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MEWP deaths increase

Deaths involving aerial work platforms up 65 per cent but IPAF suggests more reporting is chiefly responsible.

The number of deaths involving aerial work platforms rose by 65 per cent in the first half of 2013 compared with the same period a year earlier.

The International Powered Access Federation’s database recorded 28 fatalities worldwide from mobile elevating work platforms in the first half of 2013 and 17 in the same period of 2012.

However, the IPAF said the increase was likely to be because more people now reporting accidents to the database rather than because more deaths had occurred.

The project began in January 2012.

UK deaths remain constant

The number of deaths in the UK remained at two in the first halves of 2012 and 2013. The largest numbers came from the US with 11 in the first half of 2012 and 13 in the corresponding period of 2013.

Worldwide in the first half of 2013, 13 incidents involved mobile booms, 10 involved scissor lifts, three involved vehicle-mounted booms and in two cases the machine type was unknown.

There was an increase in fatalities involving scissor lifts and booms from three to 10 and from seven to 13 respectively between the first halves of 2012 and 2013.

“Many of the accidents we think should not have happened if people had been trained properly and were using the equipment correctly”

Tim Whiteman, IPAF

The first half of 2013 saw a rise in the number of fatalities from overturning platforms from four to 10 and from falls from height from four to nine.

But there were no deaths caused by mechanical problems in the first half of 2013, whereas there were four in the corresponding period of 2012.

IPAF also updated its figure for the whole of 2012 to include a previously unreported death in Canada, which takes the total number of fatalities that year to 32.

Comprehensive sources

IPAF’s accident data is comprised of incidents directly reported to its accident database, information obtained by IPAF staff as well as press releases and news reports of incidents.

IPAF chief executive Tim Whiteman points out that the two deaths in the UK form a small percentage of the estimated 500,000 people using mobile elevating work platforms.

“Falls from height are the biggest cause of death in the workplace in the UK and MEWPs in the right hands are a really safe way of doing temporary work at height,” he says.

“When we look at them, [many of the accidents] we think should not have happened if people had been trained properly and were using the equipment correctly.”

“Trained operators are very important but also need trained management who can plan for and correctly oversee things”

Tim Whiteman, IPAF

Mr Whiteman says there is a need for more management training in the safe use of the platforms. “Often if you look [at an incident] you can see there might not be sufficient planning before the operator got involved,” he says.

“Trained operators are very important but also need trained management who can plan for and correctly oversee things.”

Mr Whiteman says IPAF wants to work with the Health & Safety Executive once the HSE has the results of its recent checks on whether managers had appropriate training at sites which made heavy use of aerial platforms.

In addition to the global figures, IPAF’s rental company members in the UK have been reporting all kinds of accidents – not just fatal ones – since January this year.

Just over a third of incidents in the first half of this year involved delivery drivers, particularly falling off the vehicle body or the equipment falling off the lorry in transit or while unloading.

Dog leading accidents prominant

The other main cause of accidents among drivers was dog leading – standing on the ground and using scissor lift controls on a cord to walk a scissor lift through a doorway.

IPAF technical officer Chris Wraith says the organisation is also talking to manufacturers of scissor lifts about fitting longer cords to the controls to prevent operators from running machines into their feet.

He says the organisation is also preparing guidance for contractors, rental companies, transporters and delivery drivers on safe loading and unloading of mobile platforms.

IPAF already has campaigns encouraging platform operators to wear harnesses and use equipment such as outriggers to prevent machines overturning.

To report an accident to IPAF, visit or contact an IPAF member of staff. IPAF said incidents can be reported anonymously and the data is confidential and not shared with anyone unless required by legal writ.

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