Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs)
Further resources: Health & Safety Executive MEWP Advice
Mobile Elevated Working Platform (MEWP) is the technical name for boom-type ‘cherry pickers’ and scissor lifts.
Whilst they come in a range of shapes and sizes, they all do the same thing – lift people into the air within a protected cage or platform, typically 10-20m, but can be up to 60m+.
What can go wrong?
These are some of the common hazards associated with the use of MEWPs however you may have other ‘site specific’ hazards due to the venue you are working in or the task you are performing with the equipment.
- Operator could fall from the basket – due to human error, gate / edge protection failure or tipping of platform due to hydraulic failure
- Overturning / falls from height – due to over-reaching, sinking into soft ground, high winds, over-loading or colliding with an obstruction
- Struck by falling objects – dropped from cage when aloft
- Electrocution – due to striking power lines or lightning strike
- Welfare / fatigue – due to exposure to weather / sun, lack of access to rest facilities.
- Operator injured by machinery – due to poor maintenance / poor equipment condition or human error by the operator.
Initial Control Measures
These are some of the most commonly implemented control measures, you may find that you will need more depending on the venue or task being performed.
- Ensure work at height is properly planned and organised.
- Ensure risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected. Is a MEWP the right piece of access equipment for the task?
- Ensure equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained – check MEWP has a safety inspection certificate issued within previous 6 months.
- Check MEWP operator is competent i.e. holds the appropriate ‘IPAF licence’ for the class of MEWP to be used and has sufficient experience operating without a history of accidents.
- Use trusted and pre-vetted contractors to provide your MEWP.
- Use trusted and pre-vetted operators to operate your MEWP.
- You should obtain a site/job-specific lifting plan & risk assessment from the MEWP operator.
- Review their plan & risk assessment to ensure it meets your requirements and addresses any safety concerns from yourself or other responsibility parties (eg. a venue). The plan should also cover rescue procedures in case of failure of the hydraulic system.
- Ensure the management of the MEWP work is included within your event risk assessment. For persons working at height you should agree sensible working hours to allow rest & meal breaks and ensure they are appropriately clothed / protected from the elements.
On Site Control Measures
Consider the following control measures as part of your safety planning:
- For boom-type cherry pickers with tilting platforms, all persons in the cage must wear a suitable fall arrest harness, secured to a rated anchor point (at or near floor level) via a short (<2m) energy-absorbing lanyard. A safety helmet (with chin strap) must also be worn.
- For scissor lifts (which don’t tip and only go up and down), provided they have adequate edge protection the operator may determine as part of their risk assessment that a safety harness need not be worn by the operators.
- No loose items to be carried or stored in the cage. Any tools or equipment should be tied with a secure safety bond to the cage rails using lanyards or similar.
- Only the specified amount of people and weight limit (usually written on the side of the machine) should be contained within the cage.
- For very large MEWPs, ensure there is a means of communication (e.g. walkie-talkie) between the ground and those working in the cage.
- Maintain a suitably large exclusion zone around the base of the MEWP, 10m radius if possible.
- Ensure cables are secured at cage level and are managed at ground level to prevent snagging or hitting others when the platform is moved.
Whenever a worker is using a fall arrest system you must ensure that a suitable rescue plan has been agreed before work at height takes place.
Anyone who falls and is suspended by a harness is in danger of sustaining serious suspension injuries that could be fatal within 20mins so a rescue plan that allows for recovering the casualty within 15mins is essential.
Rescue plans should assume that the casualty is unconscious or unable to assist with their rescue, they usually involve the use of a second MEWP to recover the casualty or a qualified rope rescue team available with the appropriate equipment.
This is a general guide to MEWP safety, for more in-depth information visit the MEWP Safety pages on the HSE website