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Month: July 2016

Safety equipment for powered access platforms

Powered access platforms have already improved safe working at height but sometimes additional measures are needed to protect the workforce.

Safety is is a major concern at height and at ground level and any major issues will be highlighted by the pre job risk assessment. Accidents such as falls from height or entrapment can result in serious or even fatal injuries and lead to penalty fines and long delays which are both bad for business.

In most cases, powered access platforms are the safest way to work at height for lower level and multi-site jobs but here are some useful safety extras which could save times and save lives:

Harnesses
There are two main uses for a body harness with access equipment:
– As an additional fall protection for a specific job at height – the harness is anchored to prevent falling from the cage or work site.
– To restrict movement into an area of danger – the harness is adjusted to keep the person within a restricted, safe work space.

While they can be used with all types of access equipment they are most commonly used with Static and Mobile Boom access platforms.

Anti-entrapment controls
Entrapment is a risk when working at height near overhead obstructions such as buildings, power lines and masonry or on soft or unstable ground conditions. The following safety equipment can be added to most existing models of boom type access equipment or scissor lifts as an additional protection measure:
– Bars or panels to shield the controls from being accidentally triggered by the operative
– A platform cage or side protection bars to prevent falls from the platform which could lead to serious injury or even death
– A pressure sensing bar with an audible and visible alarm in front of the control panel

Spreader plates
Spreader plates reduce the load bearing pressure at the point of contact between a outrigger or stabiliser leg and the ground, by spreading the load through a wider area.  Pressure can cause problems, even on firm and stable ground surfaces, including instability, sinking or tipping over all of which can lead to serious injury and even death.

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 pressure and weight demands.

Wind gauge
Strong winds can lift or tilt platforms and make them unstable and prone to over-tipping and increasing the risk of falls from the platform.  An anemometer will measure wind speed and new models have been designed specifically for use with powered access platforms. They are powered by an internal generator, attach to the work platform and sound an alarm when the wind speed reaches and unacceptable level for safe working.

All safety devices should be regularly checked to make sure they are in premium working condition used in conjunction with appropriate operator training, good site management and careful selection of the right type of powered access platform to perform a particular job.

Top tips for access platform risk assessments

Every job at height using access equipment relies on careful planning and attention to detail to make sure that the job is completed on time, within budget and without incident which is why risk assessments are required by law.

Whether you are onsite or offsite, working at height requires a suitable risk assessment to avoid potential dangers. Using powered access platforms does make carrying out jobs at height safer and faster but there are still potential risks and it is important to make sure all staff are aware of any precautions to take.

The law requires employers and self-employed contractors to carry out an adequate assessment of the potential risks on each job so they can do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. Carrying out a risk assessment does not need to be overly complicated but it does need to be an important part of planning and completing a job.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has detailed advice  for all businesses that work at height to help them plan and complete a risk assessment for a wide range of jobs. Here are the five main points to consider:

Identify the Hazards – Walk round the site and make observations. Working at height means many hazards are on the ground and at elevated level such as overhead power lines, buildings and trees. Make sure the access equipment has sufficient room to manoeuvre and the height and outreach to operate effectively and avoid them.
Decide who might be harmed and how – It may be a job onsite or there may be safety concerns for the general public. All access platform operatives must be aware of the potential hazards identified in the assessment so they can avoid them and, by law, must be fully trained to use access equipment and familiarised with the specific model they are using.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example if equipment or materials can be prepped at ground level. Whether it is a new or used access platform, all equipment should be serviced every six months by law and checked for performance and safety before each job.
Record your findings and implement them – Check the maintenance of the powered access platform and other equipment and make sure that workers know how to operate it safely and effectively. Take extra steps to prevent any person falling a distance that could cause personal injury and use equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall if necessary, such as body harnesses.
Review your assessment and update if necessary – Circumstances change all the time so your assessment of the risks will too. In case something does go wrong, it is important to have a plan in place to rescue people from danger. Emergency descent controls feature on most powered access platforms to enable them to be safely lowered to ground level but, occasionally, a rescue must be carried out at height and should be planned in detail.

A thorough risk assessment is not a one-off task in the early planning stages but should be reviewed throughout the course of the job to account for changing circumstances. It should be carried out by someone with experience and responsibility and fully documented to ensure that, should issues arise, everything possible has been done to maintain the highest standards of health and safety.

Powered Access Platform Training

Powered access platforms make working at height safer, quicker and more efficient and under UK law people working with or operating them must pass an accredited training course.

Anyone working with access equipment needs to know how to inspect it, to operate it safely, and recognise and avoid any potential hazards. As well as this general training, they should also be given familiarisation training on the specific model that they will be working with.

Whether you are operating a powered access platform for private or commercial use the same rules apply to stay safe and within the law. Employers and individual users must make sure operators are properly trained and are liable if the rules are broken.

The Law
UK Law states that all operatives must have training to use access platforms before attempting to operate any machine. Courses combine practical and classroom based sessions that include the following information:
– Operating equipment safely
Inspecting access platforms for defects and wear and tear
– Recognising and avoiding potential hazards in the workspace
– The importance of familiarisation with the specific make and model to be used
Failure to comply with the law can put the lives of workers and anyone else in the work location at risk and is punished with large fines and penalties which could result in a business being shut down.

