Access Platform News

Powered access platforms have already improved safe working at height but sometimes additional measures are needed to protect the workforce.

Safety is is a major concern at height and at ground level and any major issues will be highlighted by the pre job risk assessment. Accidents such as falls from height or entrapment can result in serious or even fatal injuries and lead to penalty fines and long delays which are both bad for business.

In most cases, powered access platforms are the safest way to work at height for lower level and multi-site jobs but here are some useful safety extras which could save times and save lives:

Harnesses
There are two main uses for a body harness with access equipment:
– As an additional fall protection for a specific job at height – the harness is anchored to prevent falling from the cage or work site.
– To restrict movement into an area of danger – the harness is adjusted to keep the person within a restricted, safe work space.

While they can be used with all types of access equipment they are most commonly used with Static and Mobile Boom access platforms.

Anti-entrapment controls
Entrapment is a risk when working at height near overhead obstructions such as buildings, power lines and masonry or on soft or unstable ground conditions. The following safety equipment can be added to most existing models of boom type access equipment or scissor lifts as an additional protection measure:
– Bars or panels to shield the controls from being accidentally triggered by the operative
– A platform cage or side protection bars to prevent falls from the platform which could lead to serious injury or even death
– A pressure sensing bar with an audible and visible alarm in front of the control panel

Spreader plates
Spreader plates reduce the load bearing pressure at the point of contact between a outrigger or stabiliser leg and the ground, by spreading the load through a wider area.  Pressure can cause problems, even on firm and stable ground surfaces, including instability, sinking or tipping over all of which can lead to serious injury and even death.

Selecting the right size and type of spreader plate for specific locations and access equipment is important. Spreader plates should be big enough, stiff enough and strong enough  to cope with the pressure and weight demands.

Wind gauge
Strong winds can lift or tilt platforms and make them unstable and prone to over-tipping and increasing the risk of falls from the platform.  An anemometer will measure wind speed and new models have been designed specifically for use with powered access platforms. They are powered by an internal generator, attach to the work platform and sound an alarm when the wind speed reaches and unacceptable level for safe working.

All safety devices should be regularly checked to make sure they are in premium working condition used in conjunction with appropriate operator training, good site management and careful selection of the right type of powered access platform to perform a particular job.

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like more details. Alternatively, our friendly staff are always on hand to answer any questions that you may have on 01226 716657 or via our handy live chat function.

Every job at height using access equipment relies on careful planning and attention to detail to make sure that the job is completed on time, within budget and without incident which is why access platform risk assessments are required by law.

Whether you are onsite or offsite, working at height requires a suitable risk assessment to avoid potential dangers. Using powered access platforms does make carrying out jobs at height safer and faster but there are still potential risks and it is important to make sure all staff are aware of any precautions to take.

The law requires employers and self-employed contractors to carry out an adequate assessment of the potential risks on each job so they can do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. Carrying out a risk assessment does not need to be overly complicated but it does need to be an important part of planning and completing a job.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has detailed advice  for all businesses that work at height to help them plan and complete a risk assessment for a wide range of jobs. Here are the five main points to consider:

Identify the Hazards – Walk round the site and make observations. Working at height means many hazards are on the ground and at elevated level such as overhead power lines, buildings and trees. Make sure the access equipment has sufficient room to maneuver and the height and outreach to operate effectively and avoid them.
Decide who might be harmed and how – It may be a job onsite or there may be safety concerns for the general public. All access platform operatives must be aware of the potential hazards identified in the assessment so they can avoid them and, by law, must be fully trained to use access equipment and familiarised with the specific model they are using.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example if equipment or materials can be prepped at ground level. Whether it is a new or used access platform, all equipment should be serviced every six months by law and checked for performance and safety before each job.
Record your findings and implement them – Check the maintenance of the powered access platform and other equipment and make sure that workers know how to operate it safely and effectively. Take extra steps to prevent any person falling a distance that could cause personal injury and use equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall if necessary, such as body harnesses.
Review your assessment and update if necessary – Circumstances change all the time so your assessment of the risks will too. In case something does go wrong, it is important to have a plan in place to rescue people from danger. Emergency descent controls feature on most powered access platforms to enable them to be safely lowered to ground level but, occasionally, a rescue must be carried out at height and should be planned in detail.

A thorough risk assessment is not a one-off task in the early planning stages but should be reviewed throughout the course of the job to account for changing circumstances. It should be carried out by someone with experience and responsibility and fully documented to ensure that, should issues arise, everything possible has been done to maintain the highest standards of health and safety.

Powered access platforms make working at height safer, quicker and more efficient and under UK law people working with or operating them must pass an accredited training course.

