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Access Platform News

Managing risk for jobs at height

Powered access platforms have made working at height much safer but it can still be a risky business and a large number of serious or fatal workplace accidents are avoidable if the hazards are effectively managed.

Managing risk means identifying the potential dangers for each job and taking steps to avoid them. It may not be possible to remove a hazard completely, such as an overhead power line, but understanding and documenting how they might affect a particular job, and making the workforce aware, will create a safer working environment.

The flexibility of powered access platforms to operate effectively in a range of indoor and outdoor locations means that risk assessments have to take a range of external factors into account. They also have legal implications if something goes wrong which is why they should be carried out by an experienced and responsible person.

Where to start

By law, employers and self-employed contractors must carry out an adequate assessment of the potential risks on each job so they can do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. The process does not need to be overly complicated but it is an essential part of planning and completing a job.
The risks will depend on the job location but here are some of the more common issues consider:

Ground Conditions – The access platform should operate on firm, stable ground which has been checked for strength and unseen hazards, such as underground services or cellars.

Confined spaces – Avoid trapping incidents by identifying obstacles and ensuring the safety controls are kept clear.

Weight – Each machine has a maximum weight capacity which includes people and equipment being lifted. Exceeding this limit can lead to overturning.

Weather – Changeable conditions can affect the platform and the ground conditions including heavy rain and ice and high winds.

Fall protection – A harness and lanyard may be required if there is an additional risk of falls such as during adverse weather or working on fragile surfaces.

Obstructions – Overhead power cables, branches or masonry can all pose a risk so safe distances should be assessed at height and ground level.

Falling objects – Workers on the ground may also be at risk from falling tools or objects in the work are. This can be avoided by keeping the platform tidy.

Planning a risk assessment

Identify the Hazards – Walk the site and make observations. It is worth getting a second opinion in case there is something you haven’t noticed.
Decide who might be harmed and how – It may be a job onsite or there may be safety concerns for the general public. Make sure staff are adequately trained to complete the work and briefed on the requirements of the job.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example can you get equipment or materials prepped at ground level?
Record your findings and implement them – Keep a record of the assessment and review the risks throughout the job as circumstances change all the time.

Powered access platforms make working at height safer and quicker but they do not remove all the potential risks such as dangerous structures, bad weather or accidents. A risk assessment will ensure that potential problems are managed and can be prevented, so each job is completed without an incident or injury.

The essentials of powered access platform training

Training is a legal requirement for any individuals using powered access platforms, and it is also essential to running an efficient and cost effective business for industries that work at height.

Employers and individual users – both self employed or private use – are ultimately responsible for making sure that any staff or subcontractors have the required training to safely operate any make or model of access equipment.

Accidents have a high cost in terms of people and corporate reputation. Not only do they lead to compensation payments and significant penalty charges, they can also put businesses at risk from time delays, higher insurance premiums and legal fees.

Training in the use of powered access platforms is the key to a successful and efficient business. There are a wide range of training courses available for different levels of user including operators, demonstrators, instructors and managers.

The Law

Under UK Law all access platform operatives must be fully trained before attempting to operate any machine. Accredited courses run all over the country using a combination of practical and classroom based sessions to bring people up to speed on operating equipment safely; Inspecting access platforms for defects and wear and tear; Recognising and avoiding potential hazards in the workspace; and familiarisation with the specific make and model to be used.

Training includes:
– Industry regulations and standards
– Choosing the right platform for the job
– Carrying out workplace inspections
– Operation of the powered access platform including demonstrated proficiency in all functions of the equipment
– How to recognise and avoid common hazards
– Operator warnings and instructions
– The purpose and use of manuals
– Carrying out a pre-start inspection
– Factors affecting stability
– Personal protective equipment
– General equipment components
– Safe use of equipment
– Understanding issues associated with larger machines: e.g. outriggers/stabilizers, extendable axles, envelope management systems, load-moment devices, dual capacity

Courses can be tailored to the individual requirements of your business and can many accredited training centres offer courses to be held at their premises, or on a convenient site with suitable facilities.

Powered access platforms make working at height safer, quicker and more efficient and training is not only required by law but it has notable business benefits in the short and long term. Anyone working with the equipment needs to know how to inspect it, to operate it safely, and to recognise and avoid any potential hazards. This will prevent accidents, improve the working environment and help to establish a respected business reputation.

Access platforms continue to perform safely

Over the last few years, powered access platforms have dramatically reduced the number of fatal accidents involving elevated workers and the latest data shows that the trend for safer working continues.

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has released the 2015 accident data which confirms that powered access platforms are still one of the safest ways to perform temporary work at height.

The latest figures show that the number of reported fatalities in 2015 was 68, giving a fatal injury rate of 0.035. Of the 68 reported MEWP fatalities for 2015, the main causes were overturning, falls from height, electrocution and entrapment.

There was a drop in numbers last year (2014) to 64 fatalities but this year’s figure matches the 68 reported fatalities in 2013. The breakdown from 2013-2015 shows that the main causes of fatalities were: fall from height (31%), overturn (27%), electrocution (15%) and entrapment (15%).

According to the IPAF calculations of the access platform fatal injury rate, while the use of access equipment has increased, the fatal injury rate has fallen. The current statistics are based on rental fleets but similar data is being gathered for user owned equipment.

The fatal injury rate is calculated based on the following factors:
– Estimated rental fleet size from IPAF market reports
– Estimated average utilisation rates per country and worldwide -the rate is the share of the fleet out on rent at any time over a year
– Average days worked per year (5 days a week for 50 weeks a year)
– The number of fatalities involving MEWPs in a year, based on the IPAF accident reporting project

Accident reporting
The IPAF accident reporting project launched in 2012 to improve the gathering an analysis of accident data relating to powered access platforms. Since then, businesses that work at height have been encouraged to voluntarily submit accident information in order to process an accurate picture of health and safety issues.

