Elevating work platforms (EWPs) are mobile items of plant designed to lift or lower people and equipment by a telescopic, hinged or articulated device, or combination of these, from a base support.
There are various types of EWPs, including but not limited to:
- Scissor lifts
- Self-propelled boom lifts
- Trailer or vehicle mounted lifts
- Telehandlers with elevating work platform attachment.
Work health and safety duties
Everyone in the workplace has a work health and safety duty. A range of people have specific duties for EWPs, including the:
- EWP designer, manufacturer, importer and/or supplier
- EWP owner and others with management or control of the EWP or the workplace where an EWP will operate
- competent person who inspects EWPs, and
- EWP operator.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and others at your workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to physical and psychological health and safety.
Working around EWPs can pose significant health and safety risks. These risks must be eliminated, or if that is not possible, minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. A preventative inspection, maintenance and testing program will help ensure the EWPs are safe to use. You must also ensure that workers are given the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision that is needed for them to carry out work safely and is adequate for:
- the nature of the work carried out by the worker
- the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time of the information, training and instruction, and
- the control measures implemented.
It is important that workers are trained on operating the different types of EWPs that are to be used in your workplace. If there are multiple types of EWPs on site, workers should be trained for all the types or only use the type that they are trained in using. Different models and brands can have significantly different controls and incorrect use can lead to serious incident or injury.
You must ensure that operator’s controls are identified on the EWP to indicate their nature and the function and direction of operation.
For further information on the duties relating to EWPs see the model Code of Practice: Managing the risks of plant in the workplace.
PCBUs have a number of obligations under the model WHS laws to manage identified risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. To manage health and safety risks, you must:
- identify hazards in the workplace
- assess the associated risks
- implement control measures to eliminate or minimise risks, and
- regularly review control measures to ensure they remain effective.
You must do these things in consultation with your workers and any health and safety representatives.
The model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks and the model Code of Practice: Managing the risks of plant in the workplace provide guidance on how to manage risks associated with use of EWPs in the workplace.
Common EWP hazards
The model WHS Regulations require that you identify hazards and manage the associated risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. You should follow a systematic approach to identify and control hazards and risks in your workplace and ensure measures you put in place remain effective.
The first step in the risk management process is to identify hazards in the workplace.
The following can help to identify potential hazards of EWPs:
- Observe the workplace to identify areas where EWPs operate and how they interact with other vehicles, pedestrians and fixed structures like overhead electric lines.
- Review the tasks and types of work that are utilising EWPs.
- Monitor the types of EWPs in the workplace (both different types of EