Powered access units, commonly called aerial work platforms (AWP) or mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs), provide the safest and most effective means of temporarily working at height. However, these machines are only safe and effective if the operator is properly trained and appropriately supervised, if the work place is properly inspected before and during use, and if the MEWP is properly inspected, maintained, and repaired in accordance with the applicable standards and the manufacturer’s instructions.
To ensure compliance and safe use, all MEWPs, regardless of size, age, type, ownership, and usage, must periodically undergo various types of inspections by personnel with different qualifications. Five types of inspections are required: pre-delivery, workplace, pre-start, frequent, and annual.
Upon purchasing any MEWP, you immediately assume the responsibilities of an owner. If you choose to rent, sell, or service an MEWP, you also assume the responsibilities of a dealer. If you have an employee deliver or service an MEWP, you also assume the responsibilities of a user (employer), and your employee will have the responsibilities of an operator.
Both the dealer and the owner are responsible for ensuring that the MEWP has undergone proper pre-delivery preparation before each delivery by sale, lease, or rental. This type of inspection must be performed by a qualified mechanic and based on the manufacturer’s service and inspection requirements. The purpose of a pre-delivery inspection is to discover any problems, malfunctions, or modifications from the machine’s original condition, and repair them before placing the MEWP into service.
If repairs (the act of restoring to good condition that which has been broken, damaged, or worn due to use, abuse, or other reason) or adjustments are needed, the ANSI standards list maintenance and safety precautions that must be followed. The person performing the repairs must be qualified as a mechanic on the specific type of aerial platform, or one having similar design characteristics.
The owner has the responsibility to ensure that anyone inspecting the MEWP has been trained as an operator, as well as in the following: manuals, maintenance, inspection, repair, replacement parts, and responsibilities upon purchase. Once the MEWP passes pre-delivery preparation, it can be delivered for rental.
Workplace and pre-start
Upon delivery (a transfer of care, control, and custody of the MEWP), the operator is responsible for inspecting the workplace before and during use, and performing a pre-start inspection on the MEWP each day or at the beginning of each shift.
The workplace inspection is carried out by a trained operator, so proper training must teach the operator to identify and eliminate or control any hazard in the work area. Some hazards to look for are drop-offs, slopes, grades, bumps, floor obstructions, overhead obstructions, electrical conductors, environmental conditions, and inadequate supporting conditions, to name a few.
The pre-start inspection is a visual inspection and function test of not only the controls and safety devices, but also additional items referenced in the ANSI standards. These include personal protective devices; air, hydraulic, and fuel-system leaks; cables and wiring harnesses; loose or missing parts; tires and wheels; placards; warnings; control markings and operating manuals; outriggers, stabilizers, extendable axles, and other structures; guardrail system; and items specified by the manufacturer. A manufacturer’s specific items may include slope-warning devices, limit switches such as elevate/drive cut back or cut out, oscillating axles, brake release, and others, all of which can be found in the operators manual stored on the MEWP.
The manufacturer’s specified items are communicated upon each delivery of the MEWP. This information must be provided by the owner or user to a person designated by the employer. This is called “familiarization” (which is all too often mistaken for training). The operator may need to perform maintenance (normal upkeep procedures, such as inspection, lubrication, refueling, and cleaning) if determined in the pre-start inspection and complete the maintenance before the MEWP is safe to use. For example, if the tires are pneumatic and low on air pressure, he or she may need to add air for proper tire inflation. Or the operator may need to remove debris from the platform, the lifting structure, or the base assembly if the pre-start inspection shows that it’s necessary.
When a MEWP has been in service for three months or 150 hours (whichever comes first), or has been out of service for more than three months, the owner has the responsibility to ensure a frequent inspection is conducted by a person qualified as a mechanic on the specific type of MEWP or one having similar design characteristics.
Once again, the ANSI standards list specific items that must be part of a frequent inspection, including items specified by the manufacturer. Those items include all functions and their controls for speed(s), smoothness, and limits of motion; all chain and cable mechanisms for adjustment damage or wear; all emergency and safety devices; proper lubrication and all fluid levels; visual inspection of structural and other critical components such as fasteners, pins, shafts, and locking devices. Manufacturers provide a comprehensive checklist as a tool to successfully complete a frequent inspection. It generally includes items like any alteration or modification of the machine. All malfunctions and problems identified in the inspection must be corrected before the MEWP is returned to service, even if it is still on rent.
An annual inspection must be performed within 13 months from the prior annual inspection. Again, this must be done by a person qualified as a mechanic on the specific type of aerial lift or one having similar design characteristics. ANSI has no specific requirements for an annual inspection, except that it is done in accordance with items specified by the manufacturer. This information can be found in the service and maintenance manuals required to be provided upon the sale of the MEWP. Checklists are generally provided in the manual and can sometimes be downloadable from the manufacturer’s web site. This checklist may include items such as completion of work specified by any applicable safety bulletins, and making sure the product is registered to its current owner. The MEWP must not be placed into service until all of the items specified by the manufacturer have passed inspection or been successfully repaired.
MEWPs are certainly the safest form of temporary work at height, and proper inspections are paramount to their safe use. Pre-delivery preparation, frequent and annual inspections, maintenance, and repairs must all be done by properly trained and qualified personnel. Workplace and pre-start inspections and minor maintenance are done by a trained operator.
Doing all the required inspections will contribute greatly to safe operation. Failure to properly inspect, maintain, and repair aerial equipment as required will increase your risk of being involved in an accident.