The information is already being used for a number of life saving purposes including

– Improving legislation and safety guidance

–  Supporting training for workers and operatives

– Improving the design and manufacture of access platform safety features

How to get involved
The IPAF database is still the only central point for the recording of accident data. It relies on voluntary contributions from industries that work at height using access equipment. Manufacturers, operatives, rental companies, contractors and individuals can report fatal or serious accidents and the gathered data is confidential and only used for safety improvement.

Go to www.ipaf.org to find put more about accident reporting and how your business can help to save lives and benefit from accurate and informative health and safety data.

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.

Building Site Access Platforms

Building site access platforms are a regular feature on UK construction sites and managing site safety on a large, multi-skilled site is a major undertaking.

Falls are the still the main cause of accidental death in the construction industry and account for 50% of all fatalities. There is no distinction between low and high falls so mitigating against accidents is vital both for individuals and businesses.

If possible, working at height should be avoided but this is rarely practical on a construction site. Powered access platforms offer a safe and stable working base for a number of low to mid-height tasks, providing safe access to elevated jobs and the ability to move easily from one place to another.

Whether you are a site owner or a subcontractor, the same safety rules apply and here are some of the main things to think about when working with access equipment:

Choose Your Building Site Access Platform

Choosing the right type of access equipment will make a difference to the safety of the job. Different models have specialist features that can suit every stage from early building to the final finish. Some models are suitable for indoor or outdoor use and can fit through a standard size doorway. They are flexible, mobile and able to stabilise on a range of ground surfaces and gradients. Machines should be fully serviced every six months and checked before each job to make sure they are fit for purpose.

Identifying Hazards

Construction sites are very busy with multiple people carrying out different jobs. Identifying potential hazards so they can be mitigated against is an important task for the site manager and for individuals employed on the site. Working with access platforms requires a thorough risk assessment at both ground level and at height to identify issues such as:

– Overhead power lines and buried cables
– Soft or fragile ground
– Trip hazards on the work platform
– Collision with another vehicle
– Falling materials and collapses
– Changeable weather conditions

Access and Mobility

Moving between jobs is a major advantage of access platforms but it can also increase risk to people working on site. Access onto the site and movement around it should be carefully planned to avoid accidents by keeping vehicles and pedestrians aparat. Ground conditions should be checked regularly at access points and and job locations as soft or uneven ground can increase the risk of the vehicle overturning and endangering lives.

Additional protection

Building site access platforms support the use of personal fall protection such as a work-restraint lanyard or full body harness. Many models of access platform are fitted with guardrails or toe boards and safety controls can be found at height and ground level to protect the workforce in emergency situations.

Overnight safety

It is important to prevent accidents even after working hours on site. While you may not be responsible for trespassers, you can help prevent dangerous incidents:
– Clear the platform of tools and equipment
– Switch off the power and remove the keys from the machine
– Secure the equipment to prevent vandalism and theft

Building site access platforms are a safe and efficient way of completing jobs at height which is why they continue to be a regular feature on UK construction sites. Safety relies on both the site management and individuals using the access equipment, working together to plan, manage and be aware of all the other activity on site as well as taking responsibility for protecting the people around them.

Working with access equipment for tree work

This winter the UK has been battered by storms and high winds and one of the many consequences of this is fallen trees and hanging branches.

Powered access platforms are widely used for tree work as they provide a safe and stable working platform, they can be moved quickly between trees and locations and they eliminate the need for exhausting climbing or carrying of tools.

Whether you are landscaping, planting or pruning, here are the main things you need to know when working with access equipment to manage tree work.

Risk assess the job
Before the start of any job involving access equipment, a detailed risk assessment should be carried out. This is essential to identify the following points:
– Selecting the right make and model of access equipment for the job
– The ground conditions, height and outreach
– The need for personal fall protection
– Obstacles and hazards at height and ground level
– Emergency procedures and rescue plans

A stable platform
Ground surface conditions are an important consideration as the platform must be set up on a strong and stable base to prevent overtipping.  Most types of access platforms can operate on sloping ground and some machines have auto levelling technology to assist this. When using boom type access platforms, spreader plates will be required under the outrigger legs to ease surface pressure.

Personal fall protection (PFP)
Often, working at height on trees involves the use of a chainsaw and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends the following PFP to reduce the risk of cuts:
■ A safety helmet
■ Eye protection
■ Hearing protection
■ Suitable gloves appropriate to the task
■ Leg and groin protection
■ Protective boots with good grip and protective guarding at front vamp and instep
■ Non-snag outer clothing.

The operator should be secured on the work platform by an anchored lanyard or harness and nobody should stay at height while the vehicle is moving unless the machine is designed to be driven from the platform.

Working from the platform
The HSE also recommends the following safety tips when working with trees:
– Keep the platform floor free of debris and never use it to lower timber
– Position the platform at or above the level of the cut and never under the branch to be pruned or removed
– Do not attach ropes between the platform and any part of the tree
– Use an independent rope to lower offcuts

If climbing from the platform into a tree is required, the climber should wear a harness suitable for tree climbing and be attached to the tree, on a tested anchor point, before releasing the anchorage on the platform. Take care to avoid contact with any trees when lowering the platform and stow and lock the lower boom fully in the travel position

Powered access platforms are ideal for tree work as they are flexible, mobile and able to travel and operate in hard to reach places including remote woods and parkland. Take time to stabilise the machine and ensure operatives are adequately protected as this will lower the risk of accidents or injury.

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