Working safely at height

02 April 2017

Businesses whose employees routinely work at height appreciate that to comply with safety regulations they must use appropriate access equipment; those undertaking only occasional activities may be unclear about their responsibilities. Briggs Equipment offers 10 tips to help businesses hire appropriate aerial access machines – known as Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

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.

  • Equipment choice
    • Scissor lifts are ideally suited to applications where there is a requirement to raise workers vertically to a given height. 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 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 suitable 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 to ensure you get the right MEWP for the application so that 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 pass through a standard warehouse doorway – so it is easy to overlook site access. Make sure the transporter can reach the drop-off point and check that the machine can be moved to the specific work environment.

  • Indoor or outside use?

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. The best deals are available to those who book in advance; the longer the lead time, the better the rate.

  • Quality counts

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

Consider the whole package rather than just the headline rate because back up support is especially important in the event of a breakdown. Briggs, for example, can have an engineer on site within 3h.