What’s The Right Height Access Equipment For My Construction Project?

What’s The Right Height Access Equipment For My Construction Project?

Using the appropriate height access equipment for your construction project is vital, but it can be tricky to know you’re selecting the right thing when you contact an access hire supplier.

If it’s the first time you’ve faced decisions about what height access equipment to hire or buy, it’s worth doing some prep work, so you have the right information ready when you contact an equipment supply group. An equipment supplier will usually be happy to answer your queries, but if you’ve done your prep, you can reduce the chance of hiring or buying the wrong thing, and save a lot of time.

In this article we want to make it easy for you by providing a bit of a checklist for access equipment hire. But first, let’s run through why hiring the right height access equipment matters, and what options are available.

Why does the right access equipment matter?

Some of these answers will be obvious, but let’s refresh ourselves on why it’s so important that you hire the right equipment for your height access job.

  • With the wrong piece of access equipment, you may not be able to complete the job. (If your equipment doesn’t reach where you need it to, it’s a misfire.) Each piece of equipment will have its own unique features, and be better suited to certain jobs than for others.
  • From a safety point of view, you need to use the right equipment on a job. Using inappropriate equipment means you’re putting your workers and others on site at risk.
  • Hiring or purchasing equipment costs money. Often, a significant amount! If you hire the wrong thing, returning it will waste precious time, and hire fees for the original piece of equipment may still apply. In addition, if you haven’t booked ahead, the equipment you need may not immediately be available. (Note that, at Auslift access hire in Melbourne, we aim to assist you as much as we can with access hire decisions, so hopefully you don’t don’t end up with the wrong thing.)

What height access equipment options are available?

Here’s a rundown of the different types of types of Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) and what they’re suitable for.

Scissor lifts

  • Move vertically to provide height access
  • Best suited to jobs where the heights aren’t extreme
  • Can carry people and materials
  • Favoured by signwriters, painters, cleaners, or workers installing fixtures and lighting to buildings
  • Have varying reach capacity, lift capacity and platform size
  • Come in electric and diesel powered models
  • Require towing (check your towing capacity first.)

(Auslift has a range of scissor lifts manufactured by leading brands Genie, Haulotte and JLG. See our Scissor Lift Hire page for more information.)

Cherry pickers (Boom lifts)

  • Allow for both vertical and horizontal reach
  • Enable you to reach up and over obstacles
  • Suitable in narrow work sites, to safely get up and over obstacles.
  • Favoured for jobs in trades, maintenance, warehousing, harvesting, construction, rescue, or any industry that requires a safe, mobile access solution
  • May be towable or self-propelled. Towable cherry pickers need to be towed between site locations when changing between tasks, and this will require a vehicle. A towable trailer boom drives as a regular boom once on site.
  • Have varying reach capacity, lift capacity and platform size
  • Come in electric and diesel powered models.

Knuckle booms and telescopic booms are types of boom lifts or cherry pickers. Here’s some information on each.

Knuckle booms (also known as articulated booms)

The mast of a knuckle boom lift comes as a series of segments that connect at joints or ‘knuckles’, enabling more reach options. Read more knuckle boom features below.

  • Useful in many external and internal construction jobs. Especially suited to painters, caulkers, electricians, plumbers, warehousers, roofers, renderers, window installers and maintenance
  • Suitable for working in a wide variety of spaces, including tight spaces (indoors or outdoors), around obstacles on a worksite, and around corners
  • The base unit can be positioned close to the job for added stability, and requires little floor space
  • Can do effective lateral work at varying heights, as you can easily adjust the height of the platform and move it laterally, without having to reposition the base unit
  • Available in 2WD and 4WD models
  • Comes in different sizes, reach capacities, and platform sizes
  • Can be driven at full elevation (check the specifications before you do this)
  • Can be towable or self-propelled
  • Electric boom lifts have non-marking foam filled tyres for indoor use. Diesel machines feature solid rubber rough terrain tyres for outdoor use. (New models may have non-marking tyres on both electric and diesel models.)

Telescopic booms (Straight booms)

Telescopic boom lifts have one long, non-articulated mast that can be extended or retracted to reach heights, or to be swung into position. Of all the cherry pickers, the telescopic boom lift provides the maximum horizontal and vertical reach.

  • Perfect for jobs where you need as much reach as possible from a mobile unit, as the boom telescopes straight out from the stable pivoting base unit.
  • Capable of reaching “high and wide”, but not much flexibility otherwise.
  • Ideal for open spaces (unsuited to narrow spaces) as if you want to move a straight boom’s platform horizontally, you need to move the base unit, then re-swing in to get to a desired position
  • 360° rotation, which is helpful when you need a wide access range but have limited ground space to move machinery
  • Can carry multiple people and materials
  • Comes in different sizes, reach capacities, and platform sizes
  • Comes in 2WD or 4WD models, for indoor and outdoor use.

For more information on Auslift’s range of cherry pickers/boom lifts, see our cherry picker hire page.

