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Power Access Platforms and the Art of Reconnoitring

The Duke of Wellington was one of Britain’s finest generals. His success in India, Spain and Europe was down to one thing: reconnoitring the ground. This was so important to him he carried out much of it himself. Seeing the ground with his own eyes allowed him to plan for troop and artillery placement, to check on the ground conditions, and allow quick access to areas when needed.

In effect, he did his own ‘risk assessment’ before each battle. He would have made the perfect MEWP team manager.

The route to site

There are many factors to take into account when planning to use powered access platforms. To ensure their safe and effective use, good decisions need to be based on understanding where and how they are to be used. The best way to identify the hazards is to travel beforehand – to reconnoitre – the route the MEWP will take. From where the MEWP is stored to the site entrance needs to be seen and the most suitable method of transport chosen. If on a trailer, a safe area needs to be designated for unloading. Accidents can and do, happen at this stage.

Accessing the site

When planning the job, factor in separate or designated areas of movement for workers on the ground and the access equipment. This should include:

– Separate entrances and exits

– Pedestrian walkways through the work area

– Crossing points which are clearly signed and lit where there is a crossover between access equipment and pedestrians

– Room to reverse or make a three point turn

– Visibility is paramount when moving machines around and vehicles should have large, clean windscreens and external mirrors to provide an all-round field of vision.

Ground Surfaces

If it has recently rained then reconnoitring the ground is essential to assess the risk. Soft surfaces can make manoeuvrability difficult, particularly when the ground has become muddy and churned up or if you are working on different surface types such as sand, ice or fragile indoor floors. Check the condition of surfaces in all of the work areas and in between and factor in the machine weight as, in some cases, a tracked access platform might be required.

  • The Health and Safety Executive’s Five Steps to risk assessment

Viewing beforehand the route the MEWP will be taking from the start of its journey to the work placement will make the HSE “5 Steps” easier to assess.

Seeing with your own eyes will help:

  • Step 1: Identify the hazards.
  • Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how.
  • Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
  • Step 4: Record your findings and implement them.
  • Step 5: Review your risk assessment and update if necessary.

Take a tip from the Duke of Wellington – do your own reconnoitre and assess the risks when deploying your MEWPs.

MEWPs for outdoor events

Springtime Fun with Powered Access Platforms

In the UK spring has sprung and summer is lurking somewhere around the corner. Across the country fetes, festivals and exhibitions are being planned and MEWPs have made staging outdoor events much easier.

Local fetes, musical festivals in local parks, street carnivals and road races often need access platforms that are flexible, mobile and able to operate safely on a wide range of surfaces and ground conditions.

Their flexibility allows a variety of jobs to be done.

– Putting up bunting, street lighting and decorations
– Stage construction including roofing, lifting steelwork and maintenance
– Setting up and taking down lighting rigs, lasers and pyrotechnics
– Working on sound equipment
– Fixing and operating film and television cameras for broadcast
– Maintenance during the event and site clearance afterwards

Selecting the right equipment for the job

MEWPs are versatile and there is a model or type suitable for most locations, indoors and outdoors. When selecting the type needed, think about the following:

– The work to be done and height and outreach needed
– The ground conditions and any supporting structure
– The terrain and any gradients
– Access to the site and the work location
– Any overhead hazards, e.g. power cables
– How many people will be needed
– The safe working load of the machine
– Are any materials handling devices needed
– Any other traffic on site including pedestrians
– Fuel allowed on site and where refuelling will take place

Safety essentials

The same safety rules apply to access platform users regardless of whether it’s a private or public event. By law, all operatives should be fully trained to use powered access platforms and familiarised with the specific machine they are using.

A full and detailed risk assessment needs to be carried out to identify any hazards in the work area and surrounding site. The fun event is for everyone and should not be marred by risk taking and serious accidents. Often at outdoor events, the work needs to be carried out while the event is going on and there are thousands of people around. When used properly, access equipment is one of the safest ways to work up in the air, at speed. However, be sure to create a safe working area so neither operatives or members of the public are at risk.

Check the weather forecast – it can snow in Spring! Wind. Rain and mud are all potential problems. Be prepared and select the right equipment for the job – including personal fall protection.

