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:
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
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.
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.
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.