Scissor lifts, also known as aerial work platforms, are mechanical devices used to lift workers and equipment to elevated areas. They consist of a platform or bucket mounted on top of crisscrossing steel supports, creating the characteristic “X” shape when extended. These lifts are commonly used in construction, maintenance, and various other industries to provide a safe and efficient means of working at height.

The mechanism of a scissor lift is simple yet effective. The platform is raised and lowered by the controlled movement of the scissor-like supports using a hydraulic or pneumatic system. This allows the lift to reach varying heights and provide a stable working surface for workers.

There are various types of scissor lifts available, each with its unique features and capabilities. These include:

Depending on the specific needs of a project, one type may be more suitable than others.

Scissor lifts have numerous uses across different industries. Some common applications include:

With their ability to reach high and tight spaces, scissor lifts provide a safer and more efficient alternative to ladders and scaffolding.

Operating a scissor lift comes with potential hazards, making it crucial to follow safety measures. These include:

Adhering to these measures can greatly reduce the risk of accidents and ensure the safe use of scissor lifts.

What Are Scissor Lifts?

Scissor lifts are essential equipment used to elevate workers to different heights in construction, maintenance, and warehouse settings.

What are scissor lifts? These are mobile platforms that operate through the use of linked, folding supports in a crisscross pattern, known as a pantograph.

How Do Scissor Lifts Work?

Hydraulic System: A motor powers a hydraulic pump, which pushes oil into the lift’s hydraulic cylinders, causing them to extend.

Scissor Mechanism: As the hydraulic cylinders extend, they push the scissor mechanism upward, elevating the lift platform.

Supporting Weight: The scissor mechanism provides a stable base for lifting heavy loads to varying heights.

Fact: Scissor lifts are commonly used in construction, maintenance, and industrial settings due to their versatility and capability to reach high elevations.

What Are the Different Types of Scissor Lifts?

Scissor lifts are versatile and useful pieces of equipment that are used in various industries for lifting heavy loads to elevated heights. But did you know that there are different types of scissor lifts available? In this section, we will discuss the various types of scissor lifts, including hydraulic, electric, rough terrain, pneumatic, and manual scissor lifts. Each type has its own unique features and benefits, so let’s dive in and explore the differences between them.

1. Hydraulic Scissor Lifts

  1. Understand the hydraulic system, which uses fluid to move the lift mechanism.
  2. Learn about the pump, which pushes the oil into the cylinders to raise the platform.
  3. Explore the valves that control the flow of oil and the lowering of the lift.
  4. Understand the release valve, which allows the lift to descend when opened.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the hydraulic motor, responsible for driving the lift’s movement.

When operating hydraulic scissor lifts, prioritise safety by following manufacturer guidelines and getting proper training. Regular maintenance ensures optimal performance.

2. Electric Scissor Lifts

Electric scissor lifts are powered by electric motors, making them eco-friendly and suitable for indoor use. These lifts offer quiet operation, contributing to a less disruptive work environment. They are equipped with non-marking tyres, preventing damage to the floor surface. Electric scissor lifts have zero emissions, promoting a healthier workplace environment. These lifts are well-suited for applications that require precise positioning and smooth, controlled vertical movement.

3. Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

Rough terrain scissor lifts are designed with enhanced stability for uneven surfaces. Equipped with robust tyres and powerful engines, they offer greater traction and manoeuvrability on challenging outdoor terrain. Commonly used in construction, maintenance, and agricultural applications due to their ability to navigate rugged landscapes. Due to their heavy-duty build, they have higher weight capacities, making them suitable for transporting heavy loads on rough terrain.

The concept of rough terrain scissor lifts emerged in the late 20th century as a response to the growing demand for elevated work platforms capable of operating in challenging outdoor environments, particularly construction and agricultural settings.

4. Pneumatic Scissor Lifts

Pneumatic scissor lifts utilize air pressure to raise and lower the platform. The air cylinders are powered by compressed air, making these lifts suitable for hazardous or explosive environments. They offer smooth and quiet operation, ideal for indoor applications where noise levels must be minimised. Pneumatic scissor lifts are often used in manufacturing facilities, automotive workshops, and clean room environments.

