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Kevin Forestell
February 6, 2020

The Boom Lift

Aerial lift platforms raised up to different heights with palm trees around them

What Is A Boom Lift?

A type of aerial lift, boom lifts allow for both horizontal and vertical reach. They are a helpful piece of equipment for outdoor jobs, industrial tasks and construction projects. Boom lifts allow for a higher reach than scissor lifts but typically have a smaller work platform.

What Does A Boom Lift Do?

Boom lifts make reaching difficult places and heights easier than ever. Providing a more secure workspace at high heights than with a standard ladder or man lift, it provides a safe way to get work done at any elevation.

Articulating boom lifts together on a grassy lot in front of a couple buildings

The Boom Lift: The Basics

The basic components of a boom lift are a platform or bucket with a long arm that is attached to a grounded base. The arm is controlled by a hydraulic lift system that allows it to extend out and up to carry people or materials to new heights. 

There are two main types of boom lifts: articulating boom lifts and telescopic boom lifts. Articulating boom lifts have arms that bend while telescopic boom lifts have straight arms. Telescopic boom lifts have higher weight capacities while the bending ability of an articulating boom lift makes it easier to move the bucket around objects.

What Is The Difference Between a Boom and Scissor Lift?

Another type of lift is the scissor lift. The difference between the two is that a scissor lift moves strictly up and down while a boom allows for a forward reach, and – depending on the arm type – can provide more flexible movement at a height. 

Common Uses of a Boom Lift

Whenever a project calls for work at elevated heights, contractors choose a boom lift. Increased stability, easy mobility, and higher capability offer increased safety for workers working at heights and can help make a project both safer and more efficient.

Boom lifts can be a helpful tool when doing projects in the air. These projects include but are not limited to:

  • Erecting scaffolding
  • Fruit picking on farms
  • Painting walls and ceilings
  • Lighting work
  • Hanging signs

Articulating boom lift being used to clean windows on a commercial building

Choosing The Best Lift For Your Job

Boom lifts are best used when something higher than a forklift is needed. They can be fitted with tires, treads, or tracks and have two-wheel or four-wheel drive. They can also be used outside or inside and fueled by either diesel, gas, electricity, or a mix of hybrid power.

Boom lifts also come in a variety of sizes, platform heights, and boom capabilities. There are straight and articulating boom lifts in a wide range of platform heights. Many lifts have self-leveling capabilities so that operators can set them up and start using them in a short amount of time.

What Questions Should You Ask Before Renting a Boom Lift?

Asking a variety of questions can help you find the best lift for the job. A few examples of questions to ask and things to consider are:

  • What type of movement do you need?
  • How high do you need to go?
  • How many people and how much material do you need to move?
  • What are the jobsite conditions?
  • What kind of power source capability do you have on site?
  • What are the space restrictions of the jobsite and work area?

The answer to these questions will point at the platform height, boom type, and whether it should be tracked or wheeled with two or four-wheel drive. This helps contractors to determine whether a boom or scissor lift is the better option to rent.

Find the average rental rates of boom lifts near you. Get pricing report.

What Are the Two Types of Boom Lifts?

A boom refers to the arm-like piece that connects from the platform to the grounded base. It is an extensible crane-like arm that uses hydraulics to extend and contract to achieve the desired height. There are two distinct types of boom that a boom lift can have: A telescopic boom or articulating boom.

A Telescopic Boom Lift

Also called a straight or stick boom lift, a telescopic boom lift features a single-hinged extendable arm that can stretch out across the distance. A telescopic boom lift is best used for work in open spaces or on rectangular structures.

A telescopic boom lift on a country-side farm

An Articulating Boom Lift

Also called a knuckle boom lift, an articulating boom lift features a variety of “arms” which can move the platform into tight spaces or around obstacles. An articulating boom lift is best used for complex structures or in tight and crowded spaces.

An articulating boom lift reaching out to the sky on a cloudy day

Current Manufacturers Of Boom Lifts

Many companies have joined Ted and JLG to start manufacturing their own lifts. Skyjack and Genie are among the two most popular but there are other brands as well.

JLG logo


JLG was founded by John L. Grove and since selling their first boom lift in the 1970s, the company has taken charge of lift innovation. Since then the company has expanded into scissor lifts, telehandlers, and trailers.

