When it comes to working at height, people can be forgiven in thinking that there is a bigger risk to their personal safety due to the additional circumstances, which could cause severe injury or even death such as high winds and falling debris. Fortunately, modern technology and innovation have allowed us to create what is known in the construction industry as ‘Mobile Elevated Working Platforms’ or ‘MEWP’s’ for short.
MEWP’s are specialised machines, which have been designed solely to reduce risk of injury and death for operators and engineers who have to work at large heights. MEWP’s are the only proven and safest method for working at height as they allow operators to reach a task efficiently – with specific security measures in place such as restraint belts, guard rails, anti-crush devices and toe boards to prevent any kind of injury.
Although we now know that MEWP’s help prevent operators from sustaining severe injury or death whilst they are in operation, what a lot of people fail to realise is that the key to reducing the potential for injury or death starts long before the MEWP is in operation with what’s knows as a ‘MEWP Risk Assessment’.
A MEWP Risk Assessment in general terms is like a checklist of things to do before an MEWP is declared safe to use.
Different countries and different construction companies have different guidelines and health & safety processes they follow, however, in this article, we will be identifying the key points to a MEWP Risk Assessment so that safety is always paramount.
How high is the task which needs to be completed from the ground? It is essential that you know the exact height (or within an accurate degree of estimation) so that you can hire the ideal MEWP for the job.
Do you have the correct MEWP for the job? It is essential that you know what type of MEWP is suitable for the task. Will you be working on un-even ground that will require a MEWP with stabilisers or will you be working in very high winds, which will require a MEWP with additional strength in the ‘arm’.
What are the conditions like? Again, like above, it is essential to know the conditions you will be working in. Do you require a MEWP that needs to be remotely controlled due to a tight working space or do you need a MEWP that can operate in a variety of different working conditions.
Are the people who will be using the MEWP adequately trained? Although a variety of MEWP’s do not require specific licences, it is essential that the operator(s) using the MEWP be adequately trained with sufficient experience and qualifications. Also, are the operators in good enough health to operate the machine?
Are there any potential obstructions to be wary of? When working on specific types of structures such as electricity pylons and bridges, there can be additional hazards such as low-hanging wires and supports which the MEWP could be caught in. In addition, are the any potential issues for the public such as roads or footpaths, which need to be cordoned off?
Are there any additional support features that need to be acquired such as operator restraints? One of the key things for MEWP safety is the correct level of support facilities for the operator such as restraining belts, anti-entrapment devices and fall arrest systems. Also, will the operator be required to exit the MEWP at height? If so, it is recommended to assess what additional safety measures will be needed for the operator when they exit the MEWP.
Has the MEWP been well maintained? It is always a good idea to do some safety checks when the MEWP arrives to make sure it is well maintained and to identify any other potential safety hazards.
So there you have it, if you need to complete a task which requires you to work at height, it is always best to utilise the services of a MEWP with a thorough MEWP Risk Assessment and although the above list covers only the very basics of a MEWP Risk Assessment, it does give a great platform from which to build a more bespoke risk assessment depending on the task at hand and any other unique hazards which could become a problem.