5. Manual Scissor Lifts

Manual scissor lifts require physical exertion to elevate and lower the platform. These lifts are operated through a manual pump or crank system. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the efficient functioning of manual scissor lifts. Operators must adhere to safety guidelines to prevent accidents and injuries.

What Are the Uses of Scissor Lifts?

Scissor lifts are versatile and valuable machines that can be used in a variety of industries and situations. In this section, we will explore the various uses of scissor lifts, from construction and maintenance to emergency and rescue operations. We will delve into the specific applications of scissor lifts in areas such as warehouse and inventory management, as well as their role in entertainment and events. By the end, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the wide range of uses for these powerful machines.

1. Construction and Maintenance

Inspect the construction site to identify the specific needs for the scissor lift, considering factors like terrain, height, and space constraints.

Choose the appropriate scissor lift type based on the maintenance or construction task requirements, such as electric scissor lifts for indoor projects or rough terrain scissor lifts for outdoor use.

Ensure that the operators receive comprehensive training on the chosen scissor lift model, including safety protocols and operational procedures.

Regularly maintain the scissor lift to prolong its lifespan and ensure safe, efficient performance during construction and maintenance tasks.

2. Warehouse and Inventory Management

Efficient space utilisation is a critical aspect of warehouse and inventory management. Implementing scissor lifts enhances vertical storage capacity, allowing for better organisation and accessibility. Regular maintenance and safety checks of scissor lifts are imperative for smooth warehouse operations. Training staff on scissor lift operation and safety measures is essential for accident prevention.

3. Entertainment and Events

Scissor lifts play a crucial role in the entertainment and events industry, facilitating tasks such as stage construction, lighting and rigging setup, and venue decoration. These lifts provide a safe and efficient way to elevate personnel and equipment to various heights, ensuring smooth event setups and breakdowns. Additionally, their maneuverability and compact size make them ideal for indoor use, such as setting up trade show booths or arranging decorations for corporate events.

4. Emergency and Rescue Operations

Assess the emergency situation and determine the specific requirements for the rescue operation.

Select the appropriate type of scissor lift based on the terrain and height requirements.

Ensure that the scissor lift operator is well-trained to handle emergency scenarios and rescue operations.

Inspect the scissor lift for proper functioning and safety features before initiating the rescue operation.

Coordinate with the rescue team and establish clear communication channels for a successful and safe rescue mission.

What Are the Safety Measures for Operating Scissor Lifts?

As with any heavy machinery, proper safety measures must be taken when operating scissor lifts. In this section, we will discuss the essential safety precautions that should be followed to ensure the safe operation of scissor lifts. From proper training and certification to conducting pre-use inspections, we will cover the key steps that should be taken before and during the use of a scissor lift. By following these safety measures, we can prevent accidents and promote a safe work environment for all.

1. Proper Training and Certification

Enrol in a scissor lift operator training programme to gain knowledge about machine operations, safety protocols, and emergency procedures. Obtain certification upon successful completion of the training to validate your competence in operating scissor lifts. Regularly update your certification and skills through refresher courses to stay informed about the latest safety guidelines and operational best practices. Remember, prioritising proper training and certification ensures safe and efficient handling of scissor lifts, reducing the risk of accidents.

2. Conducting Pre-Use Inspections

Inspect the hydraulic system, checking for leaks, proper fluid levels, and any signs of damage.

Examine the platform and guardrails for stability, secure connections, and absence of dents or cracks.

Test the functionality of all safety features such as emergency lowering systems and automatic stopping mechanisms.

Check the condition of tires or track assemblies, ensuring proper inflation, tread depth, and absence of wear or tear.

Verify that all control panels, switches, and emergency stop buttons are in good working condition.

3. Following Weight Capacity Limits

Review the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the weight capacity of the scissor lift.

Calculate the total weight of all occupants and equipment that will be on the lift platform.

Ensure that the total weight does not exceed the specified weight capacity to prevent overloading.

Regularly inspect the lift to check for any signs of wear and tear that may affect its weight-bearing capacity.

