As more companies become aware of the dangers of working at height, there has been a shift away from traditional equipment such as ladders towards powered access solutions. The use of safer and more stable equipment has helped to reduce accidents in the workplace, but of course the need still remains to make sure aerial access equipment is used properly, with the right platform being chosen for each job.
Here are some of the key considerations to take into account when using such equipment:
Proper training and licensing
It is very important that the operator of the platform is properly trained and holds the correct licence for the equipment he or she is using. In many cases, a PAL Card (Powered Access Licence) will be needed, and the holder will need to complete refresher training every five years. Anyone using mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) should undertake relevant training, with industry-standard courses being accredited by the International Powered Access Federation. Scissor lift training is a requirement if you work on aerial work platforms.
The working environment
Choosing the right powered access platform for the environment it will be used in is a factor that needs to be considered. For example, stock pickers are often used in the warehouse and storage industries, being able to take a single person up to 12 feet in height, but are usually designed only to be used indoors. On the other hand, scissor lifts can often be used either indoors or outdoors, but width and height restrictions as defined in the Working at Height Regulations mean that whereas two people may use a lift up to a certain height indoors, due to weather conditions outside it may only be safe for one person.
It is also wise to take into consideration whether the platform will be used on a level or uneven surface. Some platforms such as boom lifts will have wheels and suspension designed to be used on uneven surfaces, with oscillating axles more suited to rough ground and slopes. Don’t forget, if you are having aerial access equipment delivered to a work premises or building site, you must be able to move it from the drop-off point to the work area safely.
When using powered access equipment for the first time, it is important to familiarise yourself with safety information and additional equipment such as harnesses. All platforms should have clearly displayed information regarding maximum working weight and the number of people who can be carried by the platform. Exceeding these limitations can be very dangerous, as with higher reaching platforms in particular, having too much weight at the top can cause instability and create the risk of the platform toppling over, especially outside where wind may also play a part.
If a platform is designed to be used with a harness, any hire company should provide this as the machine is delivered, and the operator should be fully trained on how to use it.
These are only the main factors to consider when using powered access platforms such as scissor lifts, boom lifts, cherry pickers and stock pickers. Powered access training courses are an invaluable investment for any company, as well as training courses specific to the kind of platform being used.