Anyone working with access equipment needs to know how to inspect it, to operate it safely, and recognise and avoid any potential hazards. As well as this general training, they should also be given familiarisation training on the specific model that they will be working with.

Whether you are operating a powered access platform for private or commercial use the same rules apply to stay safe and within the law. Employers and individual users must make sure operators are properly trained and are liable if the rules are broken.

The Law
UK Law states that all operatives must have training to use access platforms before attempting to operate any machine. Courses combine practical and classroom based sessions that include the following information:
– Operating equipment safely
Inspecting access platforms for defects and wear and tear
– Recognising and avoiding potential hazards in the workspace
– The importance of familiarisation with the specific make and model to be used
Failure to comply with the law can put the lives of workers and anyone else in the work location at risk and is punished with large fines and penalties which could result in a business being shut down.

About The Powered Access Platform Training

Training is a combination of classroom based study and hands-on experience with the equipment and courses are available for operators
, demonstrators
, instructors, managers and people working with specialist mast climbing access equipment

Accredited training centres are located across the country and courses can be held at their premises, or on a convenient site with suitable facilities. Anyone who passes a course will be given an accreditation or licence which they can use to evidence their skills and legal ability with prospective or current employers.

The most obvious benefit of powered access platform training is a large boost to individual skills and experience. A trained operative will be able to work more safely and efficiently and is an asset to businesses both in specialised fields of work and industries that deliver a broad range of services at height.

 

Powered Access Platform Training for Managers
A manager includes anyone in charge of a job at height as they have the final responsibility for health and safety. There are serious penalties if the responsible person has not followed the law. Specialist training prepares managers for planning and supervising jobs involving access platforms and is suitable for all of the diverse industries that work at height.

Powered access platform training is the key to a successful and efficient business. The benefits not only apply to the individuals but keep clients, co-workers and collaborative partners happy and ensure that every job is completed safely, on time and within budget.

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 lifting in summer’s variable weather:

Safe Lifting In Dry 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 stabiliser 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

Safe Lifting In Windy weather
Although the wind speed at ground level or in an open area may be low, it is stronger when working at high levels.  It can increase as much as 50% 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.

Safe Lifting In Wet weather
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.

Changeable conditions
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.

It’s the law that anyone working with construction access platforms must have passed an accredited training course and construction leaders have taken that assurance once step further to protect all workers on site. The UK regulations make sure that the job is completed more efficiently and prevent misuse of the equipment which could lead to serious injury or death and prosecution for employers that don’t follow the letter of the law.

Construction Access Platforms Accreditation

From January 2015, it was agreed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) that the industry, including trade associations, contractors, clients and government, should specify and promote card schemes carrying the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) logo with no equivalents accepted. CSCS is the leading skills certification scheme within the UK construction industry and the cards are recognised as proof that holder has the required training and qualifications  to work on a construction site in a particular role.

PAL Cards

However working with powered access platforms operatives is, in many cases, considered to be a specialist role and the requirement will not override the existing specialist accreditation such as the International Powered Access Platform (IPAF) PAL card. As the industries that work at height are so varied, the PAL card offers certification of a new skill on top of existing trades such as electrician, cleaner or window fitter. PAL Cards will continue to be recognised on Build UK sites as proof of MEWP and MCWP operator training and continue to be accepted and recognised as proof of training in the safe use of powered access platforms and mast climbing work platforms (MCWPs) used in the steel industry.

Most PAL Card holders will already hold an occupational skill card relating to their particular trade/profession e.g. electrician or steelworker and so they won’t be affected by this new scheme. PAL Cards are issued as machine-readable Smart PAL Cards which adds an extra level of assurance that only fully trained and qualified operatives can use access platforms or mast climbing work platforms on site.

Employers Obligation To Construction Access Platforms Accreditation

Employers are obligated by law to provide proper training in the use of access platforms to comply with health and safety and work at height regulations. If employees have a PAL Card, it proves that all legal requirements have been fulfilled in that area and the CSCS accreditation cements those assurances further.

Powered access platforms are easy to operate and widely accepted as the safest way to work at height but without proper training, accidents can still occur. For the employees, PAL Cards certify the skills and abilities of anyone operating access equipment and lifting people and equipment to significant heights.

Last weekend almost 200,000 music lovers travelled to the Glastonbury festival and powered access platforms are playing an increasing role in the success of the summer live music season.

Festivals involve multiple stages set out over a large site area, in a variety of locations from public parks and gardens to rural farmland. Access platforms have a number of advantages for working at height at live music events because they are flexible, mobile and able to operate safely on a wide range of surfaces and ground conditions.

