Working with Cherry Pickers

Cherry pickers are the machines that lift people in to the air to change light bulbs on lamp posts, work on power lines, clean windows, inspect roofs, and lots of other jobs where using a ladder would be unsafe, and using scaffolding would take a long time.

Why get trained to use a Cherry Picker?

Work, pure and simple.

While these machines aren't hard to use, there's a lot to think about - is the vehicle parked safely? Are you lifting up safely - missing any cables and trees? Is your safety harness fitted right and connected to the cage? Have you got a machine that can lift you high enough, or far enough out safely? You don't want to topple over and have an accident.

All of these questions, and more, come up when you're working high up. They're all answerable, and a lot of the time the answers are very simple - yes or no. However, not everyone wants to learn how to use a cherry picker, and not everyone can remember everything they need to so they can operate one safely (hint: the answer to that is have a simple checklist!)

So if you learn how to use one, you can get work using them for companies, either as part of your general knowledge and skills as a contractor, or as someone specifically working at height all the time.

How do I get trained to use a cherry picker?

You do an IPAF operator course. IPAF - the International Powered Access Federation - designs the training courses that make sure you're safe, and if you pass the course you get one of their cards which details what you're trained to work on - static machines, ones that can move when you're up in the air, van mounted ones, and so on.

There are lots of different cherry picker operator training courses. If your work is sending you to get trained, you'll be doing the specific course which covers their sort of machine. If you're a contractor and paying for training yourself, go for a course that is quite general, i.e. a 1b Static boom Truck/Van mount or a 3b Self propelled boom, that'll have the best chance of making you appealing to work to site managers.

What does training entail?

Most courses are a day long. They include a lecture or training video on how to be aware of what you're doing when using the cherry picker and in predicting the situation you're going to get in to when manoeuvring it, a test on the theory, actual work with the kind of machine your course covers (i.e. a cherry picker mounted on a light truck), then a practical test to make sure you're applying what you know right and are safe using the machine. The course can be quicker if you're already experienced and have previously passed an IPAF course.

If you pass, you get issued an PAL card - a Powered Access License - with a certificate for the course you've done. If you do multiple courses, they update your card to show your extra qualifications.

When you go to work on site, the site foreman or inspector will need to see your PAL card before you go on their machines.

Keeping your training up

PAL cards last five years. If you're regularly working on access platforms like cherry pickers during that time and fill out your log books, you will be able to renew your card. If you do not work on platforms very often, or haven't for a long time before the renewal date, you'll need to re-take an operator training course to keep certified.

If you're interested in learning to use a cherry picker, check out the courses here and if you're not sure which one is right for you, give them a ring and they'll help you get trained.

Alan has spent many years working high up in the air, all across the UK. He'd like to tell you some of the things he's seen through fifth-floor windows, but she's sworn him to secrecy.