Trapping is an avoidable risk of working at height with powered access platforms but each year it still features as a major cause of serious accidents and injuries.
Access platforms have made elevated working much safer by eliminating the need for climbing and providing a safe and stable working platform to carry out most jobs. However trapping accidents can happen at ground level and at height and many of them occur because operators have become trapped between the basket and obstructions in the work area.
Here are just some of the aggravating factors involved in trapping accidents:
- Overturning due to soft ground conditions or instability
- Reversing or elevating into an obstruction
- Unexpected movement of a boom near to an obstruction
- Poor visibility at height or ground level
- Access equipment failure
How to avoid trapping accidents
Risk assessment – Make sure a full assessment of the work site is carried out by a responsible person including ground conditions, access and obstructions. This should be recorded and reassessed throughout the job.
Choose the right equipment – Different makes and model of access equipment are suitable for specific types of job. Vertical lift access platforms, for example, are ideal for working in confined spaces, where trapping accidents often occur. Equipment should be serviced every six months under UK law and checked before the start of each job.
Manage obstructions – Plan sufficient space to avoid obstructions when moving and operating in the work space. Be aware of overhead obstructions and avoid driving a mobile access platform when elevated unless it is necessary.
Educated workforce – All staff should be qualified to work with powered access platforms and familiarised with the specific machine being used, including mobile parts and safety controls. They also need to be aware of what to do in a rescue situation.
Extra safety – Ensure platform hand and foot controls and emergency lowering controls can be accessed at all time and consider the use of a harness or lanyard if it will boost safer working for dangerous jobs, such as roofing or glazing.
Rescue planning – Assess whether it is best to rescue from the ground or if the operative is uninjured and can rescue themselves by lowering the platform. In some more serious cases, it may be necessary to use another machine for the rescue but this should be a last resort.
Most trapping accidents involving powered access platforms are avoidable if the basic rules of health and safety are applied. Carry out a comprehensive risk assessment, choose the right equipment for the job and make sure staff are qualified and competent and the access equipment will actually make jobs safer for everyone involved.