Some of the main jobs Spider Lifts are used for are:
– 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 festival and site clearance afterwards

With such a vast number of acts on at festivals, some of 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.

What to look out for

People – There are lots of them around at festivals and many will be in an excitable state or even inebriated. Make sure you carry out a full risk assessment to account for this and create a safe working area so neither operatives or members of the public are at risk.
Weather – Outdoors in the British summer is unpredictable at the best of times. Wind, rain and mud are all potential problems at festivals. Conditions can change quickly so check the forecast at regular intervals so you can select the correct equipment for the job and avoid accidents. Personal fall protection is also highly recommended.
Ground conditions – These are affected by both the weather and the location. Muddy farm land and pathways in a historic garden are very different surfaces but both pose risks for instability. Choose your access equipment to meet your requirements. For example:

– All-terrain access platforms have four wheel drive and are designed to stabilise on varied surfaces and gradients so are ideal for more remote areas of festivals with poor infrastructure
– Tracked access platforms spread the weight of the machine and reduce the pressure at ground level which could make them too heavy for fragile or soft surfaces

Festivals are a unique working environment and the combination of large crowds, unpredictable weather and unusual locations means work needs to be completed quickly and safely with minimal impact on everything going on around the site. Powered access platforms can work safely on most ground surfaces and are mobile so they can easily move around the site. Whether you are going to a festival or enjoying the music at home, access platforms have become as essential to event organisers as wellies are to the crowds.

UK legislation ensures that all powered access platform use is safe and efficient and it is essential for businesses that work at height to be up to date on the law for access platforms.

The legal know how for access platform use is part of the mandatory training for both operatives, managers and supervisors and was introduced to avoid accidents and make sure that the machines are in top working order.

The law for access platforms applies to both new and used access platforms. keeping the access equipment in prime working condition extends its performance and lifespan and increases value for money.

The legal essentials

There are two pieces of current legislation that govern the maintenance of powered access platforms:
Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

The law for access platforms states that they must be tested and thoroughly examined at regular intervals by a qualified person. This means every six months for any machine that lifts people and 12 months for machines lifting just equipment.

Here is a brief outline of the key pieces of law for access platforms:

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
LOLER has the following requirements for servicing access equipment:
– Equipment used for lifting people should be safe to use and all necessary precautions must be taken to eliminate or reduce any risk
– Access equipment should be thoroughly examined before it is used for the first time
– Examinations should be carried out  in use every six months for access platforms lifting people and 12 months for all other equipment
– Inspections and servicing should be carried out by a qualified person who submits a full report to the owner/employer

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
The servicing requirements of PUWER for work equipment are:
– It should be suitable for use
– It is used and maintained in a safe condition for use so that people’s health and safety is not at risk
– Inspected regularly to ensure that it is safe for use
– A competent person should carry our inspections and a record kept until the next inspection
Mobile access platforms used for carrying people should be fit for purpose with measures taken to reduce the risks to anyone using it or in the vicinity

Accredited training is also required for anyone using powered access platforms both for commercial and private use and will give a more detailed outline of LOLER and PUWER. The key to machine safety is a regular schedule of maintenance which is fully documented and maximises the functionality and safety of the equipment. This will also ensure a high resale value of the access platform.

It makes sense that any machine used to work at height is in prime working condition and the people using it are not put at risk. There are large penalties for not complying with the law for access platforms, not least if anyone gets seriously hurt or injured as a result of mechanical failure. Getting your powered access platforms inspected and serviced regularly is not only a legal requirement but a way to guarantee it is operating at peak performance, getting jobs at height completed faster and more safely and to avoid any unnecessary accidents.

Spring and summer is the season for industry exhibitions which are a great way to promote working with powered access platforms, but companies are being warned about displays which might be dangerous.

It is common practice for organisers and exhibitors to display scissor lift powered access platforms and attach a banner to them However, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) is urging anyone attending a country fair or exhibition not to do this as unpredictable weather conditions could create a “sail board” effect which could destabilise the lift and cause it to fall over.

Many scissor lifts are specifically designed for indoor use only with zero wind. Even outdoor machines may be at risk of being blown over when elevated in high or gusting winds. They are not supposed to hold banners or advertisement boards as this increases the surface area, risking the safety of anyone working on the machine or on the ground. Exhibitors are also advised not to use the machine for entertainment or joy rides as they should only be operated by trained personnel.

Scissor lifts are a safe way to perform temporary work at height when used properly by trained operatives and are ideal for a range of specialist working conditions including:

Confined spaces – Movement and operation of access equipment can be restricted in some spaces such as alleyways, narrow streets, courtyards, interiors or dense woodland. Scissor lifts are able to stabilise in limited spaces and the compact design can gain access through a standard-size doorway.

