Greater awareness of the risks associated with working at height has seen more and more businesses hire in aerial access equipment, rather than rely on ladders, with a corresponding reduction in accidents. While this is good news, materials handling specialist Briggs Equipment says getting the wrong machine for the job can jeopardise operator and site safety as well as adversely affect productivity.
Allan Parsons, National Rental Manager at Briggs Equipment, says: "Safety is paramount when working at height, so it’s vital to consider all the factors that might impact on it, such as the application, the loads involved and the working environment.
"It’s also important to make sure that operators are properly licensed and have access to quality safety equipment when required."
Briggs Equipment recommends that anyone hiring aerial access equipment should consider the following:
1. Check that operators are properly trained and have the correct licence.
Operators of access equipment need a PAL Card (Powered Access Licence). This is quite different to a forklift truck licence and expires if the operator does not complete refresher training every five years. Reputable providers like Briggs Equipment can train people to use mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), with courses taught by fully qualified, International Powered Access Federation-accredited instructors.
Does the application require you to lift vertically or to reach at an angle, perhaps to gain access over an obstacle?
With the ability to raise the platform to a height of 19ft to 40ft and carry tools on deck, a scissor lift is traditionally used on construction sites to apply cladding to a new-build development and in warehouses to repair lighting, but they are also popular with commercial decorators, security installation companies and mezzanine installers.
Boom lifts, also known as cherry pickers, raise one person only with minimal additional weight to heights of 45ft and more and are widely used in the construction industry. Stock pickers are a staple piece of equipment in retail and warehousing environments, taking one person up to 12ft vertically.
Will you be working indoors, outside or both?
A stock picker is for indoor use only while scissor and boom lifts can be used indoors and outside. The width and height restrictions for scissor lifts set out in the Working at Height Regulations mean that, although it may be possible to take two people up to a given height indoors, it is safe for only one person to ascend to that height outdoors. This is mainly due to weather conditions such as strong winds, which can destabilise the platform.
The boom lifts available on short-term hire from Briggs are biofuel. So, if you are working outside and the battery is low, the machine will automatically switch to running on diesel, charging the battery at the same time.
Will you be working on smooth, flat surfaces or uneven ground?
Scissor lifts have small wheels so can only operate safely on flat surfaces, whereas boom lifts feature an oscillating axle so are suited to rough ground and slopes. It is important to be aware of any access issues between the designated machine drop-off point and the work environment.
Put safety first, always.
When aerial access equipment is delivered, a reputable supplier will ensure the driver can familiarise operators with the controls so that they can use the equipment properly and safely.
Anyone operating a boom lift is recommended to wear a safety harness. Companies hiring access equipment are responsible for having the correct insurance and for making sure the machine is properly secured against theft.
The weight placed on a scissor lift platform is critical, because overloading can lead to destabilisation. All machines supplied by Briggs Equipment have a sign indicating the maximum load, so hirers can calculate the weight of the operator(s) and any tools/equipment to ensure the total falls within safe parameters.
Allan Parsons adds: "People who hire access equipment regularly know the ropes, but those who use it only occasionally may not be so confident about choosing the right equipment.
"We specialise in aerial access equipment, which is available on short-term contracts ranging from a single day up to 12 months, and our experienced team of controllers talk through these considerations to make sure every customer hires a machine to suit their individual requirements."