By Tony Groat
Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) play a pivotal role in various industries, facilitating work at height and improving efficiency.
While much emphasis is placed on MEWP operator safety, it is equally crucial to address the safety of the general public and others in the vicinity.
The ANSI/SAIA A92.22 Safe Use for Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) standard has established a requirement for employers to develop a safe-use plan specific to MEWPs.
A robust MEWP safe-use program should encompass comprehensive measures that protect everyone involved in or affected by MEWP operations.
Planning and following a safe-use plan is an essential task that every employer must undertake to identify and prevent the risk from potential hazards.
The guide is available to download for free on the organization’s website.
Before delving into the safety measures for others, it is essential to comprehend the scope of MEWP operations.
MEWPs are specialist pieces of equipment used for tasks such as maintenance, construction, and inspection at height.
The potential risks associated with these operations are not limited to the operators alone but extend to coworkers, bystanders, and the general public in the surrounding area.
By integrating the following seven strategic safety practices into MEWP operations, employers can enhance protection for operators, co-workers, bystanders, and the general public alike.
1. Complete a Risk Assessment
A fundamental step in ensuring the safety of others during MEWP operations is to complete a thorough risk assessment.
This assessment should identify hazards for the operator and consider the potential risk for everyone nearby.
A comprehensive risk assessment should include looking at factors such as:
2. Ensure Productive Communication
Effective and clear communication is a cornerstone of safety, especially in shared work environments.
Implementing clear communication protocols and signage is imperative during MEWP operations.
Warning signs, barricades, and visible markers should be utilized to delineate the work zone and alert others to potential dangers.
Additionally, operators must use radios or other communication devices to convey critical information to coworkers and ensure seamless, ongoing coordination.
3. Determine Work Zones
Creating exclusion zones around MEWPs is a proactive measure to prevent unauthorized access and safeguard the well-being of others. These zones should be clearly marked and enforced to keep pedestrians and other workers at a safe distance from the operational area.
The size of the exclusion zone should be determined based on the type of MEWP, the nature of the task, and potential hazards associated with the operation.
The exclusion zone prevents unauthorized entry into the work area; this includes areas where the MEWP can extend or rotate its structure.
Implementing visible barricades, warning signs, and designated entry points helps keep unauthorized personnel, vehicles, and equipment at a safe distance, minimizing the risk of accidents.
It can also prevent the operator from leaving a safe zone and traveling to a risky area like a busy road or highway.
4. Consider Other Safeguards
Coordination and communication between MEWP operators and operators of other equipment are crucial to avoid collisions and ensure a safe working environment.
Clear signaling, designated paths, and adherence to speed limits contribute to the overall protection of everyone on the site.
When operating MEWPs near public roads or rail lines, additional precautions are essential.
Implementing traffic management plans, providing visible warnings to drivers and pedestrians, and coordinating with local authorities contribute to job site safety.
Ensuring that MEWP operations do not obstruct traffic flow and follow all relevant regulations is crucial.
Properly securing tools and safely handling materials from the work platform are critical considerations.
Implementing tool lanyards, tool trays, and other secure storage solutions prevents accidents caused by falling objects.
5. Provide Training and Education
Thorough training should be provided to MEWP operators to ensure they understand the proper procedures for handling tools and materials at height.
Educating all individuals involved or impacted by MEWP operations is paramount.
This includes not only the operators but also coworkers, supervisors, and other workers in the area.
Training programs should emphasize the risks associated with MEWP operations and instill a culture of safety awareness.
Ensuring that everyone understands the potential hazards and knows how to respond in case of an emergency contributes significantly to overall safety.
6. Monitor Weather Conditions
Weather conditions can significantly affect the safety of MEWP operations.
Wind, rain, or extreme temperatures (hot and cold) can pose risks not only to operators but also to others in the vicinity.
Monitoring weather forecasts and implementing protocols to suspend operations during adverse conditions are crucial components of a MEWP safe-use plan.
7. Actively Manage Your Plan
As with all aspects of a safe-use plan, implementation is crucial and requires ongoing monitoring and supervision to ensure compliance with the program.
Workers can become too focused on the time it takes to complete their tasks. A supervisor provides oversight to ensure the tasks are completed, and the safe-use plan is followed simultaneously.
In summary, prioritizing the well-being of all individuals involved or affected by MEWP operations fosters a culture of safety and reinforces the commitment to creating a secure work environment.
By addressing specific considerations such as preventing unauthorized entry, precautions in the presence of moving equipment, safety for personnel and pedestrians, securing tools and materials, monitoring travel routes and transportation protocols, working near public roads or rail lines, and ongoing monitoring and supervision, organizations can create a holistic approach to MEWP safety.
Ultimately, a proactive and all-encompassing approach to safety enhances the efficiency and success of MEWP operations while mitigating risks.