A cherry picker is a hydraulic crane also known as an articulated boom lift, or mobile elevating work platform. Its purpose is to raise and lower people like fruit pickers, gutter cleaners, or building workers who work high up in difficult areas to reach. They were originally designed to help cherry pickers harvest the crop, but now they’re used for numerous jobs across many industries.

Main uses for a cherry picker

A cherry picker is designed to work from between 10 to 40 meters off the ground, and they’re very useful where access to awkward, high places is hard or impossible to get at using static towers or stepladders. Cherry pickers are used by:

  • The Fire Service if a ladder can’t do the job
  • Electricians to fix lights, put up bunting, or to put up decorations and lights on tall Christmas trees
  • Workers to service telephone and electricity poles
  • Construction and maintenance crew for high rise outdoor building work
  • Window cleaners
  • Film crews and photographers so they can capture a bird’s eye view of a scene
  • Pop groups and rap stars for stage effects

Assessing the dangers

Any job that’s carried out at height must be safe for the workers, and there are specific guidelines to be followed by law, as set out by the Health & Safety Executive. Thanks to railed platforms, cherry pickers can carry out work in relative safety. They can also use a safety harness that attaches them to the rail. However, there are always dangers when operating this type of machinery, so here are some things to look out for:

  • Overhead wires or structures can cause the machine operator to get pushed up against them and up against the controls.
  • An uneven ground surface could cause the cherry picker to tilt, or even overturn (the platform must be level before work commences).
  • High winds can tilt a cherry picker and make it unstable.
  • Extra care needs to be taken if the work platform is to be used to carry materials up to the high point, as the center of gravity may shift.

Cherry picker operators are required to undertake training, but they should also be familiar with the make and model of the machine they’re operating, as the controls can vary. Daily inspections and regular servicing should be carried out to ensure the cherry picker is working properly and safely.

Safety tips

Falling while working at height is the biggest reason for serious injury and death.  But with care and the correct training, the risk of falling can be lowered. Cherry pickers are a safe option when working up high, provided you follow these essential safety tips:

  1. Check above and below

Before starting work, check the ground on which the cherry picker will be positioned and check the space above your head. The ground must be as level as possible because, when in use, the extra weight on the platform plus any movement of materials could cause the cherry picker to tip over.

Check above for any wires, a ceiling or any other structures that may be lower than you think. Crush injuries are not uncommon – it’s easy for operators to misjudge the height and rise too high. If a cherry picker is being used to cut tree branches, it’s important not to stretch and lean over the railings. It only takes one moment of indiscretion, and an accident may occur.

  1. Don’t try to be a hero

When you’re working on the platform high up, everything can seem very safe and secure, and there’s a temptation to lean over too far or get too close to wires or structure above.

Don’t be a hero – this is dangerous and unnecessary. Instead, play it safe and stay within the parameters of your harness and the railed platform.

  1. Carry out a risk assessment

Before any job at height, a full risk assessment should be carried out. Jobs involving cherry pickers involve a human element and humans can do the most stupid things!

People standing below talking to workers above might distract them from working safely at height and inadvertently cause an accident. The best way to avoid any mishap is to keep people who are not involved in the job away from the vicinity of the cherry picker. And make sure everyone working on or around the picker is concentrating on the task at hand and not messing about!

  1. Training is key

Safety precautions and operating procedures will be pointless if the person using the equipment is unfamiliar with them. Working at height on a ladder or a static tower is very different from working on a moveable platform, so training is vital and must be given to all those who’ll be using, or may be called upon to use, a cherry picker.

There are a variety of IPAF-accredited training courses available, IPAF being the International Powered Access Federation that promotes the safe and effective use of powered access equipment worldwide.

Of course, it’s in everyone’s best interests that all cherry picker workers, even those who may only use an elevating work platform from time to time, complete the course and keep up to date with all the health and safety requirements. That way, everyone working on the ground or working up high should be kept safe.

About the Author: 

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer working alongside MC Property Maintenance, who were consulted for some of the information provided in this article.

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