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Month: December 2016

New Year resolutions for elevated working in 2017

The New Year is just days away and Promax Access Ltd has some suggestions for safer and more efficient working at height in 2017.

Whatever the size or nature of your business, speed and safety are the key to productive elevated working and whether you are new to the game or an established company here are some tips for 2017 which might just boost your business

1. Look after your machine

It sounds obvious but the best results are achieved when the access equipment is looked after and in prime condition. It should be serviced every six months by a competent person and should be checked before the start of each job for signs of wear and tear or malfunction such as:

  • Visible signs of damage to body work or components which might lead to malfunction
  • Outrigger legs, brakes and extendable parts should all be safe and functional
  • Check controls are fully operational including cut out switches and emergency stop mechanisms
  • The oil level in the tank should be full when the platform is on a level surface and there should be enough fuel in the tank to complete the job

2. Refresh your risk assessment

Risk assessments are essential and, even though you may have done them a million times, each job poses new challenges at ground level and height. Most risks can be spotted by walking around and making observations but others, such as changes in the weather or differing ground conditions, require continual monitoring to keep on top of any changes

Write down all your findings so they can be referred to at any point in the job. This is particularly important when drafting a rescue plan as you may need to use it in the event of an emergency. Communicate the risk assessment to all operatives on the job – both the supervisors and the staff should be aware of the potential dangers so they can take proactive steps to avoid them.

3. Get SMART

We live in an age of rapid advances in science and technology and these are also being applied to powered access platforms to boost training and improve safety. Over the past few years, some of these technologies have already been incorporated into access equipment including:

  • Pothole protection to improve stability
  • Load sensitive technology to prevent exceeding maximum weight capacities
  • Emergency cut out controls in the event of an emergency situation
  • Built in weather monitors to assess wind speeds
  • Microchip card readers with data about operative skills and training which are fitted to the machine, such as The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) Smart PAL cards

It looks as though 2017 will be another good year for business that work at height with powered access platforms so why not see the New Year as an opportunity to fine tune existing skills and look to the future by embracing new technology.

How to buy a used powered access platform

Investing in a powered access platform is a big decision but it could make a major difference to the safety and speed of working at height and enable a business to take on more jobs.

New access equipment can be expensive to buy, but used access platforms are a cost effective and beneficial way to build a machine fleet. Most used access platforms, when bought from a reputable supplier are pre-owned by trusted businesses, and come with a full service history so you can have confidence in the quality of the access equipment you are buying.

If you are thinking about buying a used access platform here a few reasons why they might suit your business needs:

Cost – Small and medium sized businesses can make significant cost savings by buying a used access platform, especially if they are frequently spending money on renting access platforms. Over time, investing in used access equipment can be an affordable solution for business that have regular and multiple jobs at height.

Time saving – It takes less time to complete most jobs at height by using powered access platforms. There is a model of access equipment to suit a wide range of high level jobs including construction, maintenance, window cleaning, tree surgery and even interior work. Access platforms are flexible and mobile, quicker to set up and operate and safer in most instances, than traditional climbing methods such as ladders or scaffolding.

Increased safety – Used access equipment from a reputable supplier or rental firm should come with a detailed and up to date service history record and proof that it has been inspected and complies with current safety legislation. Ask about the credentials of whoever has done the work to make sure they are fully trained and experienced.

Choice of platform – While buying used access equipment to support your business may have multiple benefits, it is still important to research the right type of access platform for your specific needs and, if you do decide to buy, to make sure that it suits the needs of your business and that anyone working with it is fully trained to use it.

Used access platforms are more affordable than new machines and can save time on completing jobs, and money spent on renting equipment, especially for businesses with a smaller turnover. The most important decision to make before you decide to buy is to find a reputable and reliable supplier of second-hand machines who can provide the relevant documentation on servicing and maintenance and can guarantee quality and reliability for anyone who chooses to make an investment.

Access platforms in rescue situations

Lifting and lowering people quickly and safely are two main benefits of using powered access platforms which is why they are the go to lifting equipment for many rescue situations at height.

The mobility and flexibility of different types of access platform make saving lives safer and easier at a time when every second counts. Whether it’s bespoke access solutions for the fire service, or specialist access equipment to manage rescue situations in awkward spaces, there is an aerial work platform to tackle most risky situations.

