What is a Cherry Picker?

Published: November 22, 2023 Cherry Picker

What is a cherry picker?

A cherry picker, in its most common context, refers to a type of aerial work platform or mobile elevating work platform. It consists of a bucket or platform at the end of a hydraulic lifting system, often mounted on a truck or a similar vehicle. This equipment is used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to inaccessible areas, usually at height. Cherry pickers are widely used in construction, warehousing, building maintenance, and by utility companies for tasks like servicing telephone, cable television, and electrical equipment on poles.

The term “cherry picker” originally referred to machinery developed for use in orchards for picking fruit, like cherries, from tall trees. This origin is why it’s called a “cherry picker,” but its use has expanded far beyond just picking fruit.

Why do we say cherry picker?

The term “cherry picker” originates from the device’s initial purpose, which was to aid in the picking of cherries in orchards. The traditional method of picking cherries involved using ladders to reach the fruit high up in the trees, which was both time-consuming and potentially dangerous. The invention of the cherry picker provided a safer and more efficient way to access these high areas.

This equipment typically featured a bucket or platform attached to a hydraulic lifting system, allowing workers to be raised to the necessary height to pick cherries directly from the tree. Over time, the usefulness of this kind of equipment was recognized in various other industries, such as construction, maintenance, and utilities. The term “cherry picker” stuck and is now commonly used to describe any type of mobile elevating work platform, regardless of its specific use.

Can anyone operate a cherry picker?

In the UK, operating a cherry picker requires specific training and adherence to health and safety regulations. Here’s an outline of the requirements:

  1. Training: Individuals must undergo professional training to operate a cherry picker. The training typically covers operational techniques, safety practices, and emergency procedures. Providers often offer courses aligned with standards set by bodies such as the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) or the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA).
  2. IPAF PAL Card: Upon successful completion of an IPAF training course, operators receive a Powered Access Licence (PAL) Card, which is widely recognized across industries and is considered proof of the operator’s training. It’s valid for five years and is recognized internationally.
  3. Health and Safety Regulations: Under UK health and safety law, particularly the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers are responsible for ensuring that all work at height is properly planned, supervised, and carried out by competent persons. This includes using cherry pickers.
  4. Risk Assessment: Employers must conduct a risk assessment for work involving a cherry picker and ensure all necessary safety measures are in place, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  5. Insurance: Companies must ensure that operators are covered under their insurance policies. Some insurance providers might have specific requirements regarding operator training and qualifications.
  6. Medical Fitness: Operators should be medically fit to work at heights. Some organizations require a medical examination, especially for high-risk environments.

In summary, while not just anyone can operate a cherry picker in the UK, those who have undergone the appropriate training and hold a valid certification, such as an IPAF PAL Card, are qualified to do so, subject to their employer’s policies and insurance requirements.

What is another term for a cherry picker?

In the UK, another common term for a cherry picker is a “Mobile Elevated Work Platform” (MEWP). This term is often used in official and industrial contexts, especially in safety regulations and technical documents. MEWP is a broader term that encompasses various types of aerial work platforms, including cherry pickers, scissor lifts, boom lifts, and other equipment used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to inaccessible areas, usually at height.

Are booms and scissor lifts cherry pickers?

Boom lifts and scissor lifts are types of Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs), but they are distinct from cherry pickers in their design and specific uses, though the term “cherry picker” is sometimes used loosely to refer to various kinds of MEWPs. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  1. Cherry Pickers: Originally designed for fruit picking, cherry pickers typically feature a bucket or platform at the end of a hydraulic boom. The boom can extend vertically and often horizontally, providing a high degree of flexibility in movement eg JLG push around stock picker. This type of MEWP is commonly used for tasks that require access to areas at various angles and heights, such as utility and maintenance work.
  2. Boom Lifts: Similar to cherry pickers, boom lifts have a platform or bucket at the end of a telescopic or articulated boom. They can extend in various directions, making them suitable for reaching areas that are not just vertically above the base. There are two main types of boom lifts: articulated boom lifts (which have hinged sections eg JLG articulated boom lift) and telescopic boom lifts (with straight booms that extend outward eg JLG telescopic boom lift).
  3. Scissor Lifts: Scissor lifts are quite different in design. They consist of a platform that can only move vertically, supported by crossed beams that elongate and compress in a scissor-like fashion eg Bi-energy GS Series scissor lift. These lifts are ideal for jobs that require vertical elevation to a specific height, like work in warehouses or for some construction tasks, but they don’t offer the horizontal reach or the flexibility of boom lifts or cherry pickers.

In summary, while all these devices are MEWPs and may sometimes be colloquially referred to as cherry pickers, only the cherry picker and boom lifts offer the articulated or telescopic reach that originally defined the cherry picker. Scissor lifts, on the other hand, provide a different kind of elevation functionality.

Is a telehandler a cherry picker?

A telehandler (telescopic handler) is not the same as a cherry picker, although they are both types of equipment used in construction, agriculture, and industry for lifting and moving materials. Here’s how they differ:

  1. Telehandler: A telehandler is a multi-purpose piece of equipment that has a telescopic boom, making it a combination of a crane and a forklift. It can extend forwards and upwards, allowing it to reach high and distant points. Telehandlers are typically used for lifting and moving heavy loads, such as pallets of bricks or large pieces of machinery eg Manitou MT 1840. Some telehandlers can be fitted with attachments like buckets, winches, or work platforms, but their primary function is material handling.
  2. Cherry Picker: A cherry picker, or Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP), is specifically designed to lift people to a certain height. It usually consists of a platform or bucket at the end of a hydraulic lifting system and is used for tasks that require access to high areas, such as maintenance, construction, or utility work. The focus of a cherry picker is on providing access for people to work at heights rather than on lifting materials.

In essence, while a telehandler can be adapted to lift people (using an appropriate attachment and following safety regulations), its primary function is material handling, unlike a cherry picker, which is primarily designed for lifting people to work at heights.

scissor lift in cherry picker style
Scissor Lift
boom lift, not a cherry picker
Boom Lift
Cherry Picker
Cherry Picker

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