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What Is a Scissor Lift? EVERYTHING You Need to Know

Scissor lift is a movable hydraulic powered platform that made to rise personnel
and equipment in a vertical path to access difficult-to-reach areas in order to enable operators to complete their jobs faster and more securely without setup time of any other equipment, such as scaffolding or a tower, and without any concern for balance while using a ladder.

The main advantages of a scissor lift over ladder or scaffolding are safety and speed. With a ladder, there is always be a probability that you can fall off it easily while concentrating on your work, or if the ladder feet slip you may have a broken leg or arm or even worse, a broken neck. With a scissor lift, you have four wheels and potentially outriggers to plant into the ground to make it extra safe. While a common scaffolding system needs a lot of time and workers to setup and move from a spot to another.

Check out this comparison: Scissor Lift VS Scaffold: Which Platform is The Best?


The name - scissor lift - is inspired by the shape of the steel supporting beams under the work platform, which are hinged with pivot points to make the assembly looks like several sets of connected scissor blades, as they move up and down, they perform an open-close motion similar to scissors, so we called it a Scissor Lift.

Scissor lift is widely utilized and capable of lifting SIGNIFICANT loads, up to 2500 pounds, safely and efficiently, thanks to its mechanism that uses linked, folding in the form of criss-cross X pattern which knew as a pantograph or scissor mechanism

Criss-crossed beams that elongate as the platform is elevated are the basic feature of scissor lift that distinguishes it visually from any other equipment used to work in the air.

The up motion is done by applying pressure on the outside of the lowest set of supports that causes elongation to the crossing pattern and moving the work platform vertically. 

Scissor lift is basically designed to move only up and down. However, some scissor lift platforms have  fitted with an extending deck to enable closer access to the required work area in order to reduce vertical-only movement limitation

You can find more details about scissor lift mechanism and how it works here:
How Does Scissor Lift Work?


Scissor Lift Joystick
Scissor lift has a very simple user interface. A joystick with a toggle is responsible for controlling the movement of rising or lowering the platform.

Driving and steering of the scissor lift is also available by using the same single joystick, you just need to flip the switch.

Many scissor lifts incorporate a safety mechanism to prevent uncontrolled sudden descent like the emergency stop button in both base and platform.

Want more ?
Click here: How to Operate Electric Scissor Lift Like a PRO!

Types of Scissor lifts

Scissor lift is classified as aerial work platform (AWP), elevated work platform (EWP) and mobile  elevated work platform (MEWP).It's typically fitted with wheels allowing it to be relocated. 

Scissor lift usually comes with a battery-operated motor or gas-powered engine depending on the type of the scissor lift and where it will be used.

Electric Scissor Lift

Electric scissor lift is typically utilize 6V batteries that are stored in a maintenance panel along with a recharging cord at the bottom of the lift which often used as an indoor aerial work platform with non-marking tiers, no fumes or emissions to worry about, charging stations should be available and batteries are easy to maintain. All these factors make it healthier for operators and safer for use indoors.

Electric Scissor Lift Batteries and Tiers 
Electric scissor lift is compact and maneuverable thanks to its front wheel hydraulic drive system and its 90-degree steering with zero inside turning radius that allows it to pivot around tight corners, with some models capable of climbing steep slopes up to 30% gradeability. 

If you are working in narrow areas like warehouses, an electric scissor lift should be the right choice. 

Rough Terrain Scissor Lift

Rough terrain scissor lift is designed specially for outdoor use and uneven rough surfaces. It's usually powered by a diesel engine, and unlike electric scissor lifts, rough terrain scissor lift can emit significant amount of fumes.

Rough Terrain Scissor Lift Tires
Rough terrain scissor lift has gradeability up to 50% and often comes with basic ground control wiring and extensive diagnostics built into the machine to simplify maintenance and service processes.