What to consider when hiring access equipment

There are a number of elements to consider when deciding on aerial access hire or purchase.


Do you need to use the equipment indoors, outdoors, or both? If indoors, you will likely opt for an electric height access equipment, as you can safely access a power source, and would want to avoid the diesel emissions.

Outdoors, diesel powered models, or hybrids (battery and diesel) should be fine to use as they’ll be designed to withstand the elements, and you won’t need to worry so much about diesel fumes.


A factor to consider in terms of location is how you will transport the equipment to the site, and how close you can bring it to the area you need to work on. Does the supplier deliver the equipment to you, or do you need to transport it yourself? If they deliver, how high are the fees, compared to what you would pay to transport it yourself? If you do transport it yourself, can you do it safely?


You need to know how high your access equipment needs to reach to know it’s fit for application. So check with the building plans or speak with a site manager to find out.

Then, consider the machine. Can it practically perform the height access tasks you need it to? For example, if you need your boom lift to lift more than 130 feet, a standard boom may not suffice. You might need to choose a telescopic boom in order to reach the desired height.

(Other options you may need to consider are using scaffolding, employing height access workers to abseil, or using a crane.)

Will you need to work vertically, horizontally, or both?

Do you need a machine that only lifts vertically (such as a scissor lift), or do you need something that needs to reach up and over to access the work location (cherry picker). Are you unable to get close to the location you need to work on, so need equipment that enables you to swing a platform in (boom lift)?


You need to ensure the aerial access equipment you want to hire can carry the loads you need it to. So find out what equipment needs to be lifted, and don’t forget to factor in the weight of your workers.

Can that scissor lift carry your workers safely? If it can’t, you may need to do more lifts than you intended, and work may progress at a slower pace.


What sort of surfaces do you need to use the equipment on? If it’s a level, concrete surface in a warehouse, you may be able to manoeuvre your machine close to your target area.

If you’re outdoors, the terrain may be uneven, so you’ll need a piece of equipment with features that allow it to operate in these conditions. Also, difficult terrain may mean you can’t get the machine close enough to your target. You may need something with a boom, so you can swing in.

For more information on how terrain can affect how a machine works, check out our post: What is Gradeability & How to calculate it?

Equipment weight

An important factor to consider is the weight of the equipment you need to hire. Some of these machines are very heavy, and to add to their weight, you need to carry people and materials. You need to be sure that the surfaces you’re working on will take the weight, particularly if you are working indoors, or on a newly excavated outdoor worksite. (A site engineer should be able to advise you on this.)

Is it a once-off access hire, or a long-term investment?

The decision you make on a machine will be different depending on whether or not you are hiring or buying.

If you’re purchasing an asset for your business, you are making a much bigger commitment, so obviously you need to choose a machine that will do most (if not all) of the jobs you need it to do, most of the time.

If it’s a hiring situation, you can pick and choose, depending on the job. The important thing is that you don’t use the wrong piece of equipment for the task, as it may jeopardise safety.

The other thing to consider with hiring is additional fees for late return, or damage to, equipment. This will affect total hiring costs. So to avoid wasting money, ensure you are hiring the right access equipment for the job, so you don’t waste any time or money on the wrong thing. (The team at Auslift Equipment can answer any questions if you’re unsure.)

For more information on machine purchase, see our post: ​​Thinking of Buying Equipment? A Cost-Benefit Analysis is Exactly What You Need.

What’s the project timeline?

It helps to have a timeline for the project you are working on, so that you know the access equipment you need to hire is available for that time period. Allow for some wiggle room if possible, as projects often exceed predicted timeframes, and you don’t want to have to return equipment when you haven’t finished the task yet.

Check the equipment before you hire

You need to know exactly what you’re hiring. Always inspect the piece of equipment before you sign the contract, and ensure it works properly, and is in good condition. (All Auslift’s MEWPs meet Australian Compliance requirements, and are regularly serviced and checked to guarantee safe and reliable performance every time.)

This is also the time to ask any questions, and for a demonstration of the controls and any safety features, as once you get the equipment to the work site, you don’t want there to be downtime as you work out how to run the machine.

Check what sort of licence is required to operate the equipment

There’s no point hiring or buying height access equipment, if your personnel don’t hold the appropriate licence to use it. It’s essential your staff have completed the yellow card training program before they operate any Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP). This applies to anyone operating a boom lift, cherry picker, scissor lift or crane.

It is also recommended that any personnel working near to a MEWP has completed Occupational Health Services Australia (OHSA) certified training. Working in the vicinity of a mobile elevated work platform has inherent dangers, so all surrounding staff should maintain vigilance.

Auslift access hire Melbourne

Auslift provides Australia's best equipment and platforms. If you have any questions about access hire, contact us.

Remember, we offer a try before you buy program! This can help you know you’re making the right choice in regards to the model of machine and whether it performs well on the job. (Read our blog post on Try before you buy access equipment, which applies to aerial access and material handling equipment alike.)