Training and compliance to regulations are essential in creating safe working environments. Lifting Africa attended a conference where this came under the spotlight.

Compliance to regulations and training remain the two most crucial elements for safety in the work-at-height industry.

Speaking at a lifting conference in Johannesburg Jean du Randt, general manager at Eazi Access Rental and chairman of the mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), said several regulations guided the MEWPs industry that all very specifically required that the operators of machines are adequately trained and competent.

“Machines also have to be kept in a safe working condition and complies with all safety and manufacturers requirements in terms of maintenance and serving while the machines also have to be regularly inspected and load tested.”

Du Randt said all machines by regulation also had to be operated in a safe manner and within its prescribed operational scope.

Keeping safety and training topical within the industry is a key target adopted through the years, but also as training has increased. Incidents, however, still happen. Also with newer and improved models being delivered to the market training will continue to be crucial for anyone operating a MEWP.

According to Du Randt MEWPs have been around since the early 1900’s. Showing a photograph of a MEWP being used on public streetlights in 1920 in Sweden he said it was Jay Eitel who in 1944 set himself the task of creating the world’s very first “cherry picker”.

In 1969 John L Grove, founder of JLG Industries stepped up the game by inventing the first self-propelled boom lift. Since then MEWPs have gone from strength to strength providing temporary access for people or equipment to inaccessible areas, usually at height.

Also known as magic or flying carpets they continue to be high in demand due to the fast track and flexible work methods offered by these machines. Other industry drivers for MEWPs include health and safety as they reduce fatigue and risk, productivity through increased flexibility and efficiency, while technology advances have also led to more reliable mobility and control.

MEWPs also offer operators comfortability when compared to other methods to work at height such as ropes or ladders or even scaffolding.

With a wide variety of machines available from scissor lifts, boom lifts, truck mounted platforms to personal lifts having the right training for operators in the correct category of machine is just as important an element.

According to Du Randt some brief points on operating a MEWP to consider include what machine is being selected, operator training, pre-use and workplace inspection, full function test, fall prevention and PPE, safe operating and transport procedures, shut down and stowing of MEWPs.

He said common causes of MEWPs incidents were still due to operator error, poor ground conditions, training and lack of experience.

Other causes include situation awareness – failure in observing a hazard in the surroundings, leaning over the side rail of the platform while manoeuvring, poor MEWP maintenance and working alone when other observation points are required.

Several future trends bode well for better safety and training. Simulator training allowing for dynamic simulation of MEWP equipment will bring about improved operations. It will also allow for integration of equipment into the workplace environment and hardware interface to real control panels.

Other future trends include robotics, high visibility systems, multi terrain units and maintenance reduction.