distance.

Battery Maintenance

Batteries are among the most frequent and highest cost drivers for scissor lift owners. Batteries that are not properly maintained will degrade over time and require premature replacement. Therefore, inspecting and maintaining batteries is critical to ensure they are adequately charged and that water levels are sufficient. These maintenance procedures will help significantly extend a battery’s service life:

  • Clean battery banks to remove excess dirt and debris. Make sure batteries stay dry and clean. Otherwise, surface discharge can occur, which can lead to reduced operating times between charges.
  • Run an amp-draw test. Use a high-quality digital battery tester to ensure each battery is performing to its recommended specification.
  • Perform a charge test by plugging in the battery charger. Verify all batteries are charging properly and replace any bad batteries. Ensuring each battery is functioning properly will avoid the need to exchange a rented unit or replace the battery on site.

A poorly maintained battery may need to be replaced within one year, whereas a well-maintained battery can last as long as three years. However, new innovations such as battery monitoring on electric scissor lifts can significantly extend battery life beyond a few years, while greatly lowering service costs.

Reducing Maintenance with All-Electric

On the horizon is the next generation of all-electric scissor lifts that can significantly decrease routine maintenance. For example, the new JLG Davinci AE1932 all-electric scissor lift is optimized for performance and longevity with fewer components to greatly reduce or automate inspections.

While machine walkaround inspections, annual inspections and interval inspections are still required, the simplified design and reduced complexity of components and systems make all-electric scissor lifts easier to manage and maintain. The host of electric components can easily report their health status without requiring a technician to check/adjust valves, pressures and other items seen on traditional scissor lifts. The JLG Davinci AE1932 offers the following advancements to reduce maintenance time and costs: zero hydraulics, which eliminates potential leak points, hoses and diapers to catch leaks; optimized components and fewer serviceable parts with no brushes to replace and self-lubricating pins and bushings; and self-diagnostics that allow operators to test all systems on their mobile device, eliminating the more traditional hand-held analyzer.

The JLG Davinci AE1932 operates on a single lithium-ion battery that can last more than 120 months, so owners may never have to replace a battery during the machine’s lifespan. Opportunity charging and energy recovery while the platform is being lowered contribute to a 70 percent decrease in power consumption allowing for the use of one single lithium-ion battery that charges from discharged to fully charged in 3.5 hours.

Creating a Safer, Smarter, Connected Jobsite

Innovations such as all-electric scissor lifts with self-diagnostics are making the connected jobsite safer and more productive. However, fleet owners and operators should remain vigilant and continue to conduct all required inspections and maintenance to maximize productivity and ensure operator confidence in the field.

Rafael Nunez is the senior product manager for scissor and vertical lifts at JLG Industries Inc.

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