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Month: March 2016

Trapping accidents – how to avoid them

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.

 

Powering access platforms – things to consider

Powering access platforms needs energy or fuel and different power options are available, for working at height in different locations.

Choosing the right access equipment for the needs of your job is essential and powering access platforms is a major consideration. Different makes and models offer a choice of power sources to work safely in different environments. The power supply is used to travel & operate the lifting and extending of equipment while carrying the maximum weight load of people and equipment.

The main varieties of power supply are:
– An internal combustion engine powered by fuel such as diesel or petrol
– Electrical power supply (AC) that can be plugged into the mains
– Electric power supply (DC) with lead acid or lithium batteries
– Dual power hybrid with battery power and combustion engine for additional power

Choices For powering access platforms

The choice of power supply and type of access platform depend on the specific requirements of a job. There are a number of things to consider which should be evident from the pre-job risk assessment.

Noise levels are a major concern as there are both UK and EU regulations that govern how much noise you can make in specific environments, including indoor working and densely populated areas. In confined spaces, such as narrow streets or indoors, noise echoes off walls, ceilings and floors and the roar of a diesel engine can sound even louder than usual.

All access platforms are marked with their sound power level so it is easy to tell when a particular machine is unsuitable for a particular working environment.

Electrical power supplies are quieter than a diesel engine and are powered by either a mains supply or battery. Most models of spider lift, tracked access platform or other equipment which is designed to work indoors have an electric or duel fuel engine.

Wherever you are working, you need to make sure there is a sufficient fuel supply to complete the necessary tasks.  A rapid battery charging system provides fume free operation for confined working spaces without the need to rely on AC power and trailing cables and is available on some newer models of machine such as the Spider 18.9 PRO-E which has a 300Ah lithium battery for an extended working lifespan.

Engines are louder and are most common form of power supply on powered access platforms but need diesel or petrol to operate. They are suitable for use in a vast range of working environments and temperatures, on and off site and throughout the seasons.

Whatever the job or working environment, select the type of powered access platform with the right power supply to meet the needs of the job and make sure it has sufficient fuel or access to energy to work safely and efficiently.

Spring jobs for powered access platforms

Spring is the start of the peak seasonal time for work with powered access platforms as businesses that work at height can capitalise on the benefits of longer working days and improved weather conditions.

The new season also brings the prospect of lots of jobs at height which are carried out less frequently in winter months. It marks the start of the boom season for construction companies and safer outdoor working.

One of the many advantages of using powered access platforms is the ability to work at height safely in a variety of locations; they are multi-functional as well as flexible suiting the needs of a diverse range of industries from construction to farming.

Spring jobs for access platforms

Maintenance and construction
Winter storms cause damage to roofs, signs, streetlights and buildings and create a backlog of maintenance issues for buildings and urban areas. Access platforms are ideal for tackling these small but important jobs, safely and efficiently.

Access equipment, such as spider lifts, can move easily around urban areas, including through alleys and gateways, operating safely in confined spaces to carry out repairs and maintenance jobs.  Gutters that have been clogged with leaves and grime can seriously affect building structure and fragile roofs. Access equipment provides a safe, secure working platform to carry out repairs with minimal risk to the workforce.

Landscaping
Parks, woodland and rural areas need clearing of dead leaves, fallen branches and debris, and replanting for the spring growing season. Access platforms can reach verges and embankments which need to be cleared of rotting vegetation and debris, especially in hard to reach places such as roadsides and railway sidings.

Powered access platforms are the machine of choice for many tree surgeons as they offer a speedy way to climb trees, lift tools and move between locations. They are used for clearing falling branches, trimming and maintaining trees in walking areas, planting new trees, and removing dead branches.

Industrial Cleaning
Powered access platforms are used to reach windows quickly and clean even hard to reach areas. Industrial cleaning firms use them widely in the spring and summer months. Machines such as boom lifts offer significant height and outreach to overcome obstacles and work safely at height.

Powered access platforms are flexible and versatile to tackle jobs in a variety of working environments. They are used in urban and rural areas to clean up the mess of winter and prepare parks, gardens and urban areas for the fast growth and warmer weather of the summer months, offering a safe and secure platform to work from.

Maintaining Powered Access Platforms

Maintaining powered access platforms is a smart business move for many industries that work at height and careful machine maintenance is key to getting the most out of your machine.

Access equipment that is kept in prime working order will not only have an extended lifetime and increased resale value, but will boost workforce health, safety and productivity. Regular inspections and maintenance of lifting equipment are required by law and the ability to spot problems and issues is included in the mandatory training for access platform operatives.