About The Powered Access Platform Training

Training is a combination of classroom based study and hands-on experience with the equipment and courses are available for operators
, demonstrators
, instructors, managers and people working with specialist mast climbing access equipment

Accredited training centres are located across the country and courses can be held at their premises, or on a convenient site with suitable facilities. Anyone who passes a course will be given an accreditation or licence which they can use to evidence their skills and legal ability with prospective or current employers.

The most obvious benefit of powered access platform training is a large boost to individual skills and experience. A trained operative will be able to work more safely and efficiently and is an asset to businesses both in specialised fields of work and industries that deliver a broad range of services at height.

 

Powered Access Platform Training for Managers
A manager includes anyone in charge of a job at height as they have the final responsibility for health and safety. There are serious penalties if the responsible person has not followed the law. Specialist training prepares managers for planning and supervising jobs involving access platforms and is suitable for all of the diverse industries that work at height.

Powered access platform training is the key to a successful and efficient business. The benefits not only apply to the individuals but keep clients, co-workers and collaborative partners happy and ensure that every job is completed safely, on time and within budget.

Safe lifting in summer weather

Summer is here and in the UK that means variable weather conditions and taking steps to ensure that the wind, rain or sun have minimal impact on powered access platform performance and safety.

Most makes and models of access equipment are designed to be used all year round and in a range of external environments. Summer is the busiest season for many industries that work at height thanks to warmer weather and longer days, but even hard ground conditions require careful management when operating powered access platforms.

Here is a guide to safe operation in summer’s variable weather:

Dry weather
Ground conditions may look strong and stable but many hard surfaces, such as roads and paved areas, are  laid on weak ground that cannot take the weight of powered access platforms. If the ground conditions are fragile or pose a risk of instability then the access equipment may need additional support such as:
– Spreader plates to reduce the heavy loads and pressure at the point of contact between a stabilizer leg and the ground. Spreader plates should be big enough, stiff enough and strong enough to cope with the pressure and weight demands
– Tracked access platforms that run on a continuous track instead of wheels, spreading the weight over a wider area to reduce ground pressure

Windy weather
Although the wind speed at ground level or in an open area may be low, it is stronger when working at high levels and can increase as much as 50% greater at an elevation of 20 metres.

Despite the added risk this poses there is no need to shut down working completely on windy days. Most access equipment is designed to operate in wind speeds up to a maximum level. This can be found in the operators’ manual and should never be exceeded as it has been calculated to prevent over-tipping and instability.

An anemometer will measure wind speed and should be used at the initial risk assessment and during the course of the job if wind speed is a cause for concern.

Wet weather
In wet weather conditions the risks of instability, falls and over-tipping are increased and the number of accidents rises as people fail to compensate for adverse conditions. Even all terrain and off-road access platforms can succumb to problems in wet weather.

As it rains a lot in Northern Europe it is important that UK operatives of powered access platforms are prepared and confident to use the equipment in wet conditions.

Risk assessments should be carried out before, during and after the job with a careful check of ground conditions at the job location and access point. Be prepared for changeable ground and surface conditions in persistent heavy rain and wear high visibility waterproof clothing.

Changeable conditions
Ground conditions can change during the course of a job. For example, dry dusty site conditions can become worn down and uneven over time from the movement of vehicles and heavy machinery.  Weather conditions should be monitored on a regular basis as a sudden change in wind speed or a rain shower can make a big difference to safe elevated working. Personal fall protection such as a lanyard or safety harness will provide extra safety reassurance to prevent falls from the platform or work area as a powerful gust of wind could cause someone to lose their footing and balance.

Construction Access Platforms Accreditation

It’s the law that anyone working with construction access platforms must have passed an accredited training course and construction leaders have taken that assurance once step further to protect all workers on site. The UK regulations make sure that the job is completed more efficiently and prevent misuse of the equipment which could lead to serious injury or death and prosecution for employers that don’t follow the letter of the law.

Construction Access Platforms Accreditation

From January 2015, it was agreed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) that the industry, including trade associations, contractors, clients and government, should specify and promote card schemes carrying the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) logo with no equivalents accepted. CSCS is the leading skills certification scheme within the UK construction industry and the cards are recognised as proof that holder has the required training and qualifications  to work on a construction site in a particular role.

PAL Cards

However working with powered access platforms operatives is, in many cases, considered to be a specialist role and the requirement will not override the existing specialist accreditation such as the International Powered Access Platform (IPAF) PAL card. As the industries that work at height are so varied, the PAL card offers certification of a new skill on top of existing trades such as electrician, cleaner or window fitter. PAL Cards will continue to be recognised on Build UK sites as proof of MEWP and MCWP operator training and continue to be accepted and recognised as proof of training in the safe use of powered access platforms and mast climbing work platforms (MCWPs) used in the steel industry.

Most PAL Card holders will already hold an occupational skill card relating to their particular trade/profession e.g. electrician or steelworker and so they won’t be affected by this new scheme. PAL Cards are issued as machine-readable Smart PAL Cards which adds an extra level of assurance that only fully trained and qualified operatives can use access platforms or mast climbing work platforms on site.

Employers Obligation To Construction Access Platforms Accreditation

Employers are obligated by law to provide proper training in the use of access platforms to comply with health and safety and work at height regulations. If employees have a PAL Card, it proves that all legal requirements have been fulfilled in that area and the CSCS accreditation cements those assurances further.

Powered access platforms are easy to operate and widely accepted as the safest way to work at height but without proper training, accidents can still occur. For the employees, PAL Cards certify the skills and abilities of anyone operating access equipment and lifting people and equipment to significant heights.

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