Outdoor festivals in the UK are hugely popular, often attracting thousands of people. Powered access platforms play a key role in making them a success. For flexibility, stability and safety they are the best choice for working at height for anyone planning an outstanding summer event. Get out the brolly and the sun cream and let’s all have some fun.

Powered Access Platforms – The To-ing and Fro-ing

THE TO-ING AND FRO_ING OF MEWPs

It’s not just the safety of MEWPs going up and down that’s important – it’s the delivery to site and transport back as well. The “To-ing and Fro-ing”.

There are nearly a million deliveries a year of MEWPs, and whether your company is buying or selling one, or renting one out, there are risks to be assessed. Of the incidents involving MEWPs over a third involved the delivery drivers, with engineers and operators accounting for over half. These are incidents happening even before the MEWP was put into workplace operation.

So how were these accidents happening?

For delivery drivers, half of the incidents reported occurred during the loading and unloading of the MEWP. Specifically, they were caused by insecure loads (often the canopy becoming loose during the journey) and machines that fell off between the ramps.

For the engineers, incidents were identified when hand tools were being used and slipping or tripping when the MEWP was being prepared for operation.

Platform operator incidents were as a result of lack of observation on unfamiliar sites and not giving enough thought to planning a route to where the MEWP was to be used.

With the pressure on site to meet deadlines and schedules, it can be easy to overlook some safety checks. A risk assessment needs to be prepared before the MEWP arrives to ensure the safety of on site personnel and the public if offloading from the road.

IPAF UK publish a very helpful leaflet for planning safe deliveries of MEWPs.

Three key points are made:

1) Ensure that a senior manager is responsible for planning MEWP deliveries, collection and transportation

2) Perform a proper risk assessment for all MEWP operations and document this process

3) Ensure that all employees are adequately trained to fulfil their responsibilities

Powered Access Platforms are incredible machines providing companies with cost-effective ways of working at height. But, there are inherent risks associated with their use. The to-ing and fro-ing and not just the up and down operation must be given very careful consideration.

If you need more help and advice with MEWP training find out more here and give Promax Access a call.

Powered Access Platforms

Powered Access Platforms – The Ups and Downs

Safer and more productive, but…
There’s no doubt that the use of Powered Access Platforms can make the workplace safer and more productive. However, there are also dangers and pitfalls that need to be considered – especially the legal duties placed upon owners and users.

The Ups…

Tree work
The risks of working at height accidents are reduced when using powered access platforms (Or MEWPs – Mobile Elevating Work Platforms as they are commonly known). When used for tree work they are faster to use than conventional ladders and ropes. They enable quick access to those awkward to reach branches and are less tiring for the operators. More work gets done throughout the week and the operators are less tired and thus the risk of accidents through fatigue is reduced.

Construction
Power Access Platforms are a great alternative to scaffolding. They provide easy access to those small but essential jobs high on roofs or ceilings that previously could only be accessed by erecting scaffolding. If the work involved is a routine inspection or small maintenance, the cost and inconvenience of erecting scaffolding can be prohibitive. They are also ideal for those small, “one off” jobs.

Indoor Working and Accessibility
Boom lifts with strong stabiliser legs and spreader plates reduce the pressure point between outriggers and the ground and can operate without damaging floors or delicate ground. Most can be operated with an electric motor as standard to minimise indoor noise disruption.

The Downs…
Like all mechanised equipment, there are inherent dangers in using powered access platforms.

Operator Training
Most accidents arise from their operation and use rather than from their movement on site. Research has shown that lack of adequate training is the cause of over 70% of accidents involving powered access platforms. Employers are obliged to provide access platform training for employees. If you are not sure what’s required, Promax Access provide a comprehensive range of courses to meet these legal training requirements.

Equipment Failure
The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) was introduced to ensure that all lifting equipment was “fit for purpose” and subject to statutory periodic “thorough examination” with detailed records kept. It places these duties squarely with the people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. All equipment must have a valid LOLER certificate and test carried out every 6 months for powered access platforms. To help you manage this essential certification, Promax Access have a LOLER reminder service.

Capital Outlay
If your budget is tight or it’s your first foray into the world of powered access platforms, then consideration may be giving to purchasing pre-owned access equipment. It can, however, be a risky business. Ideally you need to know how old it is, what was it previously used for, has it got a full service and inspection history, was it maintained regularly, does it have an Operator’s Manual and, crucially a valid LOLER certificate?