Rough terrain scissor lift usually have four-wheel-drive system and reinforced tires that makes it possible to use it on a variety of different surfaces, but also these tires can leave marks, so they are not suitable for use on finished floors.

If you are working on uneven surfaces like ungraded construction sites, a rough terrain scissor lift should be the right choice.

Ranges [height-size-capacity]

Although you can ask manufacturers to build a custom scissor lift for your work, there is a wide range of standard specifications of scissor lifts in the market and rental companies that vary in height, sizecapacity and gradeability depending on the type and application to be used.


Depending on the model, scissor lifts extend from 10 to 60 feet verticallyHowever, most popular scissor lifts have working heights that range from 20 to 40 feet.

Rough terrain scissor lifts generally reach higher than electric ones, with common working heights between 38 and 50 feet.


Scissor lift platforms range from 2 to 4 feet wide, and from 5 to 10 feet long. However, rough terrain scissor lifts usually provide more work space than the electric models. In general, larger platforms will provide more accessibility for multiple workers.

Most scissor lifts come with a roll-out platform deck that provides a horizontal access of 4 to 6 feet, enabling the operator to safely extend into a space when the lift itself is positioned directly against a wall or any other obstacle.

Scissor lift is small enough to be stored in an office, basement or under stairs, it is extremely easy to store. A back storeroom or anywhere can comfortably house two or more scissor lifts.


Capacity is the maximum allowable weight that the scissor lift is designed to safely support. In general, scissor lifts can carry from 500 to 2,500 lbs and the most common lifting capacities range from 500 to 1,000 lbs.

The heavy-duty platforms, such as rough terrain scissor lifts, carry weights in a general range between 1,000 and 2,500 pounds, while electric models have a maximum capacity of 900 pounds. 


Gradeability is scissor lift's ability of climbing slopes safely. Most electric scissor lifts have 25% to 30% gradeability, while rough terrain models have gradeability rang from 30% to 50%.

Type Work Height Platform Height     Width     Weight capacity Gradeability
Electric Scissor Lift 18’ : 38’ 12’ : 32’ 2.5’ : 3.8’ 500 : 900 lbs 25% : 30%
Rough Terrain Scissor Lift 26’ : 56’ 20’ : 50’ 5.6’ : 7.6’ 1,000 : 2,500 lbs 30% : 50%


The scissor lift is usually used as a work platform, because of its stability and relatively large platform especially when several workers must be lifted, as well as for jobs that require large, high capacity work platforms. But the main advantage of using a scissor lift is that you gain a great deal of height and have a perfect maneuverability in small spaces.

When you think of a scissor lift, you may think of specific uses such as wall painting or power line repairs. However,  scissor lift has endless uses in diverse industries and job site applications for an equipment that doesn’t do much more than go straight up and down.

Scissor lift is popular with industrial, construction and electrical work and emergency services at heights and roofing. In general, scissor lift can handle any application that would normally require a ladder or scaffolding including:


Scissor Lift in Construction Field
Scissor lift provides a significant aid thanks to its flexible solutions for construction environments that may surround some complicated projects. 

It's may be used for laying bricks, pouring concrete or used for tools delivery. It's productivity makes it ideal for building renovation and general contracting.

Building maintenance

In some buildings like hospitals, schools, libraries and airports, building maintenance require working in a high level of the air, such as accessing utilities, changing lights, banners and signs, and many other tasks. 

Scissor lift is a common choice inside buildings since it helps operator accomplish tasks fast and safely. It is mobile, self propelled and can be independently moved from one area of a building to another without need for any floor assistant. 


Scissor lift isn't actually made to deliver things but in shipping and delivery companies that include tasks such as reaching to high shelves and carrying heavy loads that can't be lifted by hand scissor lift plays a key role. 


In food processing, chemical processing, Brick laying and general manufacturing, a scissor lift can improve operating efficiency by quickly and safely reaching high levels and lifting heavy loads.

