low-level lifts

There’s nothing magical about the number 19, yet there’s a misconception that general contracting projects like framing, painting, and installing HVAC, electrical systems, or drywall require a 19-foot scissor lift. But there is more to choosing the best lift for your job than just how high it can go.
Although low-level scissor lifts come in just below that 19-foot height, they go above and beyond their size in terms of capabilities. The only thing these lifts are typically missing is the number 19. However, with close examination of the job, the specs and the features of the low-level access lifts, you’ll quickly find that their labels don’t do them justice. Low-level access lifts are designed to increase safety, efficiency, ease of use and convenience, giving users the ability to complete 90 percent of the jobs typically reserved for 19-foot lifts. An added benefit is that, because of their size and maneuverability, the low-level lifts can be the first piece of equipment on the site and the last to leave.
Debunking the Magical 19 myth takes nothing more than a clear understanding of the difference between lift height and working height. A majority of jobs completed on any construction project or in any maintenance or industrial application occur in that 18- to 20-foot working height range. Lift heights of low-level access lifts typically are from 8 to 14 feet, but 6 feet need to be added to calculate the working height. Therefore, the working height for most low-level access lifts is between 14 and 20 feet. While they are slightly lower than the working height of a 19-foot lift, they typically offer more in terms of speed, versatility, safety, and lower lifecycle cost.
Nineteen-footers may lift you a little higher, but closer examination could reveal those larger lifts are actually holding you down.
One of the key factors to consider when evaluating a lift beyond just height is working space. For contractors, ample space for working and carrying tools is critical to efficiency and safety. Whether hanging drywall or installing HVAC, extra space and capacity allows for an extra person, as well as easy access to all the materials needed to efficiently accomplish the task. This translates to significant time savings because fewer trips up and down are necessary.
Nineteen-foot lifts typically offer an average capacity of 500 pounds, resulting in diminished capacity for drywall, ductwork, or other materials. Many low-level lifts have two-person occupancy but also can hold more weight—up to 750 pounds on some models. Again, the results are fewer trips up and down and faster project completion.
Platform sizes on low-level lifts range from 25-30 inches wide by 60-70 inches long. For even more room, extensions add up to 36 inches of platform length.
A scissor lift that can handle the weight and capacity of two workers plus all the tools certainly is a productivity benefit. Finding a feature that also provides easy access for those workers and their materials not only can enhance productivity, but safety, as well. The potential for increased safety and productivity makes entry height a critical aspect to consider.
Entry heights on 19-foot lifts can be as high as 42 inches, which makes getting onto them a challenge, especially when carrying tools and supplies. Often, accidents and injuries occur during entry, and they equate to lost time and increased workers’ compensation costs. Combine the increased risk with a lower capacity and more trips up and down, and more entries and exits from the lift, and the injury risk exponentially increases. Even without a major accident, the repetitive motion of getting on and off the lift while carrying heavy materials can cause repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) in the knees or back. Some lifts feature a small ladder, which increases the danger even more because it makes access challenging and stepping off downright treacherous.
Low-level scissor lifts are designed to cater to the contractor and maintenance markets with entry heights as low as 20 inches—only one step—which makes getting on and off the platform easier and safer. The lower height reduces the potential for all of those injuries and costs. Users get even easier access with full swing gates. They can step onto the platform with tools and materials in hand instead of ducking under and moving materials up and over bars or chains, which can lead to neck and back strain.
Getting jobs done quickly and without causing inadvertent damage is key to meeting time constraints and staying on top of the bottom line. The last thing a contractor wants to do is spend time and money on repairs that easily could have been prevented.
Heavier lifts have higher concentrated wheel loads that can damage delicate flooring like tile, mezzanine floors, and raised floors. Also, because of their weight, they typically can’t access work on freshly poured concrete until it has fully cured, which could take up to 30 days and delay projects. Since taller, 19-foot lifts can weigh as much as 3,300 pounds, the risk of causing damage to floors in finished spaces like hospitals and campuses is greater. Low-level lifts can weigh as little as 600 pounds, and some feature dual front wheels that help disperse the weight and wheel-load concentration. Together, those aspects allow operators to tackle projects on freshly poured concrete sooner and access jobs on delicate flooring with no damage.
To further prevent damage in finished spaces, many units also feature non-marking wheels that prevent scuffs on hard surfaces. Some low-level lifts also are equipped with counter-rotating wheels; while one wheel rotates down, the other rotates up. This motion reduces the friction point so the lift can maneuver over carpet without causing tears. ■
Look for part 2 of this article in the next issue of MCS as hydraulics and maneuvering take center stage.
About the Author: Justin Kissinger is the marketing manager for Custom Equipment, Inc., which engineers and manufactures all-purpose Hy-Brid Lifts’ brand of scissor lifts in electric self-propelled and push-around models. Contact him at 262.644.1300 or email justin@customequipmentlifts.com. For more information, visit www.hybridlifts.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2017
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