Falls from height remain one of the most common accidents in the UK, contributing to as many as 40 deaths and over 3,000 major injuries at UK workplaces annually. Consequently, improving safety for those in danger of such an accident is as important as ever.
Of course, choosing the right piece of equipment for the task is imperative – as is ensuring that those working with such machinery do so safely. For their part, some key industry players have created interactive resources to aid those working on or around access equipment. Mentor Training – the UK’s leading training provider on all types of mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) and mobile scaffold towers – has reviewed the available applications in order to ascertain the five best interactive tools for promoting safety at height. The results, in no particular order, are as follows:
1. IPAF accident database
In 2012, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) invited all MEWP users, manufacturers and hire companies to pledge support for their own accident reporting database. They were asked to report – via a quick and simple online form – any known accidents involving MEWPs or Mast Climbing Work Platforms (MCWPs).
Still going strong one year on, this online system not only fulfils the requirement for a single collection point for MEWP accident data, but also highlights any necessary improvements in equipment design and training. The first full year’s figures indicate that there were 31 reported fatalities involving work platforms during 2012, with falls from platforms and electrocution being the most common causes of these accidents.
Hopefully, as increasing numbers of companies adopt the system, findings can be used to inform safety campaigns and set targets, leading to a significant reduction in accidents. By using IPAF’s online system, those working with MEWPs can help create a safer future for themselves and the industry as a whole. Mentor recommends that all those responsible for the safe use of access platforms report any incidents at ir.ipaf.org
2. IPAF Spreader Plate Ready Reckoner
Another invaluable IPAF tool is the recently-released Spreader Plate Ready Reckoner. By taking into consideration the equipment and ground conditions, this ingenious application specifies the most appropriate spreader plates for setting up MEWPs. Simply enter the gross vehicle weight and the Ready Reckoner calculates the required size of plate to cope with the force and pressure being applied, taking into account the point loading of the jack under the weight of the truck.
Minimum plate sizes are offered to cover a variety of ground types and strengths. So, once the user has assessed the conditions, they can select the most appropriate spreader plate for the job.
Try the Spreader Plate Ready Reckoner here: http://www.ipaf.org/tools/ready-reckoner
3. Access Industry Forum Video Toolbox Talks
The Access Industry Forum (AIF), established in 2004, brings together all the principal trade associations and federations involved in work at height. With the overall aim to circulate and improve best practice guidance throughout the industry, the AIF’s series of video toolbox talks enables them to provide expert advice on the safe use of access equipment, in a concise, accessible format.
Free to view online, the videos last around 10 minutes each and include such topics as: preventing entrapment, planning an emergency rescue, familiarisation, choosing the right MEWP for the job, fall protection, and low level access.
Member organisations such as IPAF and PASMA use this platform to offer objective guidance as the authorities on their particular type of work at height, addressing problem areas and requests for information from the industry.
The toolbox talks provide a great way to access the wealth of knowledge and experience held by recognised industry leaders. To see for yourself, visit: http://www.accessindustryforum.org.uk/vtt.htm
4. PASMA mobile app
When it comes to mobile access towers, the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA) provide the most extensively recognised form of training in the UK – with around 60,000 delegates undertaking courses in 2012 alone. Ever keen to promote safe working at height, PASMA have released a free-to-download mobile app, providing instant, on-site access to a range of helpful resources.
The app allows users to consult manufacturer’s instruction manuals, view the PASMA Code of Practice, find training centres and hire companies, and access the latest news and tower images via a smart phone. Furthermore, its record keeping facility enables tower users to log safe tower builds using GPS and photos, and, conversely, report any unsafe builds to PASMA. Download the app here: http://www.pasma.co.uk/info/pasma-mobile-app-and-android
5. HSE Work at height Access Information Toolkit (WAIT)
Last, but by no means least, our final recommendation is WAIT – a handy utility for access equipment-users, available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. By selecting a few pieces of vital information from drop down menus – such as height, work duration and activity – the WAIT tool will recommend the most suitable equipment types for the job at hand. Furthermore, the results come with a link to further information on that piece of equipment – including safe operation guides, potential hire costs, and set up times. Access the WAIT tool here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/wait/wait-tool.htm
For regular updates on the latest guidance, legislation and resources relevant to working at height, sign up for Mentor’s e-newsletter via the website. For a free copy of Mentor’s guide to interactive resources for safe working at height please call 01246 555222 or visit "Safety Downloads and Posters" under the Useful Information section of the Mentor website.