Employee crushed while using elevating work platform

WorkSafe is reminding employers about the importance of safe systems of work when using elevating work platforms (EWPs).



Two employees have been crushed in separate EWP incidents recently. Both became trapped between the platform of the EWP and a fixed structure. One employee died and the other was injured.

Safety issues

The risk of people, operators or passengers being crushed while using an EWP may be increased where:

  • overhead or adjacent fixed structures are present near the EWP operational areas, such as:
    • roofs
    • structural beams
    • cable trays
    • pipework
  • the platform moves unexpectedly while the EWP is close to an overhead or adjacent fixed structure, due to: 
    • unstable ground conditions
    • an operator not being familiar with the specific EWP model controls
    • malfunction of the controls
  • ground-based obstacles are in close proximity to the EWP. Obstacles on the ground may divert an operator’s attention from overhead or adjacent structures (or their passenger’s safety) while traveling or manoeuvring the EWP

Recommended ways to control risk

Use secondary guarding

Where there is a risk of crushing against a fixed structure, an effective operator protective device needs to be fitted, so far as is reasonably practicable.

These devices are commonly known as secondary guarding and may include, but are not limited to:

  • physical barriers attached to the platform, which reduce the likelihood of employees being crushed against structures
  • pressure sensing devices positioned over the control panel, which detect pending crush incidents and prevent further hazardous movements
  • proximity sensing devices which prevent an EWP’s platform from manoeuvring into high-risk areas near to fixed structures
An elevating work platform operator checking their surroundings.

Check what’s around the EWP

  • Operate the EWP in creep mode when near fixed structures.
  • Don’t travel with a raised platform, especially where the ground is uneven.
  • Don’t drive EWPs through doorways while operating from the platform.
  • Where there is restricted headroom, walk the EWP using the ground controls or other mobile control device.
An elevating work platform operator.

Never operate an EWP alone

Due to the importance of a prompt rescue, EWP operators should never operate an EWP alone.

An elevating work platform operator and an observer checking for hazards.

Use a safety observer

A safety observer should be appointed to warn the operator(s) of hazards and ensure prompt action to rescue the operator(s).

The safety observer:

  • must be trained in the operation of the EWP and licensed where required under the legislation for the type of EWP being operated 
  • needs to have a line of sight to the operator 
  • needs to be trained in the emergency procedures for that specific EWP
  • should not leave the area until the EWP is lowered to a stowed position and the operator has alighted from the platform

Emergency procedures and resources need to be in place to rescue the operator(s) of the EWP should they become sick, injured, stranded or trapped at height due to malfunction or misuse of the EWP.

The design, type, complexity and location of ground-based controls and retrieval systems vary. Prior to work, the safety observers should have awareness, training and practice of the ground-based retrieval systems for their equipment. Delays in the rescue of operators can have serious consequences. Operators can be trapped against a structure, causing asphyxiation.

Ensure employees are trained to use the EWP safely

Information, instruction, training or supervision must be provided to those involved with the operation of EWPs, prior to operating or undertaking the task. High risk work licences (HRWL) may also be required, depending on the type of EWP being operated.

Training of persons involved in the safe operation of EWPs should be:

  • structured
  • nationally recognised and 
  • include assessments overseen by a suitably trained assessor to ensure that the operator has achieved the required level of competency

If the EWP model is different to the model used during training and assessment, then the operators need to be provided with familiarisation training on the specific EWP they will be operating. EWP designs can differ between manufacturers and even models by the same manufacturer.

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act). They must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • ensure that persons other than their employees (such as members of the public) are not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the business activities undertaken by the employer
  • provide and maintain plant or systems work that are safe and without risk to health
  • consult with employees and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures
  • consult with other employers in relation to duties relating to the same labour hire worker, if labour hire workers are present and involved in the task

Employers must also provide employees and independent contractors with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

The definition of employees under the OHS Act includes labour hire workers.

Employers also have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. Employers must not:

  • allow an employee to perform high risk work unless the employee holds an appropriate high risk work licence
  • perform high risk construction work unless a safe work method statement is prepared for the work before the work commences
  • perform high risk construction work in a way that is not in accordance with the safe work method statement

Where there is a risk of falls from more than two metres, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • identify any task that involves a fall hazard
  • eliminate any risk associated with a fall
  • where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, control the risk of falls in accordance with the prevention of falls hierarchy of control

Where plant, such as EWPs, is used in the workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • identify all hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace
  • eliminate any risk associated with the use of plant 
  • where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, control risks in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control
  • ensure the plant is inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that risks associated with its use are regularly monitored

Further information