The safe way to work at height
March 06, 2017 by David Turner
Businesses whose employees routinely work at height appreciate that to comply with safety regulations they must use appropriate access equipment, yet those undertaking only occasional or seasonal activities may be unclear about their responsibilities.
Briggs Equipment has therefore come up with ten tips to help businesses hire the most appropriate aerial access machines, also known as Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs), to maintain a safe environment for their workforce.
Allan Parsons, National Rental Manager at Briggs Equipment, said: “More stringent health and safety legislation is driving increased use of access equipment, and it’s a welcome development because the number of serious injuries due to people falling from a height is on the decline.
“Our aim is to help businesses that are less familiar with the hire process take into consideration the weather, ground conditions and site access – all of which can impact on performance and safety – so that they hire the right machines and their employees stay out of harm’s way."
Access equipment can be easier to use and more cost-effective than scaffold towers, which have to be erected before work can start and dismantled once the job is finished. Boom and scissor lifts can go into service as soon as they arrive on site and can be off-hired upon completion of the activity.
Here are Briggs Equipment’s top tips to hire in the right MEWP for the job:
Scissor lifts are ideally suited to applications where there is a requirement to raise workers vertically to a given height. In all instances the total weight carried on the platform, including operatives, tools and materials must not exceed the specified maximum load.
Cherry pickers are appropriate where jobs that involve reaching out at an angle as well as up. Operators are advised to wear a safety harness because of the machine’s bouncing action during lifting.
Stock pickers allow one person to ascend to 12ft vertically and are widely used in retail and warehousing environments.
Straight masted boom lifts travel vertically and then horizontally so are ideal for environments which involve working over the top of steelwork or tree branches.
Talk it through with experts
If you don’t know the ropes, seek expert advice. This way, you get the right MEWP for the application and neither the safety of the operator nor the work environment is compromised.
Understand the terminology
The hire industry uses American sizing, so a 19/30 scissor lift has the capacity to lift to 19ft and features a 30-inch wide bed. Ask for advice to avoid confusion over dimensions.
Size is everything
MEWPs are quite small – some can even pass through a standard warehouse doorway – so it is easy to overlook site access. Make sure that the transporter can reach the drop-off point and check that the machine can be moved to the specific work environment.
Indoor use or outside application?
If you are working indoors on a flat surface, a scissor lift can carry two people to height, but for outdoor jobs it is safe for only one person to ascend. The equipment’s small wheels will not cope with gravel or muddy ground conditions and strong winds may destabilise the platform. Stock pickers can only be used indoors, but boom lifts have an oscillating axle so are suited to working outside on uneven and sloping ground.
Additional power source
Scissor lifts are electrically powered so for outside jobs it makes sense to have an extra battery to hand or to choose a biofuel machine. When the battery is low, scissor lifts with a built-in generator automatically switch to running on diesel, simultaneously charging the battery.
Trained, competent operators
Reputable hire companies will always instruct their delivery drivers to familiarise operators with the equipment, but it is the hiring company’s responsibility to ensure that anyone using a MEWP is properly qualified and fit to use it.
Getting the best deal
A typical hire period of one to two weeks is invariably governed by the time slot allocated to a particular activity, such as carrying out routine maintenance checks, cleaning lighting or installing a mezzanine floor. As always, the best deals are available to those who book machines in advance and the longer the lead time, the better the rate.
To reduce the risk of breakdown or malfunction, it pays to hire quality, LOLER-certified equipment. MEWPs should be examined, inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and daily checks should be carried out.
Back up support
Consider the whole package rather than just the headline rate because back up support is especially important in the event of a breakdown due to overloading or equipment malfunction. Briggs can have an engineer on site within three hours.
Aerial access equipment is used by everyone from contract window cleaners, electricians, maintenance engineers and commercial painters and decorators to sign manufacturers/installers and shop fitters. Event management companies use it for stage building and to install temporary lighting and it is even deployed on oil rigs. In fact, MEWPs are increasingly commonplace wherever there is a need to work off the ground.
To ensure safe working at height, Briggs advice is be clear about what you are lifting, hire in quality equipment suited to the application and make sure machines are used by trained operators.