IPAF conference takes place in Hong Kong

The International Powered Access Federation Asia conference took place in March and the main topic was the continuing development of the aerial work platform sector in the world’s emerging markets and how to promote safety for new users. The vice chairman of the conference, Alan Chan, of the Hong Kong Occupational Safety & Health Council, told the conference delegates that the number of construction workers in Hong Kong had seen 50% growth to 80,000 in 2014. Until recently, the means of working at a height in the emerging markets had been ladders and platforms which were substandard and Mr Chan was pleased to report that their use is lessening as health and safety awareness increases.

Rental sectors must not be complacent

Worldwide, there has often been a shortfall in level of employer responsibility when it comes to rental sectors, but the keynote speaker, Andy Studdart, told the conference that employers who rely on rented platforms must be extra vigilant when caring for the health and safety of employees and customers. Training is given in the use of platforms by UK renters and this is the only way to make sure that working at a height remains a safe option. Maintenance levels of rental equipment is often higher than equipment owned outright, which can make rentals a better safety option.

Technology can make platforms safer

Several speakers at the conference pointed out that technology has helped improve safety in many different types of moving access platforms and this needs to continue. When technology brings changes, it is more important than ever to make sure that all employees are kept up to date with the innovations and this is where the ‘top-up’ training is so important. Most companies make sure that all employees attend training sessions, but the freelance worker must also make sure that their certification and training is kept up to date. Even a small change can create difficulty; even though its intention is to increase safety, if the employee is not familiar with the change, it can become dangerous.

Working at height is a concern worldwide

One interesting point which the conference made clear is that working at a height is a danger no matter where in the world you are. Singapore has very stringent regulations about the safety of workers above ground level and their HSE has no compunction in bringing cases against employers who flout the rules. In the UK, many cases a year are brought against companies who have put staff at risk, sadly often after a catastrophic accident has already happened. IPAF training is important in minimising accidents and it is advisable to ensure that all staff who may come into contact with powered access equipment should have their training records be fully up to date – it doesn’t matter whether the person will only use them once a year; it is even easier for an accident to happen with occasional use than everyday experience.