There are two pieces of current UK legislation that govern  maintaining powered access platforms:
– Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
– Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
These regulations are in place to ensure that a machine is in safe working order throughout its lifespan and to protect the people using it, and anyone else in the vicinity, from harm.

Pre-start Checks Whilst Maintaining Powered Access Platforms

A thorough examination of the machine should be completed before the start of every job. This will look for signs of wear and tear and make sure all the moveable parts, controls and safety components are in full working order.

Checks should be carried out whilst maintaining powered access platform including machines that are used frequently and those that only come out for occasional jobs.
All operatives using the access platforms should be fully trained and the process of completing the checks will help to familiarise them with the specific make and model they are using.

Regular Servicing And Maintaining Powered Access Platforms

All equipment used to lift persons must undergo a thorough examination by a competent person at least once every six months. Don’t be afraid to ask for the credentials of whoever is working on the access platform and keep a record of the machines service history.

As well as all the daily checks, a full service will include a detailed inspection of the following:
– Lifting, lowering, rotating and extending equipment
– Safety systems and controls including sensors, emergency lowering, stop buttons, limiters and communication systems
– All parts of the work platform/basket  including the floor and gates, guardrails and toe boards and safety harness points
– Screws, nuts and bolts, bearings, hydraulics, electrics, ropes and chains
– Batteries, power supplies and pumps
– Hydraulics and electrics
– Brakes and steering
– Chassis and stabilisers

Major Examinations Whilst Maintaining Powered Access Platforms

These are a detailed mechanical review of the access platform every ten years. They check the structural integrity and operation of the critical components of the machine to make sure it complies with safety regulations and can add to the resale value.

It is important to keep a record of the checks and the full service history both to comply with the health and safety regulations and to pass on a full record of the access platform’s service history if it is sold.

Making the investment to own a powered access platform has major business benefits including increased safety and productivity. To get the most out of a machine, it is essential to keep it in optimum working order. This means regular servicing and pre start checks, which will help the access platform to hold it’s value and work effectively for longer and will anticipate any mechanical risks or issues which could prevent accidents.

Spreading the pressure of powered access platforms

Working with powered access platforms often means operating on a wide range of surface types, uneven or sloping ground so a strong and stable foundation is essential.

Using spreader plates with boom lifts and outriggers saves lives by minimising the risks of falls which are a result of overturning and instability – still the major causes of serious injury and death involving access equipment.

Spreader plates reduce the weight and pressure at the point of contact between a boom lift or stabilizer leg and the ground, by spreading the load through a wider area. They must be of suitable strength and appropriate material to prevent distortion when a load is imposed upon them and spread the load evenly across the whole area of the spreader plate

The size and thickness of spreader plates will depend on the ground conditions. Assessing ground conditions is very important and should be carried out by a competent, responsible person and recorded in the risk assessment documentation. A visual inspection is usually all that’s required but, occasionally, the job may need a full geotechnical survey to assess ground stability.

As a rough guide, it is recommended that spreader plates up to 600mm square or diameter are at least 25mm thick and spreader plates up to 900mm square or diameter should be a minimum of 50mm thick.

Choosing spreader plates
Selecting the right size and type of spreader plate for specific locations and access equipment is important. Spreader plates should be big enough, stiff enough and strong enough  to cope with the necessary pressure and weight of the access platform.

Plate size should reduce load-bearing pressure, provide a stable footing and not sink into the ground. They should be strong enough to bear the access platform weight without breaking. Spreader plates are manufactured from a range of materials including timber, aluminium or plastics and resins. When ground conditions are particularly poor, additional foundations, such as timber mats, proprietary mats, steel grills or concrete pads can also be used.

Support for access platform users
The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has a number of resources to support access platform users to select spreader plates. The ‘Spread the Load!’ campaign aims to encourage the use of spreader plates with powered access platforms and prevent accidents resulting from inadequate ground assessments and incorrect set up of access equipment.

IPAF also has an online Ready Reckoner – a simple interactive tool designed to offer guidance to operators and those involved in determining the size of spreader plates to be used when setting up a boom-type access platform. It calculates the minimum area of spreader plate required, based on the gross weight of the machine, and the minimum sizes of spreader plates required for differing ground types and strengths.

Spreader plates save lives and can improve the speed and efficiency of jobs at height in differing ground conditions. For more information or to access the free IPAF resources, go to www.ipaf.org.

MEWPs can be stabilised and perform safely and effectively on most surfaces and gradients provided a few basic things are taken into consideration. Make sure you know how to use the individual machine, what it is capable of, and what it is telling you. This applies to both road towable and vehicle mounted platforms. Assess the ground conditions that you are working on to ensure you can use the machine to its optimum performance. This will prevent avoidable tip overs or subsidence accidents that can put lives at risk.

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