No. However, there is a duty to eliminate any risk associated with plant, and if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate it, you must reduce the risks so far as is reasonably practicable by substituting the plant with plant that has a lower level of risk, isolating the plant from persons, using engineering controls, or a combination of those methods.
The Industry Standard for the Safe use of EWPs states that "secondary guarding is an engineering control that should be used to reduce the risk associated with crushing of the EWP operator". The content of the Industry Standard can be brought into a prosecution as evidence to demonstrate what the duty holder ought to have reasonably known and subsequently done about controlling the crushing risk. Any deviation from the state of knowledge information needs to result in an equivalent or improved safety outcome than that which would be achieved by adhering to the state of knowledge information.
While the presence of secondary guarding reduces the risk of an operator being crushed, the presence of secondary guarding does not guarantee that the risk of crushing will be eliminated. Fatal incidents have still occurred with secondary guarding fitted to EWPs, hence why secondary guarding is only part of the crushing risk control and system of work and why administrative controls, such as the use of a safety observer, should be part of the overall system.
There does not need to be a dedicated safety observer for each EWP. A safety observer can observe for multiple EWPs if the duties of the safety observer, as laid out in the industry standard, can be achieved.
A safety observer can observe for multiple EWPs if the duties of the safety observer, as laid out in the Industry Standard, can be achieved, 'A person with line of sight to the operator / occupants located within an operating EWP, who is trained in the emergency rescue procedures for the specific EWP(s) that they are acting as a safety observer for, in order to take prompt action to rescue the operator(s) or warn the operators of hazards'. There is no defined ratio and a site / task specific assessment will need to be undertaken during the planning stages of the job.
It is unlikely that a safety observer could undertake their role as a safety observer from another EWP, given the potential delays in being able to respond, should the other operator have an emergency. The work being undertaken by the safety observer (noise, focus and operator orientation), line-of-sight issues, and the time taken for the safety observer / rescuer to identify the situation, lower, and stow the platform, before relocating to the other EWP and attempting to lower the platform, could delay necessary emergency response. A site/task specific assessment would need to be undertaken before considering this.
The function of a safety observer in the 'Industry Standard for the safe operation of EWPs' includes being able to:
warn the operator(s) of hazards and
ensure prompt action to rescue the operator(s)
Hazards that may be present with the use of EWPs can include voids or pot holes at ground level, overhead obstructions and powerlines. By being positioned in a similar location to the operator it can reduce ability for the safety observer to identify hazards that may not be immediately observable from the platform, especially if travelling or repositioning the EWP whilst elevated.
Placing a second person in the platform of the EWP to carry out the function of a safety observer means that a second person is working at height where the risks associated with working at height by the second person could be eliminated. It can also expose the person to the same hazards as the operator. There have been incidents in the past when the second occupant in the platform was not expecting the platform to be moved by the operator and has subsequently been injured.
Should the operator be crushed over the controls, the platform controls may be inaccessible by the safety observer leading to the inability of the safety observer to free the trapped operator. In this case, the safety observer will not be able to take 'prompt action' to rescue the operator and will need to rely on communicating to other, ground-based persons who may, or may not be on site, and may also not be trained in how to use the emergency retrieval/ground controls or hold the appropriate high risk work licence if required, depending on the type of EWP being operated.
Due to the above, the ability of a safety observer to carry out their intended function may not be achievable when located on the same platform for which they are acting as a safety observer for, and therefore is not likely to meet the requirements of a safety observer as part of a safe system of work for the use of EWPs.
In the EWP Industry Standard a safety observer is defined as 'A person with line of sight to the operator/occupants located within an operating EWP, who is trained in the emergency rescue procedures for the specific EWP(s) that they are acting as a safety observer for, in order to take prompt action to rescue the operator(s) or warn the operators of hazards'.
The warning of hazards could be such things as, assisting the operator when moving from one location to another, especially when elevated, as the operator may not see voids or potholes in the area. They may also be required to warn other persons when the operator is relocating the EWP through a doorway or out onto an internal roadway where they may have difficulties in seeing other site traffic. If other hazards are not present, a safety observer may not be required all of the time. However, there must be systems in place for supervision and communication in case site circumstances or tasks change.
Top tips for working with EWPs
Construction Top Tip 1a - Introducing the EWP industry standard
Construction Top Tip 1b - EWP safe work method statements
Construction Top Tip 2a - EWP common uses
Construction Top Tip 2b - EWP things to consider
Construction Top Tip 2c - EWP safe systems of work
Construction Top Tip 3a - EWP harness and lanyards
Elevated work platforms are a type of plant and share similarities with cranes, hoists and winches. Other examples of plant include forklifts, tractors, earthmoving equipment, quad bikes, harvesters, drill presses, die casting machines, dough mixers and packaging machines.