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.

Using emergency desent controls

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 controls feature on 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 ( 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 desent 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.

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.