Mobile Elevating Work Platforms, otherwise known as MEWPs, come in many forms, including cherry pickers, scissor lifts and aerial platforms, to name a few, but the main purpose of each is the same – to make working at a height simpler, safer and more accessible.
Working at heights comes with a number of safety precautions, especially when it comes to using large, heavy machinery like MEWPs. In this guide, we have provided a brief overview of MEWP safety, how to become an MEWP operator and things to consider when working from a MEWP, followed by some safety tips for working with these large pieces of machinery.
Why is safety important when working from MEWPs?
There are several risks associated with working from a height as well as working from MEWPs, which is why several safety measures must be put in place to reduce the chances of these risks befalling the worker.
Here are just a few of the dangers associated with working from or with MEWPs:
- Falling from a height – whether that’s from overloading, operator error, overturning, mechanical failure or tipping, for example
- Risk of injury to workers on the ground, when items fall from the MEWP
- Trapping or crushing if the MEWP is directed too close to an object
- Electrocution should the MEWP make contact with a power line
- Operator fatigue when working in hot weather conditions or when overworked without rest
- Operator stress – if they have a fear of heights or if the MEWP is being used in strong winds
These are just a number of the risks that come with working on or near a MEWP. With a rather extensive list of possible risks, it’s no wonder why safety is so important when using a MEWP on a construction site.
How can you become a MEWP operator?
If you’re hoping to develop your skills in the construction industry and become a MEWP operator, you will need to take part in the IPAF training course first. There programme teaches thousands of workers every year and helps them to qualify as MEWP operators.
Once you have passed the training course, you will be provided with a Powered Access Licence, along with a log book, safety guide and certificate, which provide evidence of your ability to operate MEWPs.
Top tip: Certain licenses work with certain MEWPs, so make sure your qualifications are applicable to the MEWP you are being asked to operate before doing so.
What do non-operating MEWP workers need to think about?
Whether you’re assisting the operator on the MEWP itself, or working from the ground below the MEWP, there are several things to consider in order to improve safety precautions as well as to support the operator who is guiding the machine.
- Firstly, does the operator have plenty of visibility to guide the MEWP safely and efficiently? This is especially important when the operator is trying to reverse the machine.
- Is the MEWP positioned safely within a cordoned off area and not reaching out over any barriers, where members of the public could be at risk?
- Is the everyone on the ground safe from the risk of falling object? This could be bystanders, work colleagues or members of the public.
- Are there warning signs and cones surrounding the MEWP’s working area?
- Ground conditions and considering the weight of the machine of finished pavements or soft did and under ground services
These are just a few considerations to make as a construction worker assisting the MEWP operator from the ground. Plenty more detailed information can be found over on the HSE website.
Our top MEWP safety tips
Whilst there’s a wealth of official material covering MEWP safety procedures, we have provided some of our own safety tips to bear in mind when considering the use of MEWPs:
- Be sure to plan and prepare the area for the introduction of a MEWP – including which MEWP is most appropriate, if there are any access restrictions, and making sure to hire the machine from a vetted supplier.
- Operators should familiarise themselves with the MEWP – the functions of a MEWP can vary between make and model, so it’s worthwhile discussing the machine with a technical expert, before attempting to operate it. Also refer to the safety manual for user and safety information on the machine.
- The operator should produce a risk assessment and based on the machine and the area they are working in. This should be assessed and approved before the MEWP is used on site.
- Make sure that the operator’s licence is in date and that it relates to the MEWP you are planning to use on site.
- The MEWP should come with a LOLER safety inspection certificate that has been issued within the last 6 months. This acts a seal of approval for its safety.
- Be sure to set a safety procedure in place for the MEWP’s operator.
- Safe use of harness and choosing the correct restraint lanyard when using a MEWP.
This is just a drop in the ocean as to what safety measure can be put in place to reduce the level of risk when using a MEWP on your construction site, and more information can be found on the HSE website. We hope that our guide has emphasised just how important it is to ensure the proper safety procedures are carried out when using a MEWP within a construction site and that it provides a brief overview of how to begin implementing these procedures.