Their lifts are not limited to construction and labour industries but are also used in airports, convention centers, fire halls, and military bases among others. From 20 feet to the massive 185 foot lift there is a JLG lift for any project.

JLG boom lift with construction worker on platform

Skyjack logo


Founded in 1985, Skyjack entered the lift industry with scissor lifts. The company was acquired by Linamar Corp in 2002. In 2007 and 2008 the company got two telehandler lines from Carelift Equipment and Volvo respectively.

The company now holds over 30% of the global boom lift market and is the most popular scissor lift manufacturer in the world. Skyjack now produces both articulating and telescopic boom lifts as well as telehandlers and scissor lifts.

A skyjack articulating boom lift on construction site with lots of people and apartments around

Genie man lift logo


A brand under the Terex family, Genie was first founded in 1966. Bud Bushnell purchased the rights to a lift that used compressed air to raise and lower the platform. Customers were impressed by the “magic” of the machine and the Genie was born. 

During the economic downturn of the early 2000s, Genie started seeking a partner with shared values to help grow the business. This is when Genie Industries became a brand under Terex. Today Genie manufactures all kinds of aerial lifts including man-lifts, stick boom and articulated boom lifts, light towers, scissor lifts, and telehandlers.

A Genie articulating boom lift with construction worker fixing window on a roof
Image borrowed fromFor Construction Pros

Snorkel man lift logo


With the mission to achieve world-class products, safety, service and value, Snorkel was founded by a man named Art Moore in 1959. The very first Snorkel lift was used by firefighters and allowed them to reach heights up to 85 feet with their hoses. Now Snorkel lifts are sold and serviced across the globe. They have five manufacturing plants and over 200 distribution locations in over 50 countries worldwide.

The Snorkel A46JRT came in third for the Roads & Bridges Contractor’s Choice Award in both 2017 and 2018 and proudly participates in the aerial lift industry in a number of associations.

A snorkel straight boom lift with construction worker on construction site

Image borrowed fromSnorkel.

Potential Hazards & Safety Protocols

A lift takes the operator and worker high off the ground. Falls are one of the fatal four accidents recognized by OSAH in construction. Working at heights should be taken seriously and a worker should never become too comfortable working off the ground. 

The boom machine itself poses potential hazardous situations and, like with any kind of heavy equipment, should be handled with care. Never operate a boom lift if it is not safe to do so and always wear a safety harness. 

There are a few common hazards that are associated with boom lifts aside from falling: they are tipping, pinning, dropped objects, and electricity.

Dangers of Tipping a Boom Lift

As soon as a machine raises material – or in this case people – up into the air, the center of gravity is thrown off. Boom lifts are made to reach out and lift up materials and people and are incredibly stable machines. However, this does not mean that they are immune to tipping. 

To avoid tipping a boom lift, always survey the job site before beginning work and test to ensure the terrain is solid, especially after rain or a storm. Wheels can become stuck or sink which poses the threat of tipping the machine or knocking off the operator. Never exceed the maximum weight and range of a boom lift and always use personal protective equipment (PPE). 

person clipping themselves to a boom lift for safety

Dangers of Being Pinned or Crushed on a Boom Lift

Boom lifts are created to take operators to new heights but there are new kinds of obstacles that live in the rafters. Overhead beams, moving against walls and working under ceilings can create the hazard of pinching. 

To avoid pinching, always keep arms and legs inside the safety railings. Maneuver the bucket slowly and never work along.

Dangers of Dropped Objects on a Boom Lift

When working at a height, it becomes your responsibility to keep those under you safe as well. Dropping a hammer from above can cause serious injury to those below a boom lift platform. 

To avoid injuring those below you always secure equipment and materials when working at heights. Use all the safety features and tools available and do not skip steps to “save time”. Always put safety first.