What might be considered a “bargain” may end up costing more than was bargained for. Promax Access is pleased to offer cost-effective, pre-owned powered access platform solutions, carefully selected from their existing customers or trusted partners. All are supplied fully serviced and inspected with a new LOLER certificate. Pre-owned access equipment is arriving all the time.

Things to know about Platform Access Power Supply

Choosing the right type of platform access equipment for the needs of your job is essential and how the platform access equipment is powered is a major consideration. Different makes and models offer a choice of power sources for convenience and to work safely in different environments.

The main types of platform access power supply are:
   
– Internal combustion engine powered by diesel or petrol fuel
– 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

Why the right platform access power supply is important
The pre-job risk assessment will indicate specific requirements and power supply considerations.
The 2012 Health and Safety Executive ”NOMAD Project” Report, survey found that…

“The general state of compliance of machinery instructions with the noise-related requirements of the Machinery Directive was found to be very poor: 80% of instructions did not meet legal requirements. “

This non-compliance was mainly as a result of the instructions not having enough quantitative values that was either missing (45%), not traceable (75%), nor credible (64%).

When using, or purchasing any powered platform access, it is essential to check the noise levels comply with legal requirements. The HSE website has a wealth of information on this topic.

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.

Choose the right power supply for the job
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.

spider platform access machine

The Joy of Access Platforms in Springtime

Longer days and better weather make for more productivity in the outdoor workplace. It’s the start of the peak seasonal time for work with power access platforms. Those outdoor working at height jobs that were less frequent because of the weather are now more urgently required.

One of the many advantages of using powered access platforms is to work safely at height 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.

Sectors that provide springtime opportunities for access platforms

Arboreal and Landscaping
Powered access platforms are the machine of choice for many tree surgeons as they offer a speedy way to climb trees safely, 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.
The maintenance of parks, woodland and rural areas including clearing of dead leaves, fallen branches and debris provide a fitting backdrop for the daffodils and tulips. They also prepare the ground for replanting for the summer 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.

Maintenance and construction

After winter damage to roofs, signs, streetlights and buildings, a backlog of maintenance issues for buildings and urban areas soon builds up. Leisure centres and offices, for example,  must provide safe and easy access at all times. 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. Powered access equipment provides a safe, secure working platform to carry out repairs with minimal risk to the workforce and the public.

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. Graffiti removal, brick and stonework cleaning are in demand.

Flexibility and convenience
After the winter weather powered access platforms are flexible and versatile to tackle jobs in a variety of working environments. They allow for more work to be done outdoors efficiently and effectively. A case of winter blues being swept aside ready for the joy of spring and, hopefully, sunshine!

Access platforms in springtime

Uses For Access Platforms In Spring

The lighter nights and warmer weather of Spring mark the start of the peak seasonal time for working at height with powered access platforms.

The new season means many industries, such as construction, utilities or landscaping, are ready to tackle more complex jobs at height which are less frequent in winter months when outdoor working hours are shorter and conditions are more unpredictable.

Access platforms are a regular feature on an offsite in spring and summer when the working benefits can be used to significant effect. These include:

– Significant height and outreach to work around obstacles on the ground and at elevated levels
– The ability to work indoors or outdoors in a range of locations including on steep gradients and different surface types
– Mobile access platforms are vehicle mounted for ease of use and able to move between multiple jobs quickly and easily
– People and equipment can be lifted easily to work from a safe and stable platform, even in hard to reach places

Here are just some of the jobs that access platforms are used for which become more frequent in the spring:

Landscaping and tree work uses for access platforms
Parkland, estates and rural areas need clearing of dead leaves, fallen branches and debris, and replanting for the spring growing season. Powered access platforms are also widely used by 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.

Urban maintenance uses for access platforms
Winter storms cause damage to roofs, signs, streetlights and buildings and cause other maintenance issues. Access platforms are ideal for tackling these small but important jobs. Access equipment, such as spider lifts, can move easily around urban areas, including through alleys and gateways, operating safely in confined spaces.

Gutters clogged with leaves and grime can seriously affect building structure and roofs if water is left to back up and access equipment offers a safe, secure platform to work on repairs from, especially if roofs are fragile.

