Mobile Elevated Work Platforms - Safety Concerns Increase

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms - Safety Concerns Increase

11th November 2014

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms, or MEWPs, as they are commonly known cover a variety of forms that include self-propelled booms, vertical scissor lifts, vehicle mounted booms and trailer mounted booms.  They are usually considered to be a safe and easy way to access heights however, they’ve been getting some bad press recently.

Over the past six months we’ve seen increasing concern about the safety of mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs).  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is the UK’s non-departmental public body responsible for health, safety and welfare in the workplace, published an alert over one type of MEWP.  

In 2013, there was an alarming raise in the number of fatalities of workers using MEWPs.  The 53 deaths globally represented a 65% increase on the previous year’s figures.  Three of these deaths occurred here in the UK, including an incident in which a crane toppled, crushing a 29 year old foreman to death.  These are the factors that have led the HSE to investigate MEWPs and re-evaluate the advice it gives on how the machines are used.

During the investigation of more than 5,500 MEWPS it was discovered that 35 had defects that would have harmed users and/or nearby personnel while more than 100 had serious defects which posed an immediate risk or danger.  

There are several precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury when using MEWPs:

•    Ground Conditions – the platform should only be used on firm and level ground
•    Guardrails – It is vital for user safety that the platform is fitted with effective guardrails and toe boards to reduce the risk of falling
•    Confined Overhead Working – if there are overhead structures in the work area it will be necessary to take this into account or select a MEWP that has been designed to prevent accidental contact
•    Arresting Falls – If there is any risk of workers falling from the platform, the a harness with a short work restraint lanyard should also be provided and used
•    Falling Objects – Erect a barrier around the platform to ensure nobody can walk close enough to be hit by a falling object
•    Nearby Hazards – Do not operate a MEWP near overhead cables or close to other dangerous machinery and do not allow any part of the arm to protrude into a traffic route or walkway
•    Weather – Decide on a maximum safe wind speed for operation and stick with this.  Always inspect the platform before use, especially after severe weather conditions
The HSE has disclosed that the most significant dangers in using a MEWP occur during use and operation of the machine.  The incidents usually range from falls from height, entrapment and overturning platforms rather than being caused by their movement as a site vehicle.