On 27 January 2020 an employee undertaking painting tasks from a scissor-type elevating work platform (EWP) was fatally injured.
It is likely the EWP was raised to reach an internal window located near the roof of the workplace. Tragically, he was crushed between the EWP and an overhead structure.
While EWPs are commonly used to control the risks of working at height they may introduce other risks. Serious and fatal incidents involving EWPs can occur when operators or passengers are crushed against fixed structures.
The risk of crushing increases when:
- overhead/adjacent fixed structures are present where the task is being carried out
- ground-based obstacles divert an operator's attention when it's moving
- there is unexpected movement of a EWP due to:
- unstable ground conditions
- malfunction of controls (debris and dust clogging the controls can increase this risk)
- an operator's lack of familiarity with the model specific controls
- an operator or passenger leaning on or against the controls while undertaking a task
- poor communication between operators and passengers.
Recommended ways to control risks of EWP crushing
Employers and self-employed persons must undertake an assessment to determine the correct or safest method to perform the work at height. In some cases an EWP may not be the safest option and other methods, such as scaffolding, will be more appropriate and the risks of crushing will be eliminated.
Common risk control measures for EWP crush hazards
It is an employer's duty to provide training, information and instruction for EWPs that ensures, for example, the operator understands the model-specific controls. In addition, EWP-specific emergency procedures should be in place and communicated to those with the responsibility to undertake tasks contained within it.
Operator protective devices - known as secondary guarding^ - may also be used to control risks. They include, but are not limited to:
- physical barriers attached to the platform (Figure 1)
- pressure sensing devices positioned over the control panel which detect potential crush incidents and prevent further hazardous movements (Figure 2)
- proximity sensing devices which prevent movement into high-risk areas near fixed structures
Figure 1: EWP with physical barriers attached.
Figure 2: A pressure sensing devices positioned over the control panel.
The operator may also control risks by:
- operating the EWP in creep mode when near fixed/overhead structures
- lowering the platform of the EWP to its stowed position when relocating it to another location
- 'walking' the EWP with the operator at ground level using the removable controls or other mobile control device.
^ Secondary guarding is now regularly fitted to boom-type EWPs. Recently, secondary guarding systems have become available for use with scissor-type EWPs. It may be reasonably practical to consider the use of a scissor-type EWP fitted with secondary guarding when there is a risk of crushing.
If risks of crushing still remain
If risks still remain after implementing control measures such as secondary guarding, then administrative controls may be introduced. These include but are not limited to:
- EWP inspection and maintenance regimes consistent with manufacturer's instructions
- altered work procedures
- assigning a safety observer who has line of sight to the EWP while the EWP is in operation
- ensuring the safety observer is trained to use the mobile EWPs ground-based and emergency controls.
Safe work method statement (SWMS)
When operating powered mobile plant—including operation of EWPs—to undertake construction work, a SWMS must be developed as it is deemed high risk construction work. Measures to control crushing and other risks (e.g. falls from height and demolition work) from EWPs must be documented in the SWMS.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers 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.
Employers must provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employers must also eliminate, or if not reasonably practicable, reduce the risk of objects falling on the operator of powered mobile plant so far as is reasonably practicable.
Employers must provide employees 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.
Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.
Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the self-employed person.