Three places you would use a scissor lift

Scissor lifts are machines which lift a platform you stand on up in to the air safely. Underneath the platform are a set of arms that cross over each other, like scissors, which give it a distinctive look and the name - 'scissor' lift. They have wheels and are usually motorised, so you can drive them to where you need to be lifted up. The technical term for machines like these is 'Mobile Elevated Work Platform', or MEWP.

They are a useful way of being able lift a person in to the air to work, with the minimum of safety training. Some scissor lifts are small and can fit through very small spaces, so are perfect for working within warehouses or shops where access can be tight. Other models have four-wheel drive and can be used outside on lumpy ground or slopes, so they're good for building sites where the ground has been disrupted by machinery.

Three use cases for scissor lifts:

1. Shop work - changing lightbulbs and signage

In warehouse sized stores such as supermarkets and DIY shops the ceilings are very high and changing lightbulbs and signage becomes a safety issue. Staff members need to be able to reach the fixtures and carry out quite fiddly work, while still being safe.

Once upon a time, an A-frame ladder would be used to reach the fixtures. These are hard to stay safe on as they need to be placed correctly, remain undisturbed while someone is up on the ladder, which can mean more staff issued with holding the ladder and ensuring no one bumps in to it if the store is busy. Reaching out from a ladder that is not perfectly positioned is quite dangerous, as it is easy to fall off.

More recently, movable wheeled steps are used for this sort of work. These give a wider platform to stand on and are safer than ladders, but are often very long and hard to negotiate around tight, narrow areas. They are also a fixed height, which makes them inflexible when displays can be at many heights.

For larger stores, scissor lifts are the answer. They can be adjusted to any height, and depending on the model can easily stretch up to 17 metres, although for machines small enough to fit in to the narrowest areas, models that reach up to 4.5 to 5 metres are more popular.

Within stores, a scissor lift can safely raise staff up to work on fixtures and lights, while giving them a very solid platform to work from. They have space to move, a railing to keep them from falling off, and depending on the work, a harness locking them to the machine to prevent them falling from height.

The lift can be positioned directly beneath the fixture to be changed, raised up to the perfect height, and the work completed with the minimum of staff and hassle. Once the work is done, the lift can be collapsed down and moved out of the way very easily.

If the store has lots of displays over shelving, scissor lifts are available with extendable platforms, so once raised up the platform can be extended out over the stock, and the staff member can reach up from them safely rather than stretching out over a railing in a dangerous manner.

2. Office buildings - cleaning windows

For large, glass-fronted offices, a scissor lift can be the perfect aid to keeping them clean. They do not need to rest against the building - so no marks from the top of ladders. They can stretch very high - up to 17 metres for the larger models. And they allow the easy and safe carrying of water and cleaning materials - they can be left on the platform rather than needing to be carried up a ladder.

Many scissor lifts can be moved - slowly - while their platform is raised in the air. This allows a cleaner to move to the next section of window without having to return to the ground.

Whilst a scissor lift is a higher investment than ladders, the speed and safety with which it can be used makes it well worth buying for offices where having a clean, smart frontage is a must.

3. Roof inspection and maintenance

A common use for scissor lifts is giving access to roofs and gutters quickly and safely. Overhanging roofs can be inspected quickly, and problems can be investigated from solid footing.

They are also often used for clearing guttering, another job that's much easier when you have the ability to move the platform from within the 'cage' at the top of the platform, without having to descend to the ground.


The top manufacturers of scissor lifts are Skyjack, Haulotte, Towermatic, Upright and Power Tower.

Buying or renting a scissor lift

If you would like to hire or buy a scissor lift in the UK, Facelift Access have a wide range of machines available, and can help you select the right model for the work you need to do.

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