September 2020 marked the eighth birthday of the incident and accident reporting portal operated by the international trade association for access platforms, IPAF. This includes incidents involving equipment including scissor lifts and mobile elevating work platforms, but not construction hoists and platforms, which it also covers. Since launch, 4,000 incidents have been logged from companies in 27 countries. Incident reporting was made mandatory for members in 2013.
IPAF marked the anniversary by launching a new version of the portal, which is also available for use by non-members, available via www.is.gd/usiden. It also published the IPAF Worldwide MEWP Safety Report (www.is.gd/bateye) about what it has learned about access platform incidents, drawing mainly on data from 2016-2018, most of which was submitted by UK operators. Despite focusing on incidents, the report states that the equipment remains generally safe to use: “Using MEWPs for temporary work at height is a proven safe [sic] method for a wide range of activities.” At the same time, it adds that each task must be properly planned and conducted safely (see box).
In a webinar (www.is.gd/utijix), IPAF CEO Peter Douglas explained why recording incidents matters. He said: “We need this information to look for trends, hot spot and issues to improve everything we do. The more data we collect, the more we can collectively improve safety in this industry.”
IPAF head of safety and technical Brian Parker said: “Prior to that, and I’ve been in this industry for 24 years, we really had no insight into what incidents happened. Yes, we knew they came to light through safety alerts and incidentsoften they were highlighted by main contractors, the media, various websites, and even powered access rental companies like ourselves. Often, the downside of this was that they were often rebranded and used multiple times, and this caused confusion.”
Douglas pointed out that the organisation uses the data, which is anonymised and sanitised to obscure the reporting company, to direct its safety campaigns. It has produced 22 ‘Andy Access’ posters and seven toolbox talks in multiple languages.
Turning to analysis of the data, most of the 300 fatalities reported since 2012 were caused by six type of incidents (in declining frequency): falls from platform; electrocution; entrapment; machine overturn; hit by vehicle/machine. Those incidents were also responsible for many of the major injuries recorded, although those also came from three other types of incidents: collisions, crushing/trapping/pinching and loading tipover. Those latter three incidents were the primary causes of minor injuries, along with hit by vehicle/machine.
The vast majority of those fatalities were reported in the USA, where they are most common. By comparison, only 4% (11) were in the UK. In the same period, 1,100 people were injured and a total of 2,615 incidents reported.
Parker then examined the UK data in detail. In terms of the severity of incidents, the most frequent report of UK incident was less severe than even a minor injury: either a near miss, damage to machine or property, or an incident that required first aid. Together, those three categories made up more than 80% of all reports.
However, in terms of all incidents that have created lost time (defined here as more than one day away from work), the most frequent were: slips, trips or falls on the same level; crushing, trapping and pinching and ‘unsafe situations’ – something of a catchall category; collisions, and manual handling (as many of the tools are heavy).
LTIs were most commonly reported to have occurred during MEWP loading/unloading. The next most common duty in which there was an LTI was maintenance. Much less frequent were LTIs when the platform was elevated; travelling while elevated; travelling in the lower position; in transit; not in use.
Parker noted that within the UK data, a majority of incidents were not occurring at the worksite, but rather at a corporate location, in either yards (31.7%) or workshops (25.4%).
Second place in location frequency, at 31.5%, was construction site. That is because that sector dominated the lost time injury table by industry, which makes sense, argues Parker, given its long hours and arduous conditions. Also having a significant frequency of LTIs was the rental industry, which Parker explained as probably occurring during loading/unloading, preparation and turnaround work. Much, much less frequent were LTIs in manufacturing/logistics, facilities management and arboricultural work.
Parker went on to examine the type of injuries by type of worker. For example, most delivery driver injuries (71%) occurred during load/unload operations; that insight has spurred IPAF to update its training course on the subject. And those injuries were most commonly bruising and impacts most commonly caused by slips and trips at the same level. By contrast, injuries to technicians/engineers mostly occurred during maintenance, were most commonly cuts/lacerations/punctures and were most commonly caused by using tools. The injury profile of operators of platforms were different again: they were most commonly (40%) caused while the platform was elevated, were most commonly bruising and impacts that were most commonly caused by crushing, trapping and pinching.
BOX: Access platform operations – best practice advice from IPAF Worldwide MEWP Safety Report
“MEWPs are more commonly used on controlled sites such as construction projects or factories and warehouses than in public areas such as alongside roads. Our analysis finds it is proportionally more likely an incident involving a MEWP will occur in a public place than on a controlled work site.
“Commercial premises include warehouses and factories. MEWPs are typically used for maintenance and service activities, or to conduct operations such as stock picking. Operator training is a key way to reduce incidents. Recommendation: All operators are trained on the category of MEWP to be used and supervisors undertake management training to supervise working at height, for example the IPAF MEWP for Managers course.
“Construction sites account for a significant number of fatal incidents. Using MEWPs in construction is now commonplace, from a small worksite with one MEWP to a large site with multiple machines in use at one time. The risk assessment needs to assess ground conditions and overhead obstructions. Supervisors need to know the risks and controls for working at height. Recommendation: All operators should be trained to an appropriate level, and supervisors or managers also trained, for instance using IPAF’s MEWPs for Managers course. Managers and site foremen should use the free Andy Access site safety posters in daily briefings and in break or crew rooms, to remind all operators of common safety measures, and the new series of IPAF Toolbox Talks can also help managers give a daily or weekly safety briefing.
“Working on or alongside roads means there is a risk of being hit by a truck, bus or other vehicle. It is inadequate and unsafe to assume that drivers of other vehicles will avoid a collision with the MEWP without proper segregation, protection and visual warnings. Use traffic management and a pedestrian plan to prevent incidents. Refer to the IPAF Street Smart Safety Campaign.”