An outside access platform in wet and windy conditions will require extra precautions to avoid accidents. In these weather conditions the risks of instability, falls and over-tipping are increased and the number of accidents rises as people fail to compensate for the adverse conditions. Even all-terrain and off-road access platforms can fall prey to wet weather problems and potential hazards may not be obvious as conditions can change mid-job.
The violent storms and hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and Florida at the moment are a powerful reminder of how devastating nature can be. Although on the other side of the world, the two month forecast for the UK is for the tail end of three hurricanes to arrive with heavy rain and high winds up to 100mph.
There are two main pieces of legislation that are relevant for considering safety issues in wet weather conditions:
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 – This requires a detailed risk assessment to be carried out at the job location before starting any work at height. The risk assessment should be reviewed at regular points throughout the job.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) – Managers and employers are obligated to prevent or control the identified risks. The legislation includes a whole section on over-tipping and considering ground conditions in relation to the requirements of the job.
All staff that operate powered access platforms must be properly trained in their use. This training includes identifying potential hazards and avoiding them and handling rescue situations should the need arise.
This is a primary consideration in wet weather as it could be crucial to the stability and safety of the access equipment. Both the stability of the ground under the weight of the machinery and the possibility for changing conditions, for example on sloping ground, should be considered. Spreader plates may be necessary to stabilise boom lifts and heavy access platforms.
As well as the location of the job, the ground conditions to and from the site may pose a risk in heavy rain. The access route can pose a number of hazards including underground dangers, sloping ground or uneven surfaces.
Sloping ground is a challenging work surface in dry weather and can become dangerous and unstable in the rain as the surface of the ground can wash away on steep hills and gradients.
Overturning accidents on grass verges, and steep bankings beside roads and train lines are more common in wet conditions.
Falls are the most common cause of serious accidents and injuries involving access equipment. In rainy conditions the basket or work platform may be wet along with the surrounding work area. It may be necessary to take extra care and also use additional safety equipment such as a harness.
With heavy rain and gusting winds forecast it is important that UK operatives of powered access platform are prepared and confident to use the equipment in wet conditions.
• Make sure all staff are fully trained and familiarised in the use of specific access equipment
• Risk assessments should be carried out before, during and after the job and recorded
• Check ground conditions at the job location and use spreader plates if necessary
• Access route ground conditions also need to be checked to avoid dangers
• Be prepared for changeable ground and surface conditions in persistent heavy rain
• Use additional safety equipment such as harnesses and high visibility waterproofs
With the UK forecast predicting deluges and powerful gusts over the next few months, it is vital that all those responsible for the safe operation of an outside access platform become their own “weather watchers”. Accuweather provides global forecasts. More locally, The Met Office provides long range forecasts .