How to Stay Safe on Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

How to Stay Safe on Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

16th June 2015

We all know that the most common cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry is accidents that occur when working at height.  There’s been quite a bit of information available on how best to keep safe when working on ladders and scaffolding, whereas working on mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) is given less attention within the industry.  We’ve put together a guide that you can use to minimise the risks and control the hazards when working on MEWPs.

A MEWP is defined by BS EN 280:2013 as “a mobile machine which consists as a minimum of a work platform with controls, an extending structure and chassis; that is intended for work at height”.  There are four main classifications of MEWP:

  • Mobile Vertical (such as scissor lifts)
  • Static Vertical
  • Mobile Boom (such as cherry pickers)
  • Static Boom

According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the most critical hazards associated with MEWPs occur during operation and use of the machine, rather than during their movement as a site vehicle.  While MEWPs are considered to be a vital item of equipment on construction sites, the HSE reports that a number of operators have died as a result of accidents involving MEWPs.  The majority of serious or fatal injuries occur when operators are trapped (often between the basket and a fixed structure), when the machine tips over, from a fall or during a collision (either with overhead cables, nearby vehicles or even pedestrians in the area of operation).

Under the new Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015, risks posed by MEWPs must be controlled.  It’s essential that the correct type of MEWP is chosen for the task at hand and there should be a well-rehearsed rescue procedure in place.  Some of the precautions that should be taken are as follows:

Ground Conditions – the platform must be sited on firm and level ground and any temporary covers must be strong enough to withstand the applied pressure.

Confined Overhead Working – operators should be informed of any dangers and a safe system of work must be followed.  If there are any overhead structures where an operator could be trapped, then the MEWP used must be of the type designed to prevent such accidental contact.

Guardrails – the work platform should be fitted with effective guard rails and toe boards to prevent falls.

Outriggers – these must be extended and chocked before the platform is raised – always check the equipment manual to ascertain whether spreader plates are necessary.

Nearby Hazards – a MEWP should never be operated near overhad cables or other dangerous equipment.

Fall Prevention – if there is a risk of a worker falling from the platform, a harness with a short work restraint lanyard should be secured to an anchorage point within the bakset to stop the worker from reaching a position where they could fall.

Falling Objects – install a barrier around the platform that will prevent people from getting close enough to be hit by falling objects.

Handling Materials – if a MEWP is being used to install materials, then the weight and dimensions of the materials need to be checked and any laod distribution and manual handling issues should be considered.

Weather – weather conditions should be taken into consideration, especially high winds (a maximum safe wind speed should be set and wind should be constantly monitored). Storms and snow may damage the platform so it should be inspected after severe weather conditions.