The mid-winter weather in the UK is always volatile. Conditions can change from sunshine to sleet and snow showers in a few hours. Conditions may be fine when starting a powered access platform job on a chilly but pleasant morning, but by lunchtime, they can quickly become treacherous.
Winter MEWPS are not only designed to be safe and fully functional in bad winter weather but working in quickly changing conditions can increase the health and safety risks for workers and create additional access problems.
Whether you are onsite or offsite, working at height requires a suitable risk assessment to avoid potential dangers. However, fast changing weather may require constant monitoring of the initial risk assessment.
What was good at 8.00am may not be the same after lunch.
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. Both the supervisors and the staff should be aware of the potential dangers so they can actively avoid them.
The HSE website provides full and detailed advice on planning and completing a risk assessment for a wide range of jobs but here are the five main points to consider:
• Identify the Hazards – Walk round the site and make observations. Some of these may be obvious but it is worth getting a second opinion in case there is something you haven’t noticed.
• Decide who might be harmed and how – It may be a job onsite or there may be safety concerns for the general public. Make sure staff are adequately trained to complete the work and briefed on the requirements of the job.
• Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example can you get equipment or materials prepped at ground level?
• 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 safety nets.
• Review your assessment and update if necessary, not just at the start of a job, but hourly if neccessary. Circumstances change all the time so your assessment of the risks will too.
Powered access platforms make working at height safer and quicker but they do not remove all the potential risks that changeable bad weather can bring. Constant monitoring of the risks will ensure that potential problems are managed and be prevented. Each job is different but the aim is the same: complete it without an incident or injury.