Industrial Safety

Powered access industry warning on work in confined overhead areas


Jun 18, 2009

The Powered Access Interest Group (PAIG), a joint committee of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) and the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), is calling on companies to take extra care when planning and using mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) in confined overhead areas. This type of work has increased in recent years and led to a number of accidents.

PAIG is producing a best practice guide on the use of MEWPs in confined overhead areas. This best practice guide will be widely distributed and will draw on the work that IPAF has done with the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) to develop guidance on the safe use of MEWPs in constructional steelwork.

The initiative follows incidents in several countries where it was reported that operators became trapped between the MEWP and an object while working at height. In a number of these incidents, it was reported that operators were pushed onto the platform controls which led to their sustained involuntary operation and the operator becoming trapped. Accidents like these should not occur if operators and management follow safe operating procedures that are covered by the IPAF training programme or other industry training. Nevertheless, IPAF takes all incidents that can cause injury seriously and has reviewed its training programme to increase operator awareness of such risks and the measures they should take to avoid them.

Additional graphical material is being produced for use by instructors in the IPAF operator course. This will reinforce the existing message on good and bad operating practices and continual awareness of the potential trapping hazards created by overhead objects and obstructions, particularly when working in confined overhead areas. Also, additional material is being included in the IPAF Operator’s Safety Guide that is given to all operators who attain a PAL Card (Powered Access Licence).

Managers also need to be aware of specific precautions and procedures when planning and supervising work in confined overhead areas. To assist them, additional material is being prepared for use in the IPAF MEWPs for Managers course.

Members of the IPAF Manufacturers’ Technical Committee are assessing the possibility of operators becoming trapped against the platform controls on the MEWPs they produce. Where necessary, they are looking at potential design developments that can help to protect against the sustained involuntary operation of platform controls.