Many of the features of powered access platforms suit complicated or challenging rescues from high places:
All terrain access platforms move quickly and safely over rough terrain and stabilise on extreme surface conditions including ice and sand.
Road rail access platforms are interchangeable between both infrastructures and can be used for rescues on remote sections of track and from steep verges or overhead power lines
Boom lifts move vertically and horizontally and are able to reach heights over tricky obstacles such as architectural extensions and trees
Spider lifts can be used for both internal and external rescue situations and can access and be used in narrow spaces and on fragile surfaces such as paths or floors.

Rescue from platforms

Every now and then a situation may arise when individuals need to be rescued from a powered access platform. Most access equipment has built-in safety controls so operatives can return the raised platform to ground level. Though these systems rarely fail it can still happen so it is vital to have a plan for how people can be brought down safely.

Any rescue plan from an access platform should comply with current health and safety legislation such as the 2005 Work at Height Regulations.  It is important to do a risk assessment for the rescue and keep a record of this assessment and all details of the rescue as this may be important to refer to at a later date.

Here are a few things to consider first of all:
– Activate all normal emergency lowering procedures if possible
– Contact the manager of the site or project to report any failure of back-up emergency systems
– Get the powered access platform checked by a qualified engineer to see if an onsite repair can be carried out

Basket-to-basket rescue

If it is not possible to repair the lowering mechanisms then a basket-to-basket rescue may be necessary. This can be complicated and poses additional health and safety risks so it is important to follow the following steps:

– The rescue machine should be placed in the safest position to minimise any additional danger to anyone involved in the rescue
– Place the two machines adjacent to each other with the smallest possible gap between them
– Attach a double lanyard to both the person being rescued and the anchor points on both machines before the rescue takes place
– Never overload the rescue machine as this could lead to over-tipping or delay the rescue operation
– In exceptional circumstances, where a basket-to-basket rescue is not feasible, emergency evacuation systems such as a crane rescue could be used.

Powered access platforms are a safe way to manage a rescue situation quickly and safely. Carry out a full risk assessment, keep a record of any rescue situation as it happens and choose the right access equipment for the scenario and most emergencies at height can be resolved quickly and safely.

Reducing human error in access platform accidents

Powered access platforms are one of the safest ways to work at height but accidents can still occur and a large number of them are avoidable.

Human error is one of the main cause of accidents involving access equipment and, even though UK law demands that all operatives have attended a detailed training course, mistakes can still be made.

Some errors might relate to knowledge of the specific make and model of access platform being used for a job which is why familiarisation is so important. Before the start of every job, anyone working with the machine should take the time to run through how it works and make sure they are confident before they start lifting people. This will include all aspects of the machine such as movement controls and dimensions, safety mechanisms and the operation of the lifting equipment.

Understanding common human errors could also be the key to improving the future design of powered access equipment as changes to the design and use of controls on some models of powered access platforms could save lives and reduce accidents. Manufacturers are always looking at ways to improve design and performance and, ultimately, safety.

Common control errors

There are lots of reasons why an access platform operative might use the controls incorrectly including distractions on site, lack of familiarisation with a model or machine or inexperience of identifying  hazards.

A report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) highlighted three main types of human error when operating access equipment controls:
Slips – Errors where a mistake is made such as selecting the wrong control on the panel.
Lapses – Errors involving forgetfulness, for example forgetting to take account of rotation on a boom lift when operating drive controls.
Mistakes – When people do the wrong thing thinking it is right. For example, selecting the wrong control, manoeuvring too close to an obstruction or confusing the controls of a machine they are working on with a different machine they are familiar with.

What you can do

Even the most experienced of operatives could make a mistake, though experience and patience can help to reduce the amount of human error.

There is no substitute for training and familiarisation and it is up to everyone working with the machine, regardless of seniority, to prioritise health and safety for the team. It might be that a refresher course is required for team members or that someone needs some extra support and and supervision with aspects of operation but working together is essential.

In some case the design of controls and displays on some models could be altered to reduce errors caused by slips or lapses. If there are issues with the clarity of controls then they should be included in the risk assessment and could even be highlighted to the manufacturer.

Everyone is responsible for health and safety and powered access platforms can only improve safe working with the support and knowledge of the people who use them on a regular basis. Familiarisation, working together and mutual support are the key to effective and intelligent working at height.

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Unit 8,
Acorn Phase 3,
High Street, Grimethorpe,
Barnsley,
South Yorkshire,
S72 7BD
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Phone: 01226 716657

Fax: 01226 716658

Email: sales@promaxaccess.com