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Controlling crush risks


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Fatal incidents and serious injuries may happen when operators and/or passengers are crushed against structures while using selfpropelled boom and scissor type elevating work platforms (EWP).

SafeWork SA, in collaboration with construction industry stakeholders, has developed recommendations to control the risk of crush injury that are in accordance with what is 'reasonably practicable'.

Control of risk

Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and self-employed persons must, so far as is reasonably practicable, identify all hazards and eliminate any risks associated with the use of plant, such as EWPs, in a workplace.

The range of motion available on some modern EWPs increases the likelihood of a crush incident occurring. For example, some EWPs now have a greater ability to move into and between structures. Before operating a EWP in, around or near fixed structures, duty holders must eliminate crush risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, it must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable by:

  • Substitution: does the EWP provide the highest level of protection, for example, can the task be done from a scaffold instead of an EWP?
  • using engineering controls, for example, can an EWP with an operator protective device/ secondary guarding such as a physical barrier or pressure sensing device, be used for the task?
    Note: if hiring an EWP this may require advance notice to the hirer.
  • a combination of control measures.

If a risk still remains after implementing higher order control measures (above), administrative controls must be used to further reduce the risk, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Administrative controls may include:

  • familiarising operators with specific EWP model controls
  • EWP inspection and maintenance regimes consistent with manufacturer’s instructions
  • altered work procedures
  • additional operator supervision
  • EWP specific emergency procedures
  • assigning a safety observer who is trained to use EWP ground-based controls.
    Note: Administrative controls will also be required to support substitution and engineering controls.

Identifying risks associated with EWP crushing

There will be an increased risk of persons, such as operators or passengers, being crushed while using an EWP where, for example: overhead/ adjacent fixed structures are present:

  • where the nature of the task being carried out requires the EWP basket to be used near overhead/adjacent fixed structures, the likelihood of a crushing incident occurring increases in direct proportion to the number and proximity of fixed structures (eg roofs, cable trays, pipework) near the EWP basket
  • the basket moves unexpectedly. This may be due to unstable ground conditions, an operator’s lack of familiarity with the EWP’s model specific controls, or malfunction of controls
  • there are ground-based obstacles in close proximity to the EWP. Obstacles on the ground may divert an operator’s attention from overhead or adjacent structures (or their passenger’s safety) while traveling or manoeuvring the EWP.
    Note: The more time spent in an EWP close to fixed structures the more likely a crush incident may occur.

Recommended risk control measures specific to boom-type EWPs

Boom-type EWPs operating in workplaces where there is an increased risk of workers being crushed against a fixed structure should be fitted with an effective operator protective device.

Lower risk – minimal overhead structure in proximity. Secondary guarding not required. Worker in EWP at building wall
Increased risk – multiple overhead structures in proximity. Secondary guarding required. Working overhead in EWP

Operator protective devices are commonly known as ‘secondary guarding’. Such devices may include, but are not limited to:

physical barriers attached to the basket which reduce the likelihood of employees being crushed against structures EWP with physical barrier
EWP with pressure sensing devices pressure sensing devices positioned over the control panel which detect pending crush incidents and prevent further hazardous movements
proximity sensing devices which prevent an EWP’s basket from manoeuvring into crushing proximity of fixed structures EWP with proximity sensing devices

Recommended risk control measures specific to scissor-type EWPs

Duty holders should consider a range of potential risk control measures for scissor-type EWPs applicable to their operational environments. Risk control measures may include:

  • a 'lower-before-travel' policy, where workers are instructed that they must lower scissor-type EWPs to be completely clear of any overhead structures before driving/travelling in the unit
  • driving scissor-type EWPs via the external 'umbilical' control when traversing through doorways or on internal ramps.
    Note: Observer(s) should be used to monitor blind-spots for pedestrians when being driven by external 'umbilical' control.

SafeWork SA would like to acknowledge WorkSafe Victoria, for use of the guidance material as a base source of information.

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