In May this year, the HSE has issued a health and safety alert over the use of boom type mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). In the current method of operation, the alert advises that the covers on machine controls do not protect workers against entrapment. Entrapment can occur between the machine and nearby obstructions. This alert is directed at MEWP manufacturers, owners, users and operators. Fatal accidents have been reported where the operator has been crushed between the cover on the controls of the machine and an overhead obstruction. Covers/guards are used to cover the controls to reduce inadvertent contact with the controls. It has not been concluded that by not using these shrouds/covers entrapment could have been prevented, however there is a strong case for risk assessing these covers/shrouds when purchasing and using this kind of equipment.
Boom type MEWPs can be vehicle-mounted, self-propelled or trailer-mounted. Accidents have occurred as a result of MEWPs collapsing, overturning, people being thrown from the carrier and the carrier being trapped against fixed structures causing entrapment. One of the first things to consider in controlling the risk is making the site safe. The correct MEWP must be selected for the job, i.e considering the ground conditions, working height, range of movement, anticipated load (people and tools). MEWP’s designed to be used on firm level slabs should not be used elsewhere. MEWP must have regular inspections and checks depending on their usage. Competent personnel need to undertake the maintenance as required. Causes of MEWP’s malfunctioning are equipment failure, ground conditions, trapping against fixed structures and the equipment itself being struck by a vehicle.
Other site traffic should be segregated from the MEWP work area. Parts of the MEWP cannot protrude into roads or other transport routes. The work area should be checked for potholes, manholes and service ducts as any of these can cause a MEWP to turn over. Any temporary covers should be secured and strong enough to withstand any pressure. There should be supervision so that safe systems of work are being done. Overhead crushing and contact hazards should be checked. It should be checked that weather conditions have not altered ground conditions. Limits should be set for safe speed operation, especially in high winds. Working near steep slopes and edges pose hazards, so if possible, appropriate guards should be in place to contain the MEWP and its operator. At all times the MEWP should be set up to operate in a safe manner.
All MEWP operators must be fully trained and there must be a system in place for recording faults, repairs and maintenance. Use of fall protection should be put in place where required. A fall restraint (this consists of a body harness and a lanyard) will prevent a person falling from the carrier (unless the MEWP overturns). The lanyard length must be short enough to prevent a person reaching a position where they could fall. However, when working near water a harness should not be used due to the risk of drowning if the MEWP falls into the water. Life jackets should be worn.
There are many pieces of legislation that refer to the use of MEWP’s. These include PUWER 1998, LOLER 1998, the CDM regulations, PPE at work regulations and the Work at Height regulations, among others.