Safety first when working at heights
The recent death of a young tradesperson in Queensland is a tragedy and highlights the importance of training and safety when working with Elevating Work Platforms (EWPs).
EWP’s are mobile items of plant equipment designed to lift or lower people and equipment by a telescopic, hinged or articulated device, or can be combination of these from a base support. There are three types of EWP’s commonly used on construction sites in Australia, including scissor lifts, an articulating boom lift and a straight boom lift. They are efficient pieces of equipment when used correctly but safety training is imperative, in fact it is a requirement that people or persons operating an EWP are licensed operators.
There are risks associated with EWP’s and in recent years there have been fatalities on sites across Australia. Those working on EWP’s usually understand the risks they pose to people on the ground however, what’s often not fully considered is the increased crush risk to workers from the EWP platform or within the basket says the Elevating Work Platform Association Australia (EWPA).
Before operating an EWP, the EWPA suggest a thorough task, site and equipment specific hazard and risk assessment is carried out. This may include consideration of the height, reach, crush or trapping hazards, safe working load, ground conditions and terrain, restricted working space and any electrical hazards, including overhead power lines. There is also a safe work method statement (SWMS), which must be developed and followed for operating an EWP. The EWPA says measures to control crush risks must be documented in the SWMS.
Regulations that must be adhered to when working on or operating an EWP include:
- Workers must stand on the floor of the EWP only, not on the handrails or items such as ladders, scaffolding or boxes either placed on the platform floor or on the handrails.
- Various secondary-guarding devices may help prevent crush or trap injuries, depending on the type of EWP and work being done.
- Sensing device: a device activated by force or pressure that stops the movement of the EWP to minimise harm. If there are plans to fit a secondary guarding device to an existing EWP, it must have a specific engineering risk assessment including consultation with the designer/manufacturer/ supplier to determine whether there are any impacts on design registration and to ensure any proposed changes do not introduce new safety hazards or negatively impact the operation of the EWP.
- Before using EWP’s, training must be provided about the functions, safe work methods and emergency procedures. For a boom-type EWP, where the boom length is 11 metres or more, the operator must hold a High Risk Work Licence.
Across Australia each Work Safe organisation will have standardised regulations around operating and licensing of EWP’s. They will also have a minimum standard of training. For example in South Australia training was developed after two workers, on separate accidents, were crushed to death on the site of the Royal Adelaide Hospital while operating an EWP.
SafeWork South Australia says the elevating work platform minimum standard of training was developed as a result of a recommendation by the Elevating Work Platform Working Group (a sub-committee of the Industrial Relations Consultative Council), which has representatives from the South Australian Government, unions, the building industry, training organisations and the EWP Association. The minimum standard of training was developed they say to clearly specify the expectations of SafeWork SA, regarding the provision of elevating work platform (EWP) training by persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) pursuant to section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (the WHS Act).
There is also a minimum requirement of training that SafeWork SA say is required and WHS inspectors can measure whether an operator has been adequately trained to operate an EWP.
SafeWork SA says if a WHS inspector forms a reasonable belief that the worker has not been adequately trained to operate an EWP, the inspector may issue a compliance notice for additional training to occur.
Similar to the crane sector where a dogman is required for the tower crane operator, a spotter can be required to ensure the safety of an operator when working close to power lines, exclusion zones or other hazards. It is a requirement of the WHS Act in all states and territories to ensure safe work practices are being carried out. Appropriate supervision is based on the level of risk and the experience and competence of the operator.
There are hundreds of EWP’s in use on construction sites across Australia, and most are used without incident but when it goes wrong, it can result in serious injury and death so operator training is crucial to saving lives.
AlertForce is a recognised RTO and offers working from heights courses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Check our website for other states and territories. For more information on working from heights courses visit https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/working-at-heights/
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