Quiet working – As scissor lifts are designed to work in confined spaces, they have the option of electric power or duel fuel motors to reduce the impact of noise.

Indoor working – Indoor working may have similar confinement of movement and access issues. There may also be limits on noise and weight as floors, cellars and basements may be incapable of bearing the weight of access equipment. Scissor lifts are lightweight and most models have the option of white tracks, to prevent floor marking, and electric power to reduce noise.

IPAF has more support and advice for exhibitors  and technical advice for powered access platform users, on it’s website at www.ipaf.org.

The ability to move quickly between jobs is a major bonus of working with powered access platforms and following a few basic rules is the key to site safety.

Different types of access platforms have different set up times and some are more suitable for moving between jobs than others. Choosing the right machine for the specifics of a job and location is important and will be influenced by a range of factors including work space, obstructions at height and ground level and other people or jobs that may be present nearby.

In general, mobile access platforms take less time to set up between jobs so they are ideal for multiple jobs such as street lighting, cleaning, roofing or building maintenance. They are usually vehicle-mounted and fixed to a truck or a van base or can be transported on a road towable trailer.

Here are the main safety considerations for working with mobile access platforms:

On the road
Drivers must hold a valid UK driving licence for the appropriate size of vehicle. Many vehicle mounted mobile access platforms can be driven on a standard licence but, for larger machines on a truck base, an HGV certification may be necessary.

Towing powered access platforms is also regulated by UK law and it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure compliance. This means checking the trailer and load does not exceed 80-85% of the weight of the vehicle if the trailer has separate brakes or, if not, that the the towing vehicle is twice the weight of the trailer and its load.

Access to 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 cross over 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

Identify risks
Careful planning means it will be clear when the access equipment needs to move between jobs in the work location, and additional safety measures can be applied.
It is advisable to limit the number of vehicles in a work location at any one time so the access equipment has sufficient space to move.

Obstructions can be present at ground and elevated level such as people, buildings and other traffic. It is important to keep a safe working distance from all obstructions when moving access platforms around particularly if space and access are limited.

Ground Surfaces
Soft surfaces can make manoeuvrability difficult, particularly when the ground is 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.

Before using any access equipment, operatives must be fully trained in their use and carry an IPAF card or other recognised certification. Access platforms should be regularly serviced to stay in full safe, working order. If these simple steps are followed, mobile access platforms can boost speed, safety and productivity for a variety of businesses.

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) calling for comments from powered access platform users on managing access platform inspection, maintenance and thorough examinations of their equipment.

The Strategic Forum Plant Safety Group  has produced some draft guidance entitled Managing the safe condition of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms – A practical approach to Inspection, Maintenance and Thorough Examination of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs).

The draft document has been written for application in the UK, within the UK legislative jurisdiction and can be accessed by IPAF members through the website www.ipaf.org. IPAF members are encouraged to consider the draft guidance and to give constructive comments using the relevant comment form by 27 May 2016.

Access platform inspection legal requirements

An access platform inspection is required by UK law and is also important to prevent serious accidents, extend the lifespan of a machine and ensure a legal and protected resale value.

The main types of access platform inspection are:
– Pre-use access platform inspection checks
– Six-monthly or annual access platform inspection /examination by a competent person
– Major access platform inspections within ten years of service

A record of these checks should be kept throughout the machine’s lifespan and used to evidence safe working or passed on to the new owner when it is sold.

Pre-use access platform inspection

A pre-start inspection should be carried out every day and all operatives should be trained to carry them out and aware of any findings. The checks will confirm that the access platform is safe to use and identify any potential issues before working at height.

There are a number of key functions and features on access platforms which should be in full working order before the equipment is used. Even if the access equipment is rented from a reputable firm, the hirer is responsible for the health and safety of the people using it, so it is important to carry out your own checks as well as those done by the supplier.

Six month checks

Powered access platforms are only safe and efficient if they are in premium working condition and regular inspections and maintenance are required by law for lifting equipment. All equipment used to lift persons must undergo a thorough examination by a competent person at least once every six months. Don’t be afraid to ask for the credentials of whoever carries out the inspection and keep a record of the service history.

Major inspections

Powered access platforms should undergo a major inspection within 10 years of being originally put into service and then every 5 years after that. Machines that have had a sustained high use or worked in a corrosive environment may need to be inspected sooner. The inspection should only be performed by a competent person who is up to speed on developments relevant to the inspection and maintenance of powered access platforms such as legislation, standards and best practice and machine technology and design.

To take part in the consultation got to www.ipaf.org