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October 14, 2014

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Working at height best practice spotlight

By David Thomas

The International Powered Access Federation’s (IPAF) latest findings from its accident database [1], which revealed that mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) were connected with 23 deaths worldwide in the first half of 2014, prompted a concerned response from speakers at the sixth Nationwide Platforms’ ‘Working at Height Best Practice Forum’.

Jeremy Fish, Nationwide Platform’s UK managing director, noted that this statistic was “unacceptably high” and, with new guidance on ground conditions available from the Construction Plant-Hire Association (CPA) [2] shortly, stated that, “ignorance is not an excuse”. He pledged to, “work tirelessly with customers, suppliers and partners to ensure best practice was applied”.

Held at Sedgebrook Hall, Chapel Brampton in Northamptonshire on 2 October, as part of Nationwide Platform’s Health Safety and Sustainability Week, the forum was attended by health and safety professionals from a variety of industries with the aim of creating awareness and discussing ideas on how to overcome health and safety challenges when working at height.

Carlo Forini, Terex AWP [3], talked about the challenges of designing-out risk during the product development process. Tim Watson, from CPA, spoke about the management of ground conditions and set out the main points, which will be emphasised in the forthcoming industry guidance. Mark Keily, Nationwide Platforms’ QHSE director, provided an industry update, highlighting in particular the forthcoming revision of HSE’s CIS58. [4]

Later in the day, a workshop session considered the issues surrounding intelligent MEWP management. In addition, with about a third of the accidents recorded by rental companies involving delivery drivers, a plant demonstration illustrated the measures that can be taken to enhance safe loading and unloading.

A big ‘eye opener’ was a demonstration set up to illustrate the axle and wheel loadings on a MEWP. Load cells were set up under each wheel in order to record the imposed loads when the platform’s basket was positioned in a variety of positions within its ‘loading envelope’. While this was not necessarily intuitive to all those present, the demonstration would form the basis of a good roadshow and/or toolbox talk.

Useful guidance can be found at

* Exiting the platform at height.

* Guidance on the assessment of ground conditions.

* MEWPs – guidance on secondary guarding devices available to reduce the risk of entrapment injury.

* Guidance on MEWP security.

* Ready reckoner conversion tool.

* ‘Spread the load’ campaign.


  4. The selection and management of mobile elevating work platforms:

 David Thomas is a member of the SHP editorial board

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