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Spotlight on Mobile Elevating Work Platforms

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Introduction

A Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) is a safe method of providing a temporary platform for people, their tools and equipment, whilst working at height. At A-Plant we have an extensive range of MEWPs which are some of the youngest and most reliable available to hire in the UK. As well as providing MEWPs, we also offer industry accredited customer training, 24/7 support from mobile engineers, and experts to carry out site surveys to advise on the safest, most cost effective option to get the job done.

Selecting a MEWP

When selecting a MEWP, the following factors need to be considered:

  • The type of work to be carried out
  • The access available to the work area
  • The terrain being worked on
  • Work area conditions, in particular, maximum ground pressure
  • The number of people and the load to be lifted
  • Height and outreach required
  • Fuel type
  • Proof of operator training in appropriate machine category.

Risk assessment

As part of the MEWP selection, a risk assessment must be made to cover all aspects of the work to be done.

To ensure safe travelling positioning and set-up, these points should be checked:

  • Machine type and weight
  • Machine is in travel position
  • Walk the route before starting
  • Effect of limited operator visibility
  • Other traffic or work in the areas
  • Poor, rough, waterlogged or frozen ground
  • Paved areas and safe slab loading
  • Un-compacted fill
  • Trenches, drains and manhole or inspection covers
  • Excavations, basements and cellars
  • Slopes and ramps
  • Services above and below ground including overhead hazards
  • Hazardous or narrow areas and obstructions
  • Continual awareness of the situation and surroundings
  • Continually observe – before and during the raising or lowering of the platform – always checking for obstructions above and below, or people
  • Impact or crushing points
  • Check speed and sound horn before entering a doorway
  • Effects of weather on people, the machine and ground conditions
  • Settlement and the use of spreader pads, stabilisers and jacks
  • Machine levelling
  • Correct position to reach work surface
  • Cordoning off the work area
  • Possible collision dangers and ejection from platform

Pre-use inspections and familiarisation

It is vital to check that a MEWP is safe, intact, that it works properly, and is clean prior to use. Inspect the entire machine both before and after use: the power source, all working parts, the structure and the vehicle mounting (where applicable) in conjunction with the manufacturer’s manual.

Document all inspections!

Do not attempt repairs or adjustments which you are not authorised to carry out. If you discover any defects you should isolate the machine as defective.

When carrying out your inspection, never work under a raised boom or platform unless movement has first been prevented by means of blocks, or special locking devices fitted for the purpose.

Power unit considerations

Certain simple precautions need to be observed depending on the type of power fitted. For example when a machine is being used indoors, adequate ventilation must be provided.

When using LPG, make sure you can fit replacement gas bottles that may be carried out within a building and at least eight metres from any source of ignition. And of course no smoking when refuelling or changing a gas bottle!

The same precautions apply to electric power units when batteries are being charged.

Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn at all times.

Safe operating methods and hazards

Travelling by road

If you are moving a MEWP by road, the country-specific regulations must be adhered to.

You must have a valid driving licence for that class of vehicle.

Before travelling on the road with a vehicle mounted MEWP, make sure you know the clearance height and width of the machine, which should be marked in the cab.

If the machine is equipped with outriggers (stabilisers), or extending axles, check that these are fully retracted and locked in place. Where appropriate, check that the slewing lock has been applied.

When loading or unloading MEWPs from a transporter, adequate ramps should be used and correctly positioned. The use of the vehicle winch is recommended on certain vehicle types of MEWP.

A self-propelled MEWP should not be towed or used for towing unless it is specifically designed and equipped for this purpose. Otherwise this can cause serious mechanical damage to the machine or injury to people on site.

When negotiating ramps or slopes with a MEWP it is important to apply the brakes regularly to prevent the machine picking up too much speed and running out of control. This should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, which must be followed.

Positioning and terrain

When working in an area used by other vehicles or pedestrians, for your own or other people’s safety, you must make sure that the whole of your operating area is cordoned off using cones, warning notices, flashing yellow beacons etc.

Under no circumstances should you allow any part of a MEWP to extend or swing into a line of traffic.

If arrangements need to be made to divert traffic using temporary barriers, cones, traffic lights and/or signs, consult the site supervisor who carries the legal responsibility for this. European law requires that only suitably trained persons may carry out this task.

Ground assessment

The assessment of ground strength can vary from a visual inspection of the ground surface to a full geotechnical survey. In the case of MEWPs, a visual inspection is often adequate as outrigger loads are relatively low compared to machines such as mobile cranes.

However, it is essential that the assessment is made by someone with adequate knowledge and the experience to know when further expert advice and assessment is required.

Ground conditions

During use it is important that operators use the level indicators on platforms and take notice of any warnings provided. If the level indicator shows that the operating limits are being exceeded, the operator should lower the platform, or the machine, and then reset the machine in a level position. If it is suspected that the outriggers could sink for any reason, regular checks should be made to outriggers, spreaders, mats etc.

Safe Working Load (SWL)

This is the maximum load that the MEWP will safely carry. It includes the weight of all people, tools and equipment being carried.

Overloading by exceeding the SWL is extremely hazardous and should never take place.

SWLs should always be marked on the machine in a prominent position and shown in kilograms (and lbs) and by diagrams indicating the maximum number of people that can be carried.

Weather

Wind – all MEWPs (except those specifically for indoor use) have a maximum design wind speed which should be marked on the machine.

Rain – boggy ground can hide hazards, settlement and slippery surfaces, causing reduced tyre grip.

Ice – freezing of components, hidden hazards, effect on operator’s ability, and ground which could settle on thawing and destabilise the machine.

Snow – slippery surfaces, can hide hazards, effect on operator’s ability.

Sun – melting tarmac, sunburn, glare.

Lightning – do not use a MEWP when there is a danger of lightning.

Health and fitness

The safe use of MEWPs requires the operator to consult safety notices, and read and thoroughly understand the manufacturer’s instruction manual. Literacy and language comprehension are important requirements for any MEWP user.

The assembly and use of MEWPs can be physically demanding so users should be physically fit and in good health with no eyesight or hearing problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, epilepsy, fear of heights or vertigo, giddiness or difficulty with balance, impaired limb function, alcohol or drug dependence, or psychiatric illness.

Powered Access Licence (PAL) Card

The PAL Card is issued exclusively by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF). It is awarded only to platform operators after they have successfully completed training at an IPAF approved training centre. A-Plant is an IPAF approved training provider.

The rigorous standards of the training ensure those who carry the PAL Card are amongst the safest and most productive platform operators around.

The authority of IPAF means that the PAL Card commands respect across all industries throughout the world.

It also demonstrates that those organisations whose employees have earned the PAL Card are fully committed to meeting their duty to comply with Health and Safety legislation.

For details of A-Plant’s IPAF approved customer training go to http://www.aplant.com/services/customer-training

Note: This blog post is a summary of key aspects of the safe use of MEWPs and does not include all safety guidelines.

Source: International Powered Access Federation (IPAF)

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