The aerial work platform industry features two distinct classifications: Group A and Group B. The first category, Group A MEWPs, is dominated by scissor lifts, which move vertically but stay inside tipping lines. Group B MEWPS, including all mobile elevating work platforms that do not fit into Group A, are primarily boom lifts, which move vertically in addition to extending a hydraulic arm beyond the chassis and outside tipping lines. While both groups are used to elevate workers and equipment, they are designed for very different functions.
Group A: Scissor Lifts
Scissor lifts rely on a compact design, which allows for a smaller footprint and better maneuverability while driving. Most scissor lifts have a working height between 15–50 ft, making them perfect for manufacturing, construction, and industrial jobsites. Their large platforms feature plenty of room to carry a worker and most necessary equipment, meaning fewer trips up and down to grab supplies. The majority of scissor lifts are powered hydraulically or electrically.
Group B: Boom Lifts
Boom lifts have a significantly larger footprint than scissor lifts, but their hydraulic arm can reach heights up to 185 ft on certain models. Additionally, boom lifts provide a degree of aerial flexibility to operate around obstacles and access difficult to reach work areas. The working height and flexibility of boom lifts make up for having a smaller working area and platform than standard scissor lifts, making them ideal for firefighting, window cleaning, construction, electrical cable repair, etc. Due to these increased capabilities, some boom machines require additional certification for varying types of work. The majority of boom lifts are powered by internal combustion or electric engines.
Within each MEWP group are three types, determined by how the MEWP is able to be moved. Type 1 lifts travel only when in the stowed position. The Hy-Brid Lifts Push-Around Series is an example of a Group A, Type 1 lift, as it can only be pushed throughout the jobsite when in the stowed position. Type 2 lifts can travel while the work platform is elevated, but movement is controlled from a point on the chassis. Similarly, Type 3 lifts can also move while the platform is elevated, but the controls are located inside the work platform, not on the chassis. The Hy-Brid Lifts Pro Series and Zero-Turn Series are examples of Group A, Type 3 lifts, as they are scissor lifts which can travel while elevated utilizing controls located on the work platform.
Choosing the Right MEWP
Both scissor and boom lifts are valuable tools on the jobsite, but they must be used in the proper environment to ensure safety and productivity. Here are several factors to consider when selecting which type of lift to use for your next project:
1. Who is using the equipment?
Both boom and scissor lifts require safety training to be operated on the jobsite. Before a lift is selected, you must consider how many workers need to be elevated, what kind of equipment and materials they need to bring in the work platform, and where the machine will be operated.
2. What kind of work is being done?
As mentioned above, boom and scissor lifts are typically utilized for different types of work. Examine the factors that impact work on your jobsite, as well as any potential dangers or safety risks. Understanding the demands of your project will help you determine what kind of lift and even which model will be the most effective.
3. Where will the machine be operating?
Will your work be indoor, outdoor, or both? Will you need to drive the machine through confined areas such as doorways? What kind of flooring will the machine have to travel on? Create a plan for exactly what you need the machine to do and how it will be moved to each working location. Bigger lifts are not always best.