Avoiding Trapping and Crushing Incidents Involving Aerial Lift Platforms

April 26, 2011
Aerial work platforms (AWPs) are intended to make it safer for employees to work at heights. Unfortunately, some workers have been injured or even killed in incidents involving the platforms.

As a result, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has published a guidance to help employers and employees avoid trapping or crushing incidents when AWPs are used in confined overhead spaces. “The Best Practice Guidance for AWPs: Avoiding Trapping/Crushing Injuries to People in the Platform” is available in the Publications section of http://www.ipaf.org/ and http://www.awpt.org/.

When used safely, AWPs make working at heights more efficient and effective than using traditional methods of access such as ladders. They significantly reduce the risk of injuries through falling from height. Unfortunately, there have been a number of fatal accidents involving the use of AWPs in which the operator was crushed against fixtures or other obstacles while working at height. Experts believe that such incidents can be prevented by correct planning, preparation and selection of appropriate machinery to be used correctly.

“This document aims to focus thinking, and actions, with regard to the avoidance of ‘crushing’ accidents on AWPs,” said Kevin O’Shea, chairman of the IPAF North American Regional Council. “It helps to focus collective industry thinking on a strategic preventative approach.”

The guidance is divided into two parts. Part 1 is aimed at planners, managers and instructors. It covers hazards, risk assessment, controls and responsibilities. The annexes to Part 1 give detailed information that can assist in the identification of trapping risks and in the planning and managing of work activities to protect against trapping incidents. Part 2 is aimed at those using and supervising AWPs and those responsible for rescuing anyone trapped on an AWP platform. Part 2 has been designed to be used in briefings or toolbox talks for supervisors and AWP operators.

According to the guidance, “The basis of preventing trapping accidents must be task-, site- and equipment-specific risk assessment. All involved in the management and operation of AWPs need to understand how to minimize the risks of someone being trapped in the basket and the importance of having effective rescue procedures should such an entrapment occur.”

A safe system of work (SSW) should be devised to ensure that work tasks can be carried out safely. Key elements of the SSW should be written down and should be identify the:

  • Type of AWPs to be used
  • Hazards such as overhead obstructions in the path of the AWP, lighting conditions and the presence of pedestrians or other workers that need to be taken into account when travelling to, accessing or working in the work area,
  • Control measures – such as adequate lighting and walking the path the AWP will travel to recognize and remove any obstacles – to be adopted.
  • Proficiency and training requirements for those involved in the work, and
  • Emergency rescue plan arrangements.

The guidance originally was produced by a group of British organizations collectively known as the Strategic Forum for Construction, which included IPAF and the UK Health and Safety Executive. It was prepared by the industry to provide clarity about the safe use of AWPs including planning, equipment selection, training, provision of information, familiarization, safe use, supervision and rehearsal of rescue procedures, together with monitoring of the whole process.

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