Types of Construction Lifts or Boom Lifts

Joshua Smyth

Construction lifts are machines used to enable workers to reach high-up spots without building scaffolding. They are used for maintenance work on elevated structures as well as in warehouse and factory settings.

The scissor lift is a common type of construction lift.

Construction lifts all have wheeled and powered bases that can drive to the work location and a platform that elevates workers. There are several types of lifts, each suited for different settings and jobs.

Bucket Trucks

Often called cherry-pickers, bucket trucks carry a long boom with a bucket at the end in which a worker may stand. They are commonly used by landscapers, who use them to prune trees, and utility workers. Since the boom assembly is mounted on a standard truck, these lifts can travel on roads at traffic speeds, increasing the area they can effectively service. This is especially useful for power companies, which use cherry pickers to lift employees up to reach transmission lines. Since they are used near potential shock hazards, the buckets must be insulated and checked regularly.

Articulated Boom Lifts

Articulated boom lifts, also known as knuckle lifts, have a work platform mounted on an arm that can bend to reach around obstacles. The base of the lift is mounted on wheels and contains a turntable that can turn the lift in a full circle. This type of lift is useful for maintenance work on already-completed or landscaped projects that do not require easy access to the area immediately below the worksite. They can be used to repair exterior electrical work or piping, or to access difficult-to-clean spots. Knuckle lifts are often driven by the worker in the platform with the boom extended. They are available in both electric, solid-tired versions for interior use and gasoline-powered, inflated-tire versions that are more rugged and stable on uneven terrain.

Telescoping Boom Lifts

Telescoping boom lifts mount a work bucket on a straight, extendable arm that sits on a rotating turntable. They are typically used for jobs that require maximum height, as their reach often exceeds that of other types. Workers can perform exterior repairs on medium-height buildings in these lifts without the extra work of setting up an outside elevator or pulley system. Since the bucket of a boom lift can typically only hold a single worker, though, they are better suited to specific tasks such as electrical repair, rather than general maintenance like window-washing. These lifts are also available with both gas and electric motors and outdoor or indoor tires.

Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts are named for the motion of the cross-braces underneath the work platform, which squeeze together and push the platform straight up. They are much more limited in their use than boom lifts, since they must be positioned immediately below the work site. They do, however, carry larger platforms that allow the worker operating the lift to access a larger work area when the lift is raised. All-terrain capability is less of a concern with scissor lifts, since they must sit on flat ground to be used. These lifts are best for window or cladding installation, since they allow workers the necessary mobility; they can also be used for window cleaning or exterior repairs.