Recently released statistics show that the rental of Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) saw a substantial increase during 2015. According to the latest figures from leading organisation and awarding body the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), both the total MEWP rental fleet and the number of rental days worldwide have increased during 2015, with the total number of days rented over the 12 month period reaching over 192 million.
With these numbers on the rise and many Facilities Management companies looking to MEWP rental as a convenient and cost-effective solution for temporary work at height being carried out on site, it’s vital that those responsible for their operation (and their supervisors) are fully aware of the risks involved.
Four common problems examined
Accident data from 2013 to 2015 indicates that the main causes of MEWP-related fatalities were falls from height, overturn, electrocution and entrapment. Mentor Training, the UK’s leading provider of nationwide operator training on access equipment, have provided the following MEWP safety guidance targeted at limiting the risks presented by these common hazards.
Falls from height
With numerous MEWPs on the market that lift over 40m in the air, falls from height are a real risk to those working from their platforms. Before any work at height is carried out on site, a risk assessment specific to the MEWP, application and operating conditions should always be completed. Amongst other vital safety checks, this will determine whether a harness must be worn. IPAF strongly recommend that a full body safety harness and adjustable restraint lanyard are used by anyone working from a boom-type platform or travelling at height in any MEWP.
Too often falls from height are caused by overstretching or overreaching. Operators need to be made aware that if they cannot reach to complete a task safely, they must reposition the machine and if it doesn’t lend itself to the task in hand, they shouldn’t use it. There may be a better, safer alternative.
The risk of turning over a machine can be significantly reduced if operators use the equipment correctly and only for the purpose it was designed. A good training course will provide your managers and their teams an overview of all machine types and their uses, enabling them to choose the best one for the job.
External conditions can also present a major risk. Ensure that operators take care on uneven or unstable surfaces and that they keep an eye on the wind speed to make sure it doesn’t exceed the safe operating limit for the machine. This should be checked with an anemometer at ground level and at height and the task should be abandoned if it exceeds the machine capability.
If it’s necessary to use a MEWP in close proximity to a live source of electricity, it’s crucial that everyone in the area is made aware of the dangers. Remember, electricity can arc through the air to anyone in the vicinity. Stay at least 15m from power lines on steel pylons and 9m from those on wooden poles (with boom fully extended). And if operating indoors, be aware of overhead crane “bus bars” etc which carry electricity.
A risk assessment should highlight any necessary measures to be taken including maintaining safe working distances and using safety barriers, if necessary.
Often a result of unintended operation, entrapment, usually between the platform and an adjacent obstruction such as a wall, roof or beam, can cause the operator severe crush injuries, or worse. A wide range of secondary guarding devices have been produced to help reduce the risk, including protective cages and alarmed pressure bars but these devices are no substitute for training and a well engrained rescue plan. Ensure those working on or around MEWPs on your site are aware of the emergency procedures and have the relevant skills and knowledge to carry them out.
Mentor are encouraging those working on or around MEWPs to continue to report any relevant accidents to IPAF at https://ir.ipaf.org/ to enable the industry to continue to work towards the safer use of access equipment.
For further guidance, including available training courses for the Facilities Management industry, contact Mentor on 01246 555222 or visit www.mentortraining.co.uk.