Overhead signs

From individual establishments to property managers with multiple sites, the world is full of signs that change by days. You will often see highway workers using a scissor lift to install or replace freeway signs. It's also used when hanging commercial signs or ads on buildings and other standing objects. Scissor lift is also used in storage facilities, parking lots and utilities.


When storage is the main game, every vertical and horizontal inch of space must be used efficiently. Store and warehouse shelves are tall, and products are stacked up to save space. Investing in a scissor lift for warehouses can open new areas for use and can save a lot of wasted money. 


Rail yard jobs such as loading and fitting into narrow spaces to reach up high require the use of a scissor lift every day.


From the big to small stores , many retailers find themselves relying on the scissor lift to move products around store and warehouse shelves, and to change high overhead lights or repair ceiling and more. Scissor lift can respond to the changing needs and products.


Trucking distribution centers would struggle without a scissor lift. Truck and rail facilities around the country and the world have goods to reach.Scissor lift is a very safe and quick option when loading and unloading large trucks.

And other unusual applications that include:

Underside inspections

When repairing some vehicles, pieces of machinery or other machines, it’s often necessary to have underside access. Special types of scissor lifts, called automotive lifts, are specifically designed to lift cars, trucks and other vehicles.

Animal rescue

Yes, they really use scissor lifts to get cats down out of trees and it happens more often than you might think. It’s safer than using a ladder. Also, scissor lift can reach higher and access parts of trees ladders can’t reach.

Sports venue setup

In sports arenas, a scissor lift provides safe access when making repairs to overhead lighting and scoreboards. Game officials often use them to measure the 10-ft. height of basketball hoops.


When monitoring large crowds, police and security firms often use a scissor lift to get an eye view of the situation.

Thrills and chills

Scissor lift is even used for roller-coaster maintenance and repairs and some repairs are performed on walkways built into the rides. Scissor lift provides safe access to the hard-to-reach areas that can’t be accessed from the walkways.

Scissor could be much aid in fixing roll over doors or other industrial material that is positioned high up, maintaining and clean guttering, window cleaning inspecting roofs, trees and bushes trimming, and so on. 
Garage Door Fixing, Using Electric Scissor Lift

Scissor lift can also be customized for specific applications, such as welding, plumbing, and firefighting.

Scissor lift has flourished in these fields due to being simple to operate, it has an easy up and down control system due to its single-axis construction. However, You need to be able to position the base directly under the area you plan to work with.

Basically, huge corporate operations as well as small businesses and individual company owners find that a scissor lift could help accomplish their elevated tasks. Today, many jobs require scissor lifts and scissor lift operators. If you see your job description or place of work above, a scissor lift could significantly improve the efficiency and safety of your work.

What is the best scissor lift to operate?

Most scissor lifts are built with the same basic structure, but they vary when it comes to power, mobility, height, safety features and more. Specify features you want is the main key to find the right scissor lift which fit your needs.

If you need to buy a scissor lift, you should look for brands like Genie, Skyjack, JLG, Hy-Brid Lifts, Snorkel, Haulotte, and Up-Right. They are the industry bosses in designing scissor lifts and will be able to match your needs with the right machine. If you are only going to use a scissor lift occasionally, you can rent rather than buy.

Be sure that a lot of companies can provide you a scissor lift with a good price for sale or rent, but this doesn't mean that quality of the machine or the customer service is that good.

You can find out more in: How to choose the RIGHT Scissor Lift for your job


On 28th of December 1963, Charles L. Larson registered the birth of his baby (the scissor lift mechanism) by filing for a patent that was finally granted on April 19, 1966. Announcing that he is the father of the scissor lift, which started to collect its own glory, by making work sites are safe and more productive since 1973 when JLG introduced it to the market.

As a result, scissor lift has become very popular since its introduction as retail and wholesale support machinery until today.

What's NEXT ?!

Get ready to learn: How to Operate Electric Scissor Lift Like a PRO!

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