SAFETY ALERT: Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

Nicholas McCallum

SAFETY ALERT: Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

The Electrical Trades Union recognises that fatal incidents and serious injuries commonly happen when operators and/or passengers are crushed against fixed overhead or adjacent structures while using self-propelled boom and scissor type Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs).

The South Australian Coroner handed down his findings in the inquest into the death of Jorge Castillo-Riffo, who was crushed to death by a scissor lift on the Leighton/Hansen Yuncken–Royal Adelaide Hospital site in 2014.

The Coroner recommend that until the implementation of a system of effective standardisation of scissor lift control configuration across the country, that scissor lifts not be operated unless there is a person on the ground operating as a spotter who is available at all times to take steps to activate the emergency lowering mechanism should that be necessary.

Before operating a MEWP in, around or near fixed structures, duty holders must eliminate crush risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, it must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable by:

  • substituting the plant with plant that has a lower level of risk (i.e. fixed or mobile scaffold)
  • using engineering controls (i.e. MEWP with an operator protective device/secondary guarding such as a physical barrier or pressure sensing device)
  • a combination of control measures. If a risk still remains after implementing higher order control measures the ETU recommends that the following control measures be implemented prior to the use of any MEWPs:
  • Operator inducted into the MEWP by manufacturer or service agent
  • MEWP inspection and maintenance regimes consistent with manufacturer’s instructions
  • altered work procedures to take into consideration specific environment
  • additional operator supervision if required
  • MEWP specific emergency procedures taking into consideration the surrounding risks
  • At all times, have a ground based safety observer who has the same qualifications as the operator of the MEWP and is trained and competent to use the MEWPs ground-based controls, in the event of an emergency.

It is the recommendation of the ETU that if any of the above training, risk assessment, and control measures are not implemented PRIOR to the task being completed, work should cease. Contact your designated Health & Safety Representative or your Local Union Organiser.

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