Toolbox Topic: MEWP / AWP SAFETY
Let’s Make Safety Confusing! Aerial lift, aerial work platform, or mobile elevated work platform safety!
What is an AWP or MEWP, or an aerial lift? With these acronyms, it can get confusing. Today we will discuss MEWP / AWP Safety and ways to stay safe when working with these machines, no matter what you call them!
An aerial work platform (AWP), also known as an aerial device, elevating work platform (EWP), cherry picker, bucket truck, or mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) is a mechanical device used to provide temporary access for people or equipment to inaccessible areas, usually at height.
Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP) is the newest acronym used by American National Standards Institute ANSI. The MEWP standard expanded the definition of AWPs to include additional types of equipment.
MEWPS comes in a wide assortment of styles for various applications. These work platforms are commonly known as:
The history of elevated work platforms is a little murky and spotty. If there are any historians out there, this subject could use some research and documentation. Some of the history contained in this episode was derived from the book “The Life and Legacy of John L. Grove.”
In the 1920’s, automobiles in Sweden were outfitted with hydraulic lifts to allow for easier streetlight repairs.
The Scissor Lift
Charles Larson received a patent for his scissor lift design in 1963. But, as it happens with these things, who got there first is often in dispute. Although his patent was approved in 1966, Larson is not credited for inventing the scissor lift. John W. Parker of California is credited with the invention.
One day while on a road trip, John L. Grove saw two workers on scaffolding get severely injured. As a result, this tragedy sparked an idea. There must be a safer way to perform elevated maintenance and construction work. John became a pioneer in introducing aerials and cranes into the marketplace. He co-founded Grove Manufacturing in 1946 and launched a line of hydraulic cranes for the commercial market in 1952. In 1967, Mr. Grove sold the company.
Two years later, he founded JLG Industries to manufacture aerial work platforms. Because John was a pioneer, inventor, and great businessman, he is often credited with inventing the aerial work platform. However, before Grove’s first model, a company called Selma Manlift introduced a model in 1966.
The first machine produced by JLG was the Condor, and some called it a hydraulic ladder. The unit had a two-section boom with a maximum height above grade of 27ft. Using controls at the end of the telescopic boom had never been done before. According to John, It took only a few months to solve that problem. JLG amassed over 60 patents. Mr. Grove led the company until his retirement in 1993.
Author Gerald Lute, The Life and Legacy of John L. Grove – Pg 87-90 Buchannan Trail Publishing
Statistics MEWP / AWP Safety
Between 2011 and 2014, 1,380 workers were injured while operating an aerial or scissor lift. Notably, three hundred sixty of these injuries resulted from slips, trips, and falls from one level to another.
In the same period, 87 workers died while operating an aerial or scissor lift. Forty-eight of these deaths resulted from slips, trips, and falls from one level to another.
Safety Tips – MEWP AWP Safety
Safety Tip#1 Pre-start Inspection
Before each work shift, conduct a pre-start inspection to verify it’s in safe operating condition. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Check Vehicle components, including:
- Proper fluid levels (oil, hydraulic, fuel, and coolant v
- Leaks of fluids
- Wheels and tires
- Battery and charger
- Lower-level controls
- Horn, gauges, lights, and backup alarms
- Steering and brakes.
Check the lift components, including:
- Operating and emergency controls
- Personal protective devices
- Hydraulic, air, pneumatic, fuel, and electrical system
- Fiberglass and other insulating components
- Missing or unreadable placards, warnings, or operational, instructional, and control markings
- Mechanical fasteners and locking pins
- Cable and wiring harnesses
- Outriggers, stabilizers, and other structures
- Loose or missing parts
- Guardrail systems
Do not operate any aerial lift if any of these components are defective until a qualified person repairs it. Take faulty aerial lifts out of service.
Tip#2 Know the Hazards Associated with MEWPS
The following hazards, among others, can lead to personal injury or death:
- Fall from an elevated level
- Objects falling from lifts
- Ejections from the lift platform
- Structural failures (collapses)
- Entanglement hazards
- Contact with objects
- Contact with ceilings and other objects overhead
Tip#3 Site Risk Assessment
Employers must ensure that work zones are inspected for hazards and take corrective actions to eliminate such hazards before and during the operation of an aerial lift. Items to look for include:
- Drop-offs, holes, or unstable surfaces such as loose dirt
- Inadequate ceiling heights
- Slopes, ditches, or bumps
- Debris and floor obstructions
- Overhead electric power lines and communication cables
- Other overhead obstructions
- Other hazardous locations and atmospheres
- High wind and other severe weather conditions, such as ice
- The presence of others in the work area
Tip#4 Overhead Protection
Remember the following:
- Be consciously aware of overhead clearance and overhead objects such as ceilings.
- Do not position aerial lifts between overhead hazards if possible.
- Treat all overhead power lines and communication cables as energized and stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away.
- Ensure that the power utility or power line workers de-energize power lines in the vicinity of the work.
Tip#5 Training on MEWP / AWP Safety
Only trained and authorized persons are allowed to operate an aerial lift.
Training should include:
- Explanations of electrical, fall, and falling object hazards
- Procedures for dealing with hazards
- Recognizing and avoiding unsafe conditions in the work setting
- Instructions for the correct operation of the lift (including maximum intended load and load capacity)
- Demonstrations of the skills and knowledge needed to operate an aerial lift safely
- When and how to perform inspections
- Manufacturer’s requirements
Retraining – Workers should be retrained if any of the following conditions occur:
- An accident occurs during aerial lift use,
- Workplace hazards involving an aerial lift are discovered, or
- A different type of aerial lift is used.
A laundry list of do-not! Do not:
- Exceed the load-capacity limits. Take the combined weight of the worker(s), tools, and materials into account when calculating the load
- Use the aerial lift as a crane
- Carry objects larger than the platform
- Drive with the lift platform raised (unless the manufacturer’s instructions allow this
- Operate lower-level controls unless you have permission from the worker(s) in the lift. The one obvious exception is during emergencies.
- Exceed vertical or horizontal reach limits
- Operate an aerial lift in high winds above those recommended by the manufacture
- Override hydraulic, mechanical, or electrical safety devices