When it comes to picking tree fruit, powered "orchard lifts" are popular as alternatives to orchard ladders—mainly because such lifts can increase productivity. Many orchards have used these boom-supported, self-elevating work platforms for years. However, the agricultural workers who operate them—especially those using them for the first time—may not be aware of the risks involved. These risks include the potential for operators to inadvertently activate the wrong control and the even greater risk for lifts to tip on sloped or soft ground.
Among other requirements, orchard lift operators must demonstrate operating competency to a qualified supervisor or instructor. Parts 13 and 28 of WorkSafeBC's Occupational Health and Safety Regulation set out the requirements for elevating work platforms, including orchard lifts.
Safe work practices:
- Establish and enforce written safe work procedures for the operation of orchard lifts, including following the manufacturer's instructions for setting up lifts on flat, stable ground. Train operators in these procedures and keep records of all training.
- Do not operate an orchard lift on sloping ground unless the following requirements are met—
- the manufacturer provides specific instructions for operating on slopes
- a braking system can restrain the lift under any conditions of use or the lift has wheels that won't turn unless driven
- the lift is equipped with a device to warn operators that the lift is not level
- Ensure that operators are properly supervised, and assess each operator's performance on a regular basis.
- Identify each control with a label to remind operators of their functions and to help prevent the wrong control being activated.
- Maintain orchard lifts—including their brake systems—as specified by the manufacturer or a professional engineer. Maintain the chain drives on some models of orchard lifts to prevent those lifts from moving suddenly.
- Ensure that maintenance and repair records are available for review by operators.
- Ensure that the manufacturer's operating manual is available.
WorkSafeBC has a wide range of health and safety information. For assistance and information on workplace health and safety, call toll-free within BC 1-888-621-SAFE (7233) or visit our web site at WorkSafeBC.com.