Suspended Access Equipment

Suspended Access Equipment

25th August 2015

The Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association (SAEMA) has published new guidelines on working at height. SAEMA is the national trade body that’s dedicated to raising standards in the permanent and temporary façade access equipment industry and cooperates with other organisations involved in the provision and maintenance of façade access systems and equipment.

So many of our modern buildings such as huge office blocks and shopping malls have large and inaccessible areas that need cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis. Accessing these areas to carry out routine tasks is a challenge that is increasingly being met by trolleys, platforms and gantries which are permanent suspended installations designed to provide a safe place from which to work for the cleaning and maintenance personnel.

The new guidelines document published by SAEMA is one of five that’s now available on their website and refers readers to the relevant standards and regulations that cover this type of specialist suspended access equipment. The guidelines also cover the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), rigging platforms, how to deal with malfunctions and breakdowns and what procedures need to be followed on completion of the installation.

It’s the legal responsibility of the Duty Holder to ensure that suspended access equipment is:

  • Safe and fit for the purpose for which it was designed
  • Used by adequately competent and trained workers
  • Properly maintained, tested and examine on a regular basis
  • And that proper records are kept including Service Reports, Test Certificates, LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) Reports, Training Certificates and O and M Manuals.

The Duty Holder is responsible for making sure that a risk assessment is carried out for the use of suspended access equipment and safe access routes must be included in this assessment and all hazard control measure implemented. Some of the typical hazards that need to be considered when carrying out the risk assessment are as follows:

  • Falling objects from the work platform
  • Adverse weather conditions (including ice, snow, lightning, high winds)
  • Falling objects onto the work platform when in use
  • Falling of people from the work platform
  • Workers trapped against the building and/or crushing injuries
  • Failure of equipment when in use
  • Mechanical or electrical supply failure
  • Accidental collision
  • Unauthorised use of the work platform

The types of personal protection equipment that may be necessary may include:

  • Safety helmet with chin strap
  • Safety Footwear
  • Gloves
  • Hi-vis clothing/vest
  • Safety harness

The Duty Holder will also need to ensure that all equipment operating manuals and other relevant documentation are available and have been read and understood by all workers who are destined to use the suspended access equipment. The Load Test Certificate should be current as should the LOLER report – these provide evidence of a thorough pre-use examination of the equipment. If these documents are not available, the equipment should NOT be used.

Prior to each use of the suspended access equipment, it’s vital that the Risk Assessment is reviewed to make sure that there have been no changes to the hazards. All hazard control measure specified in the Risk Assessment should be implemented. If it is not possible to implement controls, the suspended access equipment should not be used. If there are any additional hazards these should be immediately reported and work should not begin until safety measures are in place that consider these additional hazards.