Working at height can pose many dangers but when used correctly and competently, a MEWP can be a convenient and cost effective way to safely lift workers, allowing them to complete jobs at height from the confines of the elevated platform.
The popularity and use of access platforms as a collective means of preventing falls from height is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (see figure 1 in their document Working at Height: A Brief Guide) and is reflected by the continual growth of the UK access rental industry. In fact, the number of MEWPs available for hire in Britain has grown year on year, from 45,000 in 2010 to in excess of 65,000 in 2019.
However, improper use of access equipment significantly increases the chances of having an incident with outcomes that can range from a minor inconvenience to a serious injury or damage to property. That is why, here at Horizon Platforms, we believe that health and safety must remain at the heart of every MEWP operation.
Complete Accredited Training
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) were created to assist in the prevention of death and injury caused by a fall from height and include recommendations for the use of access equipment. These regulations outline the steps that should be taken when working at height, such as ensuring the competency of MEWP operators. They also state that all users of equipment used for work at height, including access platforms, must understand safe working methods, storage and emergency procedures; know how to recognise and report unsafe working environments; and be able to provide proof of sufficient training.
IPAF courses have been designed by industry experts and are available to book at our approved training centres in Warrington and Wakefield. This includes accredited and internationally recognised courses, from combined static and self-propelled programmes to safety harness training, ensuring participants learn best practices for safe working at height.
Familiarise Users with Controls
The controls and tools used to operate powered access platforms can vary greatly across manufacturers and machines. This in itself can pose a number of health and safety risks. The lack of familiarity with MEWP controls can lead to avoidable accidents and injuries, both to operators and those on the ground. To mitigate this risk, it is essential that workers familiarise themselves with platform and ground controls prior to operating. This includes not only the operator but also a nominated ground person as part of the emergency rescue planning.
Monitor Ground and Surface Conditions
Solid ground conditions are a vital component of MEWP safety. Unstable or uneven surfaces are a common cause of platform-related accidents and can result in a machine instability or overturning. To reduce the health and safety issues associated with ground conditions, it is vital to continually assess supporting surfaces to ensure they are suitable, i.e. firm and level. If required to operate on sloping ground, always refer to a machine’s gradeability – this shows the maximum gradient on which the platform can safely be used.
Do Not Use During Severe Weather
Severe and varying weather conditions such as ice, heavy rain, thunderstorms and strong winds can increase the dangers associated with working at height, posing further specific health and safety risks to workers. For access equipment, severe weather can cause platforms to become unstable and therefore the environment must be continually assessed throughout operation. To safeguard all involved, any work at height should be halted during adverse weather, as outlined in the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
Always Inspect Before Using
When hiring access equipment from Horizon Platforms, you can rest assured all of our MEWPs comply with health and safety legislation, including performing regular thorough examinations and servicing to ensure your machine remains safe and compliant. However, daily use can lead to wear and tear, which if not regularly assessed and maintained, can result in a dangerous working environment. As such, it is crucial to complete a pre-use inspection before each use to determine that the machine remains safe to use while under your control.
Complete Risk Assessments
Accidents involving platforms typically arise due to environmental factors such as ground conditions, overreaching or contact with surrounding obstacles, many of which can be avoided with proper planning. As such, a risk assessment must always be completed when working at height and it should detail equipment inspections, potential dangers and a rescue plan. This record should be updated as changes arise and all of those involved in platform operation must be aware of all risks in order to safeguard both themselves and others on site.
Mitigate Any Risks
Access platforms can be an efficient way to work at height – providing the proper health and safety procedures are followed. However, incorrect usage can not only result in inconvenience and avoidable delays but can lead to costly and serious accidents. It is therefore essential to minimise risk where possible. This includes cordoning off the zone around the platform to prevent impact from other vehicles and to protect fellow workers below from any risk of falling objects.
Prepare Rescue Plans
To comply with WAHR, a rescue procedure must always be in place when using access equipment. This should include a detailed rescue plan with actions for a variety of foreseeable situations, including operator incapacity, as well as the failure of upper auxiliary and ground controls. While the chance of both controls failing is highly unlikely, a rescue plan should prepare for all possibilities, outlining the actions and the authorised persons responsible for initiating each response.
Wear the Correct PPE
When working at height, it is essential to wear the relevant personal protective equipment (PPE) and fall protection equipment when operating a boom-type MEWP. By law and as outlined in The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, employers must train employees how to use the appropriate PPE and ensure all equipment is properly maintained or replaced as required. Furthermore, to enhance health and safety, PPE should be inspected before use with any defects reported immediately and regularly certified to ensure they are fit for purpose.
Maintain and Test
A MEWP must have a valid Thorough Examination Report, commonly known as a LOLER certificate and should not be used without one. To comply with legislation and meet health and safety practices, access platforms must be maintained on a regular basis – machines that lift operators must be tested and thoroughly examined every six months. At Horizon Platforms, we provide maintenance to ensure that your equipment remains compliant and safe to use. This is included as standard with our hire packages but we also offer two levels of repair and maintenance cover.