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Essential Ground Condition Checks for MEWPs

Ground condition checks for powered access platforms

It may be sunny this morning but was there heavy rain last night and the night before that could mean unstable ground conditions?

Ground conditions are essential to the stability of powered access platforms and jobs at height are carried out on a variety of surfaces.

Different types of access equipment are suitable for use on a range of different surfaces, indoors and outdoors. Whether you are using an access platform on wheels or a jack or outrigger, choose the right type for the working surface. The weight of the access equipment could cause ground to shift mid-job which will make the machine unstable and risk falls or over-tipping.

How to check ground conditions

Ground Assessment – A visual inspection may be fine but some sites may need a full geotechnical survey . The assessment should be made by someone with enough knowledge and experience to bring in expert help if necessary.

Be flexible – Ground conditions can vary in different areas of the same site so be prepared to assess each individual location for the access equipment, especially when using mobile access platforms such as booms or scissor lifts.

Weather conditions – Wind, rain, ice and even sun can quickly change ground conditions and cause instability. Regular checks should be carried out, particularly in rainy or cold conditions, and adjustments made if necessary

Spreader plates – Most soils, unmade ground and some paved areas are not capable of supporting the high pressure created at the feet of outriggers.

Spreader plates should always be used with boom-type mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) when fully supported on their outriggers. 

Spreader plates should be used with all other MEWPs that have outriggers unless a risk assessment indicates they are not necessary. Spread the Load!

Surfaces and different powered access

Tracked access platforms and scissor lifts are a reliable option for these surfaces:
Streets, paths and gardens – Paved areas might look strong but could have been laid on weak ground or have shallow services underneath.
Indoors – Many floors, cellars and basements are incapable of bearing the weight of access equipment so care must be taken when siting equipment indoors for a job.

All-terrain access platforms are best for any off-road work or surfaces that require specialist traction or 4WD:

Sand – Low sand density and high or variable water tables can create difficult conditions on sand.
Ice and snow – Regular checks should be carried out as frozen ground can quickly become soft as it thaws.
Rural areas – Many rural areas require an off-road vehicle. Take extra care when working next to rivers, estuaries and flood plains.

Boom lifts or mobile access platforms such as vehicle mounted lifts offer the flexibility and variety of reach to tackle most jobs at height in urban environments:

Urban streets – Take extra care when siting equipment on estate roads or areas that are used to light traffic rather than those used regularly by heavy commercial vehicles.
Underground Services – Sewers, drains, manholes, gas and water mains can be close to the surface and may be damaged by the weight of a powered access platform or could even collapse and cause the machine to become unstable or overturn.

Summary
The key to using access equipment on different surfaces is to be flexible and prepared to keep checking the ground conditions in case there is any change. It is better to check and make adjustments than wait for problems to occur, especially as it is easy to adjust the stability settings of most access equipment. Make sure you have the right type of platform for the job and that your checks are carried out properly and regularly so the access equipment will do a safe job on most types of ground surface.

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