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To fail to plan...

23 January 2013

Brian Parker discusses why companies must have an emergency rescue plan in place when using mobile elevating work platforms Iwould never go up in a Mobile Elevating Work Platform if I didn't know how to get myself do

Brian Parker discusses why companies must have an emergency rescue plan in place when using mobile elevating work platforms

Iwould never go up in a Mobile Elevating Work Platform if I didn't know how to get myself down again or if there was no-one available on the ground who knew how to safely lower the platform should I become injured or ill.

Unfortunately many operators and companies do put themselves in such potentially dangerous situations. It's not enough for someone to pass an operator course and think they can suddenly work on any machine - with hundreds of different types of MEWPs on the market how can they possibly know the detailed operation of each.

It is therefore vital that operators have familiarisation training on the actual machine that will be used (information on machine familiarisation can be found in the technical guidance notes in the publications section of the International Powered Access Federation website, www.ipaf.org).

It is equally important that someone is always on the ground close by who is also familiar with the machine and capable of bringing the platform down if the operator is not in a position to rescue himself.

If you don't know where the emergency controls are on a MEWP don't think you can just refer to the operating manual - most of the time those manuals are kept in the basket, so in an emergency they will be out of reach.

Legal requirement To avoid such situations occurring, it is imperative that companies have a documented and detailed emergency rescue procedure in place. Indeed this is a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulation 1999 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Most main contractors have emergency rescue plans, but the majority of small companies hiring on a one-off or irregular basis do not tend to be aware of the need for a plan or what the plan should include. They think that an incident will never happen to them. Even where a plan is in place, in many cases it is too general to be of real value in an emergency.

This is one of the reasons why the Strategic Forum for Construction Plant Safety - a group comprising contractors, hire companies, the HSE, IPAF and MEWP manufacturers - has recently produced the 'Best Practice Guide For MEWPs Avoiding Trapping /Crushing Injuries To People In The Platform'.

Part 1 of the guide is for planners, managers and trainers. It provides information on hazards, risk assessments, controls and responsibilities. It also gives detailed information to help people identify trapping risks and to plan and manage work activities to protect against entrapment accidents.

Part 2 is aimed at those using and supervising MEWPs and who are responsible for rescuing anyone trapped on a MEWP platform. This section of the guide has been designed to be used in briefings or toolbox talks for supervisors and MEWP operators.

The Strategic Forum was made up of companies and organisations from across the industry, and has enabled the industry to receive valuable first hand experiences of incidents that had occurred.

Advice on rescue plans given in the guide includes : In extreme cases and/or where an operation involves repeatedly working close to an obstruction, an observed 'dry run' could be appropriate to look for potential entrapment risks that could result in a rescue being required.

The ground key for the MEWP should ideally be left in the base unit where this is practicable, or at least quickly available at ground level if not.

While the MEWP manoeuvre is taking place at least one (and as many as is appropriate) designated ground rescue person should be appointed who knows the rescue procedure and has been familiarised with the MEWP being used (including emergency rescue controls).

They should always be readily available in the event of an emergency.

A system must be in place to identify that an operator may have become trapped, particularly for lone workers working close to an overhead structure.

This needs very careful consideration if the operator cannot be seen from the ground. Operators must take advice if such a system has not been put in place when a risk of entrapment is present.

Decide who should effect the rescue and how: this depends on the complexity of the operation and therefore the relative risk of effecting a rescue from the ground compared to the risk of an operator, possibly in a state of panic, trying to rescue himself.

It also depends on how the controls for the specific MEWP being used function if the load cell has been activated.

To download a copy of the Best Practice Guide go to: www.afi-uplift.co.uk Brian Parker is health, safety & environmental quality manager for powered access hire specialists AFI-Uplift.