Dangers of Working With Electricity on Boom Lifts

Working at heights can often mean working on electricity projects or near wires. Electricity is silent and can be very deadly. Electric workers are aware of the dangers but those not used to working close to electricity may overlook or not be fully aware of the dangers. Look at site plans ahead of time to analyze the location of electric wires. Always treat wires like they are

Other Ways to Stay Safe On A Lift

Examples of other steps to take to ensure safe operation of a boom lift are:

  • Knowing where the lift emergency stop and lowering measure is and how to use it
  • Never operate a lift alone
  • Always wear safety harnesses and other PPE
  • Secure all tools when working on a raised platform
  • Never work a boom lift with another worker standing under the platform
  • Use a boom lift only if the base is on even and stable ground
  • Survey the area up in the air where the operator will be working for exposed wires and other potential hazards
  • Request proper training and never operate a boom life if you do not know how to do so

The History of the Boom Lift

Ladder or scaffolding used to be the only way to get to new heights. Scaffolding is not easily or quickly erected, nor is it a good option for a quick project. Ladders do not offer the same work platform and are better suited for climbing from level to level over standing and working on. Either option was never the safest or more efficient. 

The very first boom lift was invented by a Canadian orchard worker who was working to move from tree to tree to collect fruit. His workers needed a tool that was safer and quicker than a ladder. Walter E. “Ted” Thornton-Trump attached a bucket to the end of a double-boom hydraulic arm and put it on a wheeled platform. In 1951, Ted’s “Giraffe” was born.

Old black and white cherry picker with a person on the platform
Image borrowed from South Okanagan Photos

The term “cherry picker” came from this invention. The new boom was attached to a tractor and pulled along by the other machine. It was five years later that Ted invented the first self-powered Giraffe. From this original invention came 14 other models of lifts. Ted invented them all with specific purposes in mind and were specialized for firefighting and orchard work among other industries.

Ted’s concept was built upon by John L. Grove who then went on to found the company JLG in 1973. John went on to patent 60 additional designs for boom lifts and expanded the market into construction and other labour industries. In 2015, JLG introduced the world’s largest lift. Able to carry up to 1,000 lbs, the 185-foot boom could reach the same heights as a 17-story building.

Since then boom lifts have grown to become a staple in many industries. A multi-use tool that brings workers to new heights, a lift is a helpful equipment piece for a variety of projects.  

150 foot telescopic boom lifts extended to maximum height in the sky
Image borrowed fromKHL

The Boom Lift: FAQ

What are boom lifts used for?

Boom lifts are used to lift people and materials up into the air. Depending on the boom type – straight or articulating – it can also be used to maneuver obstacles and around corners. A boom lift is mainly used to reach out and over as opposed to a scissor lift which is mainly used to lift up. 

What size of boom lift do I need?

Boom lifts are categorized by platform height and boom type. The “size” of the boom lift will be determined by how high a platform should reach and whether a straight or articulating boom is a better fit for the job site.

How do boom lifts get their name?

Originally called a Giraffe and then a cherry picker, the term “boom lift” is derived from the resemblance of the machine to an arm on the human body. A “boom” is a term used to describe a variety of long beams that extend outwards or at an angle. A “boom” is a beam on a sailboat’s mast as well as a term used to describe a movable arm on a tv or movie set that carries a microphone or camera. 

The term for both TV and for the boom lift most likely comes from the sailboat origin. That term was established in the mid 16th century. The function of a moving and rotating beam or arm most likely transferred from sailing ships to everything else. The first use of a boom mic is noted on the site of Beggars of life in 1928. Since the boom lift was invented after this, the progression from sailboat boom to boom mic to a boom lift can only be assumed. 

Can boom lifts tip?

A boom lift can tip just like any kind of heavy machine or vehicle. An operator should always take proper precautions and follow safety protocols to ensure that the machine remains stable and safe at all times.

Can I rent a boom lift?

Boom lifts can be rented. Search for boom lifts on DOZR to find available equipment near you.

How long can I rent a boom lift for?

Boom lifts can be rented for daily rentals all the way up to months or multiple months. Basically, boom lifts can be rented as long as you need one. 

How much does it cost to rent a boom lift?

Find the average rental rates for boom lifts in your area. Get pricing report

The price to rent a boom lift varies depending on the supplier of the rental, where you request the rental equipment and the length of the rental. Use the DOZR search platform to view all price options in one place and with one search. Or give our sales team a call at 1-844-997-0150 to get some help finding the best boom lift for your project

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Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
Kevin Forestell is CEO of DOZR and one of the co-founders. Kevin first got started as an entrepreneur when he founded Forestell Landscaping right after graduating from University. His love and passion for the industry and desire to help solve an equipment problem that contractors faced every day is what brought the founding team to start DOZR. Kevin is proud of the level of efficiency brought to the industry through DOZR and hopes that DOZR will help change the standard way equipment is rented.
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