Cleaning uses for access platforms
Windows cover a large percentage of modern buildings, shops and industrial units and window cleaning in winder is infrequent. 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.

Powered access platforms are flexible and versatile to tackle jobs in a variety of working environments and spring is the start of a range of annual jobs at height which they are ideal for. In urban and rural areas they offer a stable and secure platform to lift people and tools, to clean up the debris of winter and prepare parks, gardens and urban areas for the fast growth and warmer weather of the summer months.

Tips for powered access platform managers

Access platform managers play an important role in making sure the work is completed safely, efficiently and on budget.

Management is sometimes the result of being self-employed or owning and business and, for others, it is a natural progression of their skills and experience as a powered access operative.

Whatever route you take to management the rules are the same and the person in charge is responsible for ensuring the job runs on time and to budget without compromising health and safety of workers or anyone around the work area.

Safety
Planning and organisation are the key to well managed job. Access platform managers are responsible for spotting potential hazards and taking action to avoid the causes of serious injury or even death such as falls, overtipping or entrapment.

Managers have the serious responsibility of completing a risk assessment. The risk assessment should include ground conditions in all work areas and any obstructions such as overhead power lines, buildings or branches.

It should be fully documented and reviewed throughout the course of the job to account for changeable conditions, like the weather. It should also include rescue contingency plans and it is the manager’s job to make sure everyone is aware of what to do if something goes wrong.

Compliance
A range of health and safety legislation governs the safe use of powered access platforms including the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Access Platform Managers Role

The manager should be aware of all legal requirements relating to the operation of access equipment to ensure safe working and avoid costly delays or dangerous accidents.

Under UK law all access equipment operatives should also be fully trained and accredited before they work with any machine. The manager is responsible for making sure and operatives are trained and familiarised with the specific make and model they are using.

Equipment Selection
Choosing the right access equipment for a specific job is essential as different makes and models are suitable for different jobs and locations.  The choice of equipment will depend on a range of factors including site access, ground conditions, obstacles and mobility.

Powered access platforms should be serviced every six months with a full record kept of any work or maintenance. Managers also need to allow time for pre-start checks before each job and should sign off the safe operation of the machine.

Training for access platform managers
To get to grips with all the specific responsibilities of being a manager there is specialist training available to progress skills to an advanced level.

The industry body for powered access platforms, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), runs a training course tailored specifically to the needs of management level staff.

The course covers all aspects of planning, supervising and managing the use of access platforms, including health and safety regulations, accident prevention and control, personal protection equipment, and pre-use checks and maintenance and is available from IPAF approved training facilities across the UK.

Managing a job using powered access platforms is a serious responsibility but guidance is available to progress to the next level. The manager has the final responsibility for making sure the job runs smoothly and safely which will boost productivity, establish the company reputation and safeguard the workforce against serious injury or harm.

Access platform Emergencies

Have you got one of these symbols below in case of access platform emergencies?

Access platform emergencies require a quick, trained response to prevent serious injury to personnel. Access platforms need clearly signposted emergency controls and an Emergency Plan in operation. These are available from the IPAF website.

Access platform emergencies require the new IPAF emergency descent symbol“Even experienced operators sometimes have difficulty locating the emergency descent controls that every mobile elevating work platform is fitted with,” said Tim Whiteman, IPAF managing director. “This new symbol is a practical visual aid and a prime example of an industry initiative to make access equipment even safer. We encourage manufacturers to fit this as standard on new equipment and rental companies to fit this decal to their existing fleets.”

Clearly signposted emergency controls and a well trained and familiarised workforce will mitigate against most access platform emergencies. Quickly finding the emergency descent symbol, staying calm and using the inbuilt safety systems saves lives. As required by UK law all access platform operatives should be fully trained, whether they are working at height or on the ground. Promax Access offer a comprehensive training programme and help with your company Emergency Plan.

The Emergency Plan is an essential part of the Risk Assessment carried out before working at height is undertaken. It details various emergency situations and the proposed action to be taken.

