From the Ground Up: Preparing for Safe Working at Height in MEWPs (part two)
All work sites contain potential risks and hazards that need to be addressed long before anyone elevates a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP). A comprehensive risk assessment should cover these key areas:
- Site survey and risk assessment
- Selecting the correct MEWP
- Pre-use inspections
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) selection
- Last-minute checks
Part One of our blog discusses the site survey and risk assessment in detail, along with selecting the correct MEWP. In Part Two, we look at the remaining three bullet points, starting with pre-use inspection.
At the beginning of every shift, a Competent Person must carry out a pre-use inspection of the MEWP. Anyone who holds an IPAF PAL card will have been properly trained in how to conduct a pre-use inspection.
This is a visual and functional walk around, in order to assess the work platform’s condition and ensure that it can be operated safely both at ground level and at height.
The equipment manufacturer outlines the pre-use inspection steps in the operator’s manual, and this is always the best checklist to use, as the manual refers specifically to that machine.
Some examples of what the pre-use inspection will detect are malfunctions, damaged equipment, missing safety material etc.
Examples of what a pre-use inspection might include are:
- Confirm it has a valid in-service inspection certificate
- Operation and emergency function check
- Test all safety devices
- Test any personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Look for hydraulic, fuel and air system leaks
- Check the levels of engine/hydraulic oil, and coolants
- Inspect cables and wiring
- Identify any loose or missing parts
- Check the tyres, wheels and braking system
- Ensure presence of safety decals, placards, warnings, control markings and operator manual
- Test outriggers, stabilizers and other structural components
- Inspect the integrity of the guard rail system
- Any other items specified by the manufacturer
The risk assessment should provide you with guidance on the most appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
However, there is PPE specific to MEWPs, such as personal restraint system in the form of a full body harness, with adjustable restraint lanyard. It is best practice to wear a safety harness when working in any type of boom lift – and in many countries now it is a legal requirement. For avoidance of doubt, a boom-type MEWP is IPAF category 3b. It requires a full body harness with adjustable lanyard.
When using a boom, the safety harness and lanyard should be considered to be part of the equipment, and therefore should form part of the pre-use inspection.
The final step in this process is the last-minute risk analysis (LMRA) – this is a final, brief risk assessment, carried out by the MEWP operator. LMRA includes the following checks:
- Is it safe to use the MEWP in this work place?
- Is the area around me a safe working environment?
- Are my tools and PPE in the correct condition?
- Do I know how to raise the alarm if anything goes wrong?
- What are the escape routes in case of emergency?
- Do I know the location of the nearest first aid kit and fire extinguisher?
If you cannot answer all these questions affirmatively, you should consult your supervisor before commencing any work.
Safety, efficiency and worker welfare are all enhanced by using a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) for working at height. Best practice in safety is at the heart of the Riwal Way; we encourage and support all of our customers to achieve the safest possible conditions for all MEWPs working at height.
Wim van Meer is Group SHEQ Manager for Riwal; and Robert Cavaleri is Regional Safety, Training and Compliance Manager for Manlift.
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