THE FLEXIBILITY OF POWERED ACCESS SCAFFOLD PLATFORMS
Powered access or mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) offer a versatile and safe working at height solution for many of our customers. We have trained a number of our scaffolders to use MEWPs because they can be used inside and outside, allow workers to reach the required working level quickly and protect their welfare by the inclusion of fall protection measures such as guard rails and toe boards.
MEWPs are ideal in scenarios where it’s impossible to reach a particular area of a building with a ladder. They are also great for awkward spaces where traditional scaffolds are too difficult to build. For example, we have in the past used a powered access platform to allow workers to paint high ceilings or repair chimney stacks.
How Should MEWPs be Used?
Although powered access platforms or MEWPs are incredibly useful, it’s important that they are operated carefully and under the right circumstances. The factors that we consider are:
- The smoothness of the ground – if it’s too soft or not flat enough, there is a risk that the platform will be unstable or perhaps even overturn
- The right type of MEWPs – there are different models of powered access platforms, such as cherry pickers, and it’s essential that the right model is chosen to suit the purpose of the job
- The height required – this will determine whether it’s possible to use MEWPs safely
- Potential obstructions – overhead power lines and protruding tree branches could act as barriers to the suitability of a powered access platform
- The size of the site – the larger the site, the busier it is likely to be and the higher the risk in colliding with something or someone.
In addition, the scaffolder who operates the MEWP must be fully trained and highly experienced. Our operators are trained by an International Powered Access Federation approved trainer and the course takes about a day to complete. By the end of the training, the scaffolder knows how to use and load the MEWP basket and machine in a safe and efficient manner.
Like other working at height solutions, powered access platforms carry a number of risks if they’re not used properly. A fall from a MEWP can cause serious injury or even be fatal so it’s essential that the operator has the appropriate expertise and the people who use the working platform recognise health and safety regulations.
The risks of using MEWPs can be minimised by following these principles:
- All potential hazards must be identified and action taken to reduce them via a formal risk assessment process.
- The people using the work platform must wear safety harnesses and know how to use them.
- The MEWP to be used must have been previously inspected for any faults or loose connections.
- Any inspections have to be undertaken by a suitably qualified, expert and experienced scaffolder.
- While MEWPs can reduce the risk of working at height, other risk factors should be considered before using such a work platform on site.
- In the event of high winds or winter weather, it may be unsafe to operate a powered access platform. If bad weather is predicted, it should be included in the risk assessment. If weather worsens while on site, consideration should be given to postponing the tasks being carried out.
- Any load bearing requirements must be taken into account.
Projects Where MEWPs are Useful
MEWPs can solve a number of access problems. We have used powered access platforms to build handrails at particular building levels and to construct hanging scaffolds. Steel erectors use MEWPs to install the framework for new builds and painters use them where the work needs to undertaken in a difficult area, such as on a motorway or over a pathway, where a scaffold structure or tower would cause too much disruption to the public.
On one project, we used a MEWP to erect a handing scaffold from a bridge because a preservation order prevented scaffolding from touching the ground. The powered access platform allowed us to build the scaffolding birdcage to achieve the cleaning of steel components.
As we mentioned above, there are different types of MEWPs. A scissor list has a flat platform that elevates up and down at high levels while telescopic booms have the same ability to provide a platform at various heights but can also extend out by as much as 30 metres and tilt the cage. The latter option is ideal on very difficult sites where access is limited as it can reach pretty much any spot that is needed.
On really large sites or where the required work platform is higher than normal, a truck mounted access platform can be used. It can reach heights of up to 100 metres and is a cost effective alternative to what would be time and equipment intensive scaffolding build.
So, in terms of versatility, powered access platforms or MEWPs have a lot to offer. We often offer them as part of our range of access solutions and will operate them quickly and efficiently on any project.