Powered Access Accident Database Prevents Future Incidents

In the March-April Editor’s Page, I applauded the International Powered Access Federation for setting up an access platform accident-reporting database but noted that some of the numbers left me wondering whether the fledgling system was catching all the accidents. The reason: The United States—with all of its government regulations and sharp focus on safety—had 20 of the 31 fatal access platform accidents reported worldwide in 2012. Europe had 8, and Asia, Australia, and Canada had just one each. So I wondered: Are we less safe here, or are we just better at reporting powered access accidents?

After reading my column, IPAF CEO and managing director Tim Whiteman, whom I’ve known for a couple of decades, called to respond to that question. A big part of the answer is that the United States has the lion’s share of the world’s access platforms. In fact, IPAF estimates that of about 940,000 powered access equipment in the world, nearly 459,000 are in the United States. So the U.S has about 49 percent of the machines and roughly 65 percent of the fatal accidents, which leaves room for improvement.

The Europe-Africa-Middle East grouping has about 239,000 access platform (or as they say over there, mobile elevating work platforms or MEWPs). Its total of reported accidents stood at eight. So it has 25 percent of the lifts and 26 percent of the accidents.

Asia, not counting Japan, has only about 10,000 access platforms, with 8,000 estimated to be in China. Asia’s lone reported fatal accident came from Singapore. I still find it challenging to believe that there would be only one fatal accident in all of Asia for a whole year.


Industry needs to report, analyze
But even if I wondered about some of the numbers, the most important aspect of the topic is that someone, namely IPAF, has taken the initiative to start a reporting system and has started to analyze powered access accident data. Analyzing accidents in order to prevent future ones is something the industry should do, and IPAF has taken the first step.

Some individual companies record and analyze for their own operations, but the best way to pick up larger trends is to have a central database that incorporates worldwide data.

IPAF has started that process, and the faster the industry begins to report, the better the data will be. And the better the data, the sooner we can get a handle on what kind of accidents are happening, why they happen, and how to prevent them. IPAF’s U.K. group recently has taken a strong step by voting to make accident reporting a mandatory condition of membership in that group. It has seen the value. Hopefully other IPAF members and non-member companies will begin reporting, too.

The process can all be done online, and IPAF holds information entered into its records confidential. Each reporting company has access its own data and can get various reports about accident trends, incidents per month, the job role of any injured people, the kind of work being done when the accident happened, the location of the accident, the kind of lift being used, the type of accident, and others. That’s information a company can use in its own accident-prevention program.

A reporting company can also see the aggregated average of data from all other reporting companies as a group, in order to tell how its own accident trends stack up against the industry norm.

Companies can use the trend data to help focus training, safety campaigns, or even future machine design. For example, if electrocutions appear to be a major factor in accidents, companies can focus more effort on training employees about precautions to take around power lines.

The system is in place. Now it’s up to us to use it.

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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.