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What could go wrong? Machine familiarisation strongly urged

Machine familiarisation needs to be easier and more accessible to avoid culpability and serious management failures

So you’ve passed the IPAF Operators course and you’re now ready to climb into a powered access machine and start working at height. What could possibly go wrong?

Many things, unfortunately, if you are not familiar with the specific machine that you will be operating.

Do you know where the controls are to elevate and lower it? Do you know how the stability controls work? Do you now where the emergency lowering controls are and how to operate them?

Manager’s duty

It’s not just you who needs to have machine familiarisation – if you become seriously ill or trapped between an overhead obstruction whilst working at height you need to have people on the ground who know how to conduct an emergency rescue.

If your manager has failed to make sure that you are fully familiar with the machine you are operating, they too could be culpable.

In a worst-case scenario they could end up facing a corporate manslaughter charge as a result of serious management failures leading to a gross breach of duty of care.

“If your manager has failed to make sure that you are fully familiar with the machine you are operating, they too could be culpable”

So what needs to be done and how do you do it?

Your manager has a duty to ensure that you have undergone machine familiarisation and have a rescue plan in the event of an emergency.

An operator can undergo self familiarisation but this has obvious drawbacks – how many operators actually bother to read the manufacturer’s instruction manual, and then pay attention to the important safety notices contained within it?

Proper training

A better approach is for a responsible person to attend an IPAF Demonstrator course.

This course “trains a demonstrator to familiarise operators with their responsibilities and demonstrate pre-operational and safe operating procedures, and the limitations of MEWPs”.

However, there is still reliance on providing adequate familiarisation to the operator.

It should also be noted that with over 1,000 different types of MEWPs in the UK, the Demonstrator course cannot be specific enough to give a demonstrator sufficient detail about every type of MEWP that an operator may use.

You could ask your machine rental company to provide machine familiarisation, although hirers and operators are often unwilling to pay for this service or spend the necessary time.

At AFI we feel that machine familiarisation needs to be easier and more readily available, and we are working on an initiative to address this problem.

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

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