Exiting an Aerial Lift at Height

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has issued guidance for exiting platforms at height.

The two-page document starts by saying that mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), known more commonly as aerial work platforms (AWPs) here in North America, are designed for people to work from within the platform, but that in some exceptional cases, exiting at height may be permitted.

It goes on to say that a “robust risk assessment” should be conducted to assure that exiting the platform is the safest and most effective means of accessing a particular location.

The document lists seven specific points to address in assessing the risk and planning for exiting the platform. Many of the points are good practices that should be used whenever a lift is used: using fall-prevention methods, minimizing dynamic loading of the platform, preventing unexpected movement of the platform, using proper exit points, and having a rescue plan.

It is good that the industry is starting to address the practice. Aerial lifts are the safest and most efficient way to get workers to height. Although aerial lifts were not meant to be used as elevators, the fact is that they are, indeed, sometimes used that way. In fact, I’ve seen them used in that capacity for raising workers to high overpasses being built on highway projects. Putting up and frequently moving a construction elevator to set high girders would not be practical.

Another application in which exiting the platform appears to be the most efficient and reasonable way to do a job is putting railroad workers atop locomotives and passenger cars to inspect and maintain them. A few years ago, Haulotte answered that need by developing its Halo frame, which allows a properly tethered worker to exit the platform and move around on the roof of a railcar.

Using the same principle on a larger scale, Lift-a-Loft offers a system that lets several tethered workers leave the platform and work on top of airplanes.

Just recently, Genie also addressed the need to exit a platform at height safely by introducing the Fall Arrest Bar, which mounts to the platform and allows a properly tethered worker to work outside the platform of its 40-ft. telescopic boom lifts or its 45-ft. or taller articulating boom lifts, except the S-125HD. The Fall Arrest Bar lets a user exit the platform and work comfortably around the outside with a 6-ft. lanyard.

The need to work outside the platform exists. Manufacturers are recognizing it and are creating ways to help customers do it as safely as possible. It is good to see an industry organization whose primary focus is safety offer concise guidance about how to do it properly.

A pdf is available in the Publications/Technical Guidance section of www.ipaf.org.

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About the Author: 

Mike Larson

Mike Larson has been writing about heavy equipment and construction for more than 25 years. He joined Heartland Communications Group in 2011 as editor of Lift and Access. During his career, he has edited Western Builder and Midwest Construction, and has been a regular contributor to Engineering News-Record and Constructor magazines. Larson also worked in and managed marketing communications for Manitowoc Cranes. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.