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MEWPs: Why an emergency rescue plan is vital

Consider the possible consequences if you are working at height in a MEWP and you became injured or ill?

Would you have the knowledge to rescue yourself and would people on the ground be available and trained to safely lower the platform if you were unable to?

As a first step – and bearing in mind that there are hundreds of different types of MEWP available – it is vital that operators are familiar with the actual machine they are using.

This can be achieved by self-familiarisation using the operator’s manual supplied with the machine or it can generally be provided by the rental company that the equipment has been hired from.

Rescue plan

It is also vital that a rescue plan is in place.

Important guidance about developing and implementing a rescue plan is covered in Part 2 of the ‘Best Guidance Guide For MEWPs Avoiding Trapping/Crushing Injuries To People In The Platform’.

This guide has been produced by the Strategic Forum for Construction Plant Safety and is available at

Information in a rescue plan should include the following:

  • The ground key for the MEWP should be left in the base unit where this is practicable, or at least quickly available at ground level if not.
  • While a MEWP manoeuvre is taking place at least one designated ground rescue person should be appointed who knows the rescue procedure and is familiar with the MEWP being used (including emergency rescue controls). They should always be readily available in an emergency.
  • Decide who should effect the rescue and how: this depends on the complexity of the operation and therefore the relative risk of effecting a rescue from the ground compared to the risk of an operator, possibly in a state of panic, trying to rescue himself.
  • A system must be in place to identify that an operator may have become trapped, particularly for lone workers working close to an overhead structure. This needs very careful consideration if the operator cannot be seen from the ground. Operators must take advice if such a system has not been put in place when a risk of entrapment is present.

The order of priority in effecting a rescue should be:

  • Operator: the operator, or other competent people in the basket, should try to rescue themselves by re-tracing the steps they took in reverse order.
  • Ground staff: if visibility and understanding of the situation from the ground are good, ground staff should effect a rescue using the ground controls in the following order: auxiliary power at first which gives the slowest and most controlled manoeuvre of the boom until it is obvious that the basket is clear of any obstructions at height; and powered descent once clear of obstructions to maximise the speed of recovery.
  • Another MEWP: In some situations the use of another MEWP to gain access to the platform may be the safest option. This will only be acceptable if such a rescue has been planned and includes means of transferring between platforms which prevents anyone falling.

Brian Parker is business development manager, technical support, at AFI

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