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Safe operation of elevating work platforms

Elevating work platforms (EWPs) are mobile items of plant designed to lift or lower people and equipment by a telescopic, hinged or articulated device, or combination of these, from a base support.


While EWPs may control work at height risks, the movement of mobile plant introduces new risks. Duty holders usually understand the risks EWPs pose to people on the ground, however what’s often not fully considered is the increased crush risk to workers from the EWP platform or within the basket.

Use appropriate equipment for the task

Consider each task and any potential hazards and select an EWP that is in good working order and suitable for the task. It may be appropriate to use an alternative, like scaffolding, to reach and carry out the task. Hazards may vary depending on:

  • whether the task is located indoors or outdoors
  • obstacles above, in or near the work zone
  • the condition of supporting surfaces.

Before selecting an EWP undertake a thorough task, site and equipment-specific hazard and risk assessment. This may include consideration of:

  • height and reach
  • crush or trapping hazards
  • safe working loads
  • ground conditions and terrain
  • restricted working space
  • electrical hazards, including overhead power lines.

Selecting an EWP

Where possible, use an EWP equipped with secondary guarding devices that may help prevent crush or trap injuries. Examples of such devices include:

  • protective structures: a device attached or fixed to the existing guardrails that provides a protective barrier around the operator.
  • sensing device: a device activated by force or pressure that stops the movement of the EWP to minimise harm.

If you plan to fit a secondary guarding device to an existing EWP, you must undertake a specific engineering risk assessment. This includes consultation with the designer/manufacturer/supplier to determine whether there are any impacts on design registration and to determine whether there are any impacts on design registration and to ensure any proposed changes do not introduce new safety hazards or negatively impact the operation of the EWP. You can contact SafeWork SA for further information about design registration requirements.

When using a scissor lift, consider one with a moveable or remote control box. Being able to control the plant remotely allows for safer movement of the plant through doorways or where lower overhead structures create a crush risk.

When hiring an EWP or selecting one to use on site, seek out models with standardised controls. Familiarity with a control system contributes to safer operation of the EWP and can improve outcomes from rescue operations.

Secondary guarding devices

Various secondary guarding devices may help prevent crush or trap injuries, depending on the type of EWP and work being done. Examples are:

  • protective structures: a device attached or fixed to the existing guardrails that provides a protective barrier around the operator
  • sensing devices: a device activated by force or pressure that stops the movement of the EWP to minimise harm.

If you plan to fit such a device to an existing EWP you must undertake a specific engineering risk assessment, including consultation with the designer/manufacturer/supplier to determine whether there are any impacts on design registration and to ensure any proposed changes do not introduce new safety hazards or negatively impact the operation of the EWP.

Assistance from support personnel

Personnel on the ground should assist the EWP operator undertake the job safely. Support personnel can provide line of sight of the operator to spot any overhead hazards. An agreed system of communication between the operator and ground personnel is required. Ground personnel need to be familiar with any emergency descent device on the EWP being used along with any rescue procedures.

Safe work method statements

A safe work method statement must be developed and followed for operating an EWP if there is a risk to people from its movement, including those working in it. Measures to control crush risks must be documented in the safe work method statement.

Workers must stand on the floor of the EWP only, not on the handrails or items such as ladders, scaffolding or boxes either placed on the platform floor or on the handrails.

Operator training

Before operators start using EWPs training must be provided about its functions and any current safe work methods and emergency procedures. A minimum standard of EWP training has been developed.

For a boom-type EWP, where the boom length is 11 metres or more, the operator must hold a High Risk Work Licence.

The boom length is the greater of:

  • the vertical distance from the surface supporting the boom-type EWP to the floor of the platform, with the platform extended to its maximum height
  • the horizontal distance from the centre point of the boom’s rotation to the outer edge of the platform, with the platform extended to its maximum reach.

Records of training and operator competency need to be maintained.

Hirers of equipment need to ensure they provide all relevant safety information and should obtain or record verification of operator competency before hiring an EWP.

Pre-operational checks

Before use and at the start of each shift, an EWP must be checked by the operator and tested in accordance with the pre-operational checklist based on Australian Standards.

Checks must include safety devices and interlock controls. If faults are identified, the EWP must be placed out of action (tagged out) and fixed before being used again.

Positioning and stability

The position of an EWP must be carefully assessed, taking into account:

  • overhead power lines or underground services
  • prevailing wind conditions
  • surface slopes, ground cavities and the condition of the ground surface.

Positioning should be selected to ensure work can be performed adequately from the platform. The use of a ladder on an EWP platform to gain extra height creates a risk of falls.

The positioning must ensure that access to the emergency descent device is not obstructed, and that all operations can be performed within any required exclusion zone.

Wheel-mounted EWPs

EWPs that are supported on wheels when elevated must be free of damage that may result in instability. Most self-propelled EWPs are filled with solid or foam filled tyres. EWPs fitted with pneumatic tyres must not be able to elevate without stabilisers being activated. Pneumatic tyres must be free of defects and inflated to the correct pressure.

Base controls

Base controls should not be used when personnel are on the platform, except in an emergency or for maintenance purposes. All EWPs must be fitted with an emergency retrieval system or be provided with auxiliary retrieval equipment to enable the safe evacuation of people from the platform.

Safe working load

The total weight of personnel, tools and material being loaded on the platform must not exceed the EWPs rated load capacity. Refer to the safe working load decal.

Operating instructions

Operating instructions must be clearly and permanently displayed on the EWP.

Safety harnesses

Full safety harnesses must be worn by everyone on the platform of a boom-type EWP and be secured to the anchor point.

Where there is a risk of a free fall, a fall-arrest harness designed for attachment to a lanyard assembly, including a personal energy absorber, must be worn by everyone on the EWP.

Work in public places

When an EWP is used in a public place or on a roadway, suitable barricades need to be positioned to keep pedestrians and vehicles at a safe distance. Warning signs should be displayed and the appropriate approvals obtained from local authorities.

Overhead powerlines

Extreme caution must be exercised when operating an EWP near overhead powerlines. The minimum safe distances for operating cranes, machinery, vehicles or vessels with elevating components near powerlines are detailed in the Electricity (General) Regulations 2012.

Maintenance

All maintenance, inspections and repairs need to be undertaken regularly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. An EWP owner may engage a competent person to ensure this is done properly.

All EWPs ‘in-service’ should be regularly inspected and must be subject to a major inspection by the end of the tenth year.

Overhead crush and electrocution hazards when using boom lifts

Overhead crush and electrocution hazards when using scissor lifts

Further information

Elevating work platforms crush risks

Minimum standard of training - Elevating work platforms

Managing the risks of plant in the workplace - Code of practice

Australian Standard AS 2550.10: Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe use. Part 10: Mobile elevating work platforms

Elevating Work Platform Association of Australia

Working safety near overhead powerlines