Safety alert issued after man injured while operating EWP
In January 2022, a man was operating a self-propelled scissor lift which overturned, leaving him with serious head injuries. Early investigations by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland found that the worker was alone, replacing rivets on metal flashings in an indoor sports facility. There are various types of elevating work platforms (EWPs), including self-propelled scissor lifts, self-propelled boom-type EWPs, and truck- and trailer-mounted EWPs. While they are important for work at height, there have been many serious incidents reported involving these machines. EWP operations present a risk of injury to persons from overturning, structural failure, falling objects, falls from height, and contact or collision with structures, people, powerlines, or other plant.
Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management includes a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, business owners will need to show the regulator that they’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by their primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Business owners can use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in their place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods, from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. Business owners must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, to eliminate the hazard, which is the most effective control.
Operators must be competent before operating any piece of plant, including EWPs. For boom-type EWPs with a boom length of 11 m or longer, the operator must hold a high risk work licence (HRWL) or be enrolled in a training course to obtain a boom-type EWP HRWL, or supervised by the holder of boom-type EWP HRWL. Operators must be provided with adequate training so they are familiar and competent with each type of EWP they use. EWP controls can differ between makes and models, so operators must know where the operator’s manual is kept, what’s in it, the purpose and function of all controls, what safety devices are fitted specific to that make and model, and how to lower the platform in an emergency.
A prestart inspection should be completed before the EWP is used. It is important to keep records of the inspections and make sure there is a process for reporting faults or issues. Some common prestart inspection items include warning devices; deadman control; drive, steering and brakes; and any obvious faults. Before starting work, always check the work area for any other hazards, such as overhead obstructions. All mobile plant operators should be fully aware of their surroundings while they’re working; distractions such as mobile phones and conversations with other workers should be avoided.
Common EWP incidents happen when reversing, slewing or elevating near an obstruction or from unexpected movement near an obstruction. Movement of the EWP should be slow, deliberate and planned, with careful use of its proportional controls. Start with large movements, like driving and elevating the EWP, and finish with finer controls. If things do go wrong, other workers need to know how to use the ground controls and emergency descent devices for the type and model of EWP being use.
Business owners are advised to keep their workers safe when using EWPs and manage the risks when working under overhead obstructions. To safely operate EWPs, business owners should provide formal and refresher training of operators and keep records of these. Business owners should also ensure that the EWP has been inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification; this may include checking the logbook or maintenance material. Any outstanding faults or safety issues must be rectified before returning the EWP to service. Business owners must assess operator competency and eliminate risk of EWP rollover through risk management. Safe work procedures should also be developed to support training and subsequent safe use. Operator harnessing must also be carried out where anchor points have been provided. Lock-out procedures must also exclude worker access to faulty machines.
The operator of an EWP must ensure that the operation is authorised and in accordance with the safe work procedure, faults are reported, and that pre-operational checks are carried out. The Safe Working Load (SWL) or maximum rated capacity of the platform must not be exceeded, and the operating speed must be consistent with load, terrain and weather conditions. The speed must not exceed the maximum recommendations by the manufacturer. Operators are also advised to ensure that either a lower body or full body harness is worn and is connected to the platform anchor point by a short lanyard. Where absence of an anchor point negates wearing a harness, a secondary gate restraint should be engaged unless the manufacturer’s design prevents ejection from the platform.
The relevant person should keep records of EWP operation, maintenance, structural inspections and training of workers for the following time periods:
- pre-operation or daily checks – one year
- routine inspection and maintenance – life of machine
- third party mechanical and structural inspections – life of machine
- EWP operator training – duration of employment.
The control measures put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.
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