24 February 2016
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jobs at height are required in all types of locations – urban and rural – and some of the more extreme environments require 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 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 flexible and safe heavy duty powered access platforms. They are a great 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 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 powered 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.