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Get wise to your MEWPs

Despite the steady fall in accident rates, the number of models out there means training and familiarisation are as crucial as ever when it comes to using MEWPs.

Over the past 20 years, the number of work-at-height-related accidents has fallen.

This has in part been attributed to improved methods of work, better training and education and the introduction of MEWPs.

The risk of accidents, however, remain where contractors choose a MEWP believing this resolves all risk and taking no further action.

The correct process should be to then consider the residual risk that remains from the use of the MEWP, including the training and competence of the operator, those involved with planning and supervising, and those who may be nominated in the rescue plan.

A variety of organisations offer MEWP operator training, with the most common being the IPAF PAL scheme.

Right class

When considering training, it’s crucial the operator is trained in the correct category of machine they intend to use.

“Operator training is only one part of the overall plan There are hundreds of different models of machines available to hire”

Following calls for additional operator training, IPAF has also introduced the PAL+ standard, which offers advanced operator training for boom and scissors.

These have been designed for operators working in higher-risk jobs such as steel erection or safety netting where the risks of operator entrapment are higher.

Operator training is only one part of the overall plan. There are hundreds of different models of machines available to hire, so familiarisation for specific models is needed to ensure understanding of the operation and safety characteristics of a machine.

Familiarisation can take different forms, ranging from hire company familiarisation training, instruction from another competent operator or, in some cases, self-familiarisation.

The type chosen should depend on the complexity of the machine and the operator’s experience.

Confidence is key

Familiarisation should always be undertaken in a safe area prior to work commencing and be of sufficient length to ensure the operator is confident in using the machine safely.

It’s important those nominated in the site rescue plan receive familiarisation in using ground controls. This can sometimes be overlooked and has sadly been a factor in a number of accidents.

Those who plan and put MEWP operators to work should also have the correct level of knowledge to ensure the correct machine has been chosen and the work has been planned, taking into account of all the risks that remain.

IPAF offers a MEWPs for Managers training course tailored to suit these requirements.

Operators working from boom-type MEWPs will generally be required to wear a full body harness and suitable lanyard.

These operators should be trained to correctly wear their harnesses, including pre-use daily user inspections.

Further information and guidance on operator training and the safe use of MEWPs can be found in the recently revised HSE guidance note GIS6, The selection, management and use of MEWPs.

Mark Keily is QHSE director at Nationwide Platforms

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