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All about emergency descent controls

In an emergency situation there might only be a few seconds to take action that saves lives and the design and manufacture of powered access platforms has evolved with this in mind.

Access platforms feature both normal and auxiliary control systems so an operator is able to bring the platform of the machine safely back to ground level under controlled conditions. The safety and stability of powered access platforms can be affected by a number of scenarios including;

– Adverse weather such as strong winds or heavy rain
– Changes in the ground conditions affecting stability
– Operator error
– Collision with obstructions at ground or at height
– Mechanical failure

It is important 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.

Action in an emergency

When the normal control functions fail, the operator will use auxiliary controls to lower the platform safely to the ground. There are controls at height and at ground level so trained staff should be able to lower the platform in an emergency. If both normal and auxiliary functions have failed, a competent and authorised service engineer should be contacted unless an urgent rescue is required.

Failure of both the normal and auxiliary safety controls is extremely rare and, in most instances, the platform will be lowered using these controls. If an emergency situation does occur it is vital to know how to operate the safety features and emergency descent systems.

Emergency descent systems feature all types of powered access platform but their location and how they operate will vary, which is why familiarisation can save lives. All access platform operatives should be fully trained (this is required by UK law), whether they are working at height or on the ground.

In an emergency situation, quick thought and action are essential and clear signage to identify safety controls, could save lives. The International Powered Access Federation has devised a recognised symbol which can be downloaded from its website (www.ipaf.org.uk) and put on the machine to clearly indicate the location of the emergency descent controls in a crisis situation. IPAF are encouraging manufacturers to fit the symbol as standard on new equipment.

Clearly signposted emergency controls and a well trained and familiarised workforce will mitigate against most emergency situations involving powered access platforms. Look for the emergency descent symbol, stay clam and use the inbuilt safety systems to work safely and save lives.

Heavy duty powered access platforms

Jobs at height are required in all types of locations – urban and rural – and some of the more extreme environments require a heavy duty powered access platforms.

In almost all instances, appropriate access platform selection is key to the safe operation and efficiency of any job at height and the make and model of machine being used will depend on the specific needs of that job. Heavy duty access platforms are needed where the job has an added element of risk, for example:

– Unusual ground surfaces such as ice, sand, mud or railways
– Adverse weather such as strong winds or heavy rain-
– Lifting heavy weights and equipment
– Overcoming obstacles at ground level and at height

In these, and other risky scenarios, a strong foundation and robust lifting mechanisms are essential. Fortunately, as powered access platforms are flexible and mobile, several types of machine are able to rise to the challenge.

Boom Lifts
Boom lifts have great flexibility and include articulated or hydraulic mechanisms that both lift and reach out. This makes it easier to position the work platform in hard to reach spaces. This flexible lift and outreach also means they can avoid potentially dangerous obstacles such as branches, buildings or overhead power lines. They are fully mobile – either road towable or vehicle mounted- and stablilizing outrigger legs anchor the machine for use on uneven or sloping ground.

All terrain platforms
All terrain access platforms are a flexible and safe solution to working at height in extreme environments which is why that have been used everywhere from urban spaces, to dense woodland, to the icy continent of Antarctica. They have wheels and 4WD to move quickly off road and through rough terrain to reach a wide range of unusual locations. They can operate in areas requiring specialist traction, stabilise on steep gradients, and function safely in most weather conditions.

Road Rail
Road Rail access platforms have the duel ability to operate on road and rail tracks without affecting the speed or functionality of the equipment. It is easy to switch from one operation mode to the other and it saves money as well as time by reducing the need to hire locomotive plant or attempt access through protected or remote areas of countryside. They are robust and efficient and used for a wide range of essential jobs at height on the national railways including repairing and installing signals and posts and structural inspections of bridges, stations and embankments.

Heavy duty access platforms are able to reach remote locations, operate on unusual ground surfaces and provide a strong and stable base in extreme conditions. Safe working saves lives and boosts the productivity, even in unique working environments.

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