Adhere strictly to the weight capacity limits to maintain a safe operating environment.

4. Using Fall Protection Equipment

Inspect fall protection equipment before each use to ensure proper working condition.

Securely fasten harnesses and lifelines to designated anchor points on the scissor lift.

Use self-retracting lanyards and make sure they are short enough to prevent a fall.

Regularly maintain and replace fall protection equipment according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

Train all personnel on the proper use and inspection of fall protection equipment.

Fall protection equipment has been crucial in minimising workplace accidents, with advancements in technology leading to more efficient and safer gear over the years.

5. Maintaining a Clear Work Area

Remove any unnecessary items from the work area to prevent tripping hazards.

Ensure all tools and materials are stored in designated areas to maintain a clear pathway.

Implement a system for proper waste disposal to keep the work area clutter-free.

Clearly mark any hazardous zones or obstructions with appropriate signage.

Regularly inspect and clean the work area to uphold a safe and organized environment.

Key Differences Between Scissor Lifts

Key differences between scissor lifts lie in their drive mechanism, platform size, lift capacity, and maneuverability.

Drive mechanism: Electric scissor lifts are quieter and suitable for indoor use, while rough-terrain scissor lifts are designed for outdoor applications.

Platform size: Compact scissor lifts are ideal for narrow spaces, while larger platforms accommodate more workers and equipment.

Lift capacity: Choose based on the weight of materials and workers needing access.

Maneuverability: Some scissor lifts offer superior maneuverability, allowing access to confined areas.

When selecting a scissor lift, consider the specific requirements of your project, including working environment, space constraints, and weight capacities.

How to Choose the Right Scissor Lift for Your Needs

Assess height requirements and weight capacity for your tasks.

Evaluate power options: electric, diesel, or hydraulic.

Determine the necessary platform size for your materials and workers.

Consider the maneuverability and terrain of your worksite.

Review safety features like guardrails and automatic brakes.

The scissor lift was first patented in 1963 by Charles Larson. It was initially designed for use in the aviation industry to provide access to high areas of aircraft during construction and maintenance.


Scissor lifts are versatile aerial work platforms commonly used for lifting workers and materials to elevated areas. They are equipped with crisscrossing braces, resembling the shape of a scissor when extended. The lifts are powered by hydraulics or electricity and provide a stable platform for various maintenance, construction, and installation tasks.

When operating scissor lifts, it’s crucial to adhere to safety guidelines and regulations to prevent accidents and ensure efficient work processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are scissor lifts used for in the construction industry?

Scissor lifts are commonly used in the construction industry for a variety of tasks such as ceiling work, HVAC installation and maintenance, inspection of pipes and structures, and material handling. They are also popular for use in commercial settings, film studios, and outdoor construction sites.

2. What is the lifting mechanism of a scissor lift like?

A scissor lift gets its name from its lifting mechanism which consists of crisscrossed beams, also referred to as a “signature cross braced system”. This design provides a steady enclosure for workers and their equipment while they are elevated to their desired working height.

3. Can scissor lifts be used outdoors as well?

Yes, there are two types of scissor lifts that can be used outdoors – rough terrain scissors and off-road scissor lifts. These models have features like larger wheels and engine-powered drives that allow them to navigate uneven or unpaved surfaces with ease.

4. What are the main differences between electric and diesel scissor lifts?

Electric scissor lifts are better suited for indoor use due to their lower ventilation requirements and quieter operation. On the other hand, diesel scissor lifts are more commonly used for outdoor projects that require a larger platform space and hefty design to handle multiple workers and heavier equipment.

5. Can scissor lifts perform repetitive tasks efficiently?

Yes, scissor lifts are great for performing repetitive tasks like maintenance repairs, tree trimming, and light fixture installation. They offer precise movement and stable platforms, making them an ideal choice for tasks that require a steady and elevated workspace.

6. Are scissor lifts suitable for use in confined spaces?

Yes, scissor lifts come in a variety of sizes that can fit through standard doorways and narrow aisles. This makes them a suitable choice for use in restricted access areas, such as indoor warehouses and elevated workspaces.