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When you need to reach beyond your wing-span you need an aerial work platform. These devices go by many different names; Aerial Work Platform (AWP), Elevating Work Platform (EWP), Scissor Lift, Mobile Elevating Work Platform(MEWP), Shooting Boom, Cherry Picker, Rough Terrain Forklift or Hotel Lift, just to name a few. No matter what you call them, they are all aerial devices designed to get specific jobs done by reaching inaccessible areas, usually at usually at unreachable heights.

Most lifting mechanisms are powered by either hydraulics or sometimes pneumatics. They can be equipped for specific tasks such as electrical outlets, compressed air for power tools or even be fitted to carry frames for window glass.

While aerial devices were once powered by either diesel or gasoline motors, electrically powered units are gaining in popularity, specifically for lightweight, indoor use where heavier equipment cannot be used. Still, most are used to for heavier use, like maintenance, construction and firefighters.

The “Cherry Picker” was originally designed for use in orchards, where a worker could use this AWP to gather fruit while doing minimal damage to the tree. While the name has become synonymous with AWPs of all types, it has never been used specifically for cherries!

A Scissor Lift is a platform that, typically, only moves vertically. The folding crisscross supports are what have coined the scissor lift term. They work by applying pressure to the outside of the lowest set of supports, ultimately raising the platform. Many scissor lifts now have a “bridge” platform, allowing the worker to get closer to their task.

One benefit of a scissor lift, is when it is powered either by hydraulics or pneumatics, it can descend by simply releasing the pressure. This is the main reason these power methods are preferred, they offer fail-safe option of returning the platform to the ground, simply by releasing a manual valve.

A hotel lift is generally powered by rack & pinion or screw threads. These lifts are usually limited in capacity and capability, and are used for smaller maintenance jobs.

Most AWPs are designed for temporary work, meaning that they have to be easily transported from site to site or from one job to the next within one worksite. For this reason, many times the jobs they are used for make it more cost-effective to rent or lease a unit, rather than to purchase one.

Manufacturers, such as JLG, have strict safety criteria for the operation of these specialized vehicles. Most manufacturers encourage training of every operator, pre-usage checks of the units and regular maintenance schedules. Work platforms are fitted with safety guard rails to surround the operator or passenger. They are also fitted to secure a harness to the lift to be worn by the operator(s). AWPs also have a lip around the platform so tools aren’t accidentally kicked off injuring a worker below.

Many AWPs come equipped with tilt sensors. These sensors will detect if the weight of a load is off balance, and will not allow the lift to raise beyond the safety point. Sensors will also refuse to elevate if the unit is on too much of an incline. Some models are equipped with counterweights which extend to offset the potential of tipping a machine.

Common sense and caution must be used when operating any kind of AWP near power lines or any other source of electricity. Some AWPs are equipped with fiberglass in order to reduce this hazard, but extreme caution must be used by the operator.

All AWPs are equipped with emergency stop buttons on the platform and at the base of the unit. Manually lowering the platform to safety is necessary in the event of an emergency.

For more information about AWPs, advice about renting or purchasing, how to get your staff properly trained on AWP operation, or learning about the options available to make your jobsite more safe and efficient, talk to your local Material Handling professionals.

In the Northeast, here is a list of Summit Handling Systems locations:

Connecticut & HQ

11 Defco Park Road

North Haven, CT 06473
Phone: 203-239-5351
Fax: 203-234-8090

Eastern CT

39 Murphy Road

Franklin, CT 06254

Phone: 860-642-4377
Fax: 860-642-4521


37 Ramah Circle

Agawam, MA 01001
Phone: 413-789-4537
Fax: 413-789-4361

NYC-Long Island

63 Mall Drive

Commack, NY 11725
Phone: 631-236-4466
Fax: 631-864-2382

Hudson Valley

2500 Route 208

Walden, NY. 12586
Phone: 845-764-8466
Fax: 845-522-8173

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