There is an inherent level of anxiety when working at height, but provided we take the appropriate safety measures before we embark, the risk can be just the same as working on ground level. I will attempt to outline some key points in staying safe and worry free when working on elevated platforms.

The first element is planning. Let’s look at our operators. Are they competent to operate the Mobile Elevating Work Platforms in the working conditions to which they are exposed? Have they been instructed of the local hazards and site rules? Have they attended a basic MEWP training course? Finally, do they have a level of familiarity with the particular make and model of MEWP that they are authorized to operate? Ensure that distractions for the operator are minimized and potential personal methods for distraction are removed such as phones, devices etc.

Next, and most importantly is performing a risk assessment on the site of the job for the MEWP. Look around for typical hazards that might be present for example; uneven ground, overhead obstructions and objects in the path of the MEWP. A risk assessment must be recorded before proceeding to the next phase for purposes of accountability.

Next, we must ensure that we have selected the correct MEWP, with the right operating characteristics of the job, to reduce the risk of entrapment. This may be a good phase to ask for advice and thoughts from competent operators on which would be the most appropriate. Take into consideration vertical lift, articulated boom and telescopic boom MEWPs to allow a wide variety of different platform movements to be utilized. Factor trapping risks into your assessment of which model to use.

Thirdly we must devise a safe system of work, to ensure that our operators will carry out the tasks safely. Referring to the risk assessment we produced earlier we must make sure all persons involved in the planning and management of work tasks completely understand the safety procedure that we have produced. This procedure must communicate and identify the hazards we looked at earlier and ways to control their risk.

Finally, let’s look at your emergency plan and drills.  It is a legal requirement to plan for this when anyone is working at height. Swift rescue of someone who has become trapped makes a significant difference to the injuries potentially sustained, or the difference between a survivable or fatal injury. Ensure there is always someone on ground level to keep an eye on and intervene in an emergency while a MEWP is in use.  This person should wear a Safety Vests with reflective stripes and the proper P.P.E. required to keep him/her safe and in constant contact with the operator.

Do you have a rescue plan that everyone is familiar with? Panic is natural in such a situation, and having a plan that everyone understands can prevent disaster and eliminate complacence when every second counts.  The location of the emergency MEWP controls for a descent should be communicated in addition, they are specific to individual machines and their location is outlined in the unit’s operational manual. Conduct regular drills and develop a level of competency with the ground and emergency controls for each machine in use.

Following the advice outlined above while adhering to health & safety regulations and legal requirements when operating MEWP drastically reduces risk of injury in the workplace. Something Kevin has been promoting for years in his current job at Promax access, where he oversees specialist access platforms training.

Kevin, thank you very much for this informative article.  Anyone who works with this equipment will appreciate the good advice.  Operators must be trained and highly skilled for this type of work. pb