Top tips for access platform risk assessments

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 manoeuvre 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.