To begin with, you may be wondering what a bucket truck is. A truck on which an elevated work platform is mounted with a bucket at one end of a hydraulic lift system is called a bucket truck.
It is used by workers who need to access people and equipment which are usually beyond normal reach or at a height. The person stands in the bucket, which is raised at the required height enabling him to do his job.
These trucks are widely used in a number of places, like construction sites for exterior painting, by telecommunication and power companies to reach overhead cables and trim tall trees. Firefighters also use bucket trucks to reach into tall buildings, and it's used by arborists to reach extremely tall trees.
In spite of being a very useful mechanical tool, bucket trucks can be dangerous and pose occupational hazards if not used with caution.
Safety Instructions for Bucket Trucks
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules state that all workers engaged in any kind of activity that involves the use of bucket trucks must adhere to the safety guidelines.
- Bucket truck personnel must undergo a thorough training, which is provided by bucket truck dealers, which supplies them with all information related to functioning of the bucket, and safety hazards associated with it, like falls, electrocution, and tipping over.
- Buckets must be manufactured with the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. All controls in the bucket should be clearly marked as per their functionality (lower controls override upper controls).
- Upper controls are used by the operator, and lower controls should only be used in an emergency or with the permission of the bucket operator. All bucket trucks must be equipped with a guard rail, emergency stop and brake devices, an operator's manual, a first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.
- Inspection of the bucket truck prior to its use is essential. The operator must check for cracks, missing bolts and screws, loose, broken, or malfunctioning parts, tire pressure, hydraulic leaks, insulation, and whether all necessary decals are in place. Any decals and stickers placed on the bucket must be clearly visible and legible even from a distance.
- The visual inspection must also include checking whether lighting beams, signals and alarms are functioning properly.
- Place your feet firmly on the bucket floor. Never lean, climb and stand on the sides of the bucket, especially if the bucket is elevated. Do not use step stools and ladders inside the bucket for extra reach.
- Operating all controls once before use is critical, it verifies whether the bucket is functioning right or not.
- Depending upon the activity involved, bucket trucks may contain cans or boxes containing hazardous chemicals. Handle such containers with utmost care especially when the truck is in motion to avoid damage.
- Operators must wear a full body harness which should comprise gloves, helmets with a shield, safety shoes/goggles, fall protection, and safety lanyard every time they are in the bucket.
- Do not allow any unauthorized people in the vicinity of the truck before deploying it. Only trained and authorized personnel should be allowed near a bucket truck.
- Inspect the surrounding area for any soft ground, bumps, potholes, and debris. Always park the truck on solid, plain ground when using the bucket. There is the danger of tipping over if the truck is parked on a slope. Position the outriggers. Set the emergency brake. Check for overhead obstructions like lights, tree branches, building fixtures, etc.
- Do not move the bucket when the truck is in motion. Alternatively, do not move the truck when there is an operator in the bucket. Drive carefully through traffic and watch out for blind spots. If the work is in a high traffic zone, divert the traffic, and put out appropriate warning signs to notify drivers of the diverted travel path.
If there is a possibility of pedestrians walking in and around the maintenance area, restrict access to the area by putting up adequate barricades like caution tapes and ropes. Use traffic cones in front of and behind the bucket truck when it is parked on the street.
- Never overload the bucket. Each bucket has its own weight limit. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines to know the load requirements of your bucket.
- If wind gusts are over 30 mph, or if there is a chance of lightning or an electrical thunderstorm, do not operate the bucket truck.
- Maintain a safe distance from electric and power cables. Even though bucket trucks are insulated, there are chances of electrocution in an aerial platform in a phase-to-phase or phase-to-ground contact due to surges in voltage. Prior to beginning repair work on cables and utility poles, ground the equipment securely. Never touch a live wire with bare hands.
A bucket truck operator's job is indeed hazardous. Employers and dealers must provide such personnel with the requisite training, and provide them with information on safety rules and concerns about deploying a bucket truck. Following this checklist diligently will keep the bucket truck operator away from any grave harm and injury.