Common Access Platform Emergencies

Failure of upper control functions while elevated:
Proposed action:
– operator will use the upper auxiliary controls

Failure of the operator to be able to operate the MEWP functions while elevated due to one of the following reasons:
– Operator incapacitated
– Auxiliary functions fail to operate from upper control station
Proposed action:
Where the operator is incapable of lowering the raised platform using the upper controls, an appointed person familiarised in the use of the ‘ground’ controls will lower the platform safely using the normal ground controls [name of nominated, trained and authorised ground person onsite]

Failure of normal ground controls:
Proposed action:
Where the normal ground controls fail, an appointed person familiarised in the use of the ‘ground’ controls will use the ground auxiliary controls to safely lower the platform [name of nominated, trained and authorised ground person onsite]

Failure of ALL normal and auxiliary lowering functions:
Proposed action:
Where all normal and auxiliary functions have failed, a competent and authorised service engineer should be contacted [name and contact number]

Consideration for mid-air rescue:
A mid-air, platform to platform rescue should only be considered in exceptional circumstances and only after:

• Site management have contacted the competent and authorised service engineer listed in the rescue plan, to report failure of normal and auxiliary lowering systems and request engineering assistance.

If after inspection by the competent engineering assistance, it is not possible to effect a timely repair to allow the machine to be brought to the ground safely, senior site management should be contacted for permission to carry out mid-air rescue.

OR
Where the competent engineering assistance is not readily available and an immediate risk exists to the health and safety of any of the occupants from remaining in the elevated basket until an engineer can attend, then senior site management should be contacted for permission to carry out mid-air rescue.

Code of practice for mid-air rescue

A. Rescue using another MEWP should only be performed once a site-specific risk assessment has been carried out and a specific access platform emergencies plan has been documented and approved by senior management.

B. The rescue machine must be positioned so as to enable the rescue procedure to be carried out without compromising the safety of any personnel involved in the rescue procedure.

C. The platforms of both machines must be adjacent to each other with a minimal gap between them, unless exceptional circumstances mean this is not possible.(Where this is not possible, the circumstances shall be recorded onto the risk assessment form.)

D. Where reasonably practicable, precautions should be taken to prevent inadvertent movement of both platforms during the transfer.

E. The person being rescued (transferred from basket to basket) should wear a full body harness with an adjustable lanyard – the lanyard should be attached to the anchor point on the rescue machine before transfer takes place.

F. Care must be taken not to overload the rescue machine during transfer.  This may mean making more than one journey to complete the rescue.

Further guidance on mid-air rescue can be found in ISO 18893:2014 – 6.1.2.8.

Whatever the operating scenario, it is vital that the access equipment is in full working order following pre-start checks and that all operators are familiarised with the specific make and model being used and its safety controls.

Rescue Platforms

In an emergency, rescue platforms can help. Every second counts which is why powered access platforms are the number one choice of lifting equipment for many rescue situations at height.

The mobility and flexibility of different types of rescue platforms enable emergency services or rescue teams to work at speed and from a secure lifting platform when time is of the essence.

Rescue platforms are frequently deployed by the fire brigade who include vehicle mounted lifting equipment in their fleet to reach people and spaces quickly and safely. Because access equipment is multi use, many of the features of powered access platforms suit complicated or challenging rescues in a range of environments. For example:

Boom lifts move vertically and horizontally and are able to access hard to reach heights over tricky obstacles such as rooftops 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.
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

Rescue platforms

Occasionally the emergency situation might involve rescuing people from the work platform. These types of accidents are rare and powered access platforms have built-in safety controls so operatives can return the raised platform to ground level. However problems can be caused by a range of factors including, but not exclusively, mechanical failure, human error or adverse weather conditions.

Though these systems rarely fail, it is vital to have a plan for how people can be brought down safely. Rescue plans should comply with UK health and safety legislation such as the 2005 Work at Height Regulations.  It is important to do a risk assessment for the rescue, to keep a record of this assessment and note all details of the rescue as they may be important to refer to at a later date.

Here are a few steps to consider in an emergency:
– 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

If it is not possible to repair the lowering mechanisms then a basket-to-basket rescue may be necessary. In exceptional circumstances, where a basket-to-basket rescue is not feasible, emergency evacuation systems such as a crane rescue could be used.

Rescue platforms enable emergency services and rescue teams to manage a rescue situation at height, quickly and safely. Rescue planning should be part of the risk assessment and many scenarios can be avoided by careful planning, a trained and competent workforce and a well performing machine, all of which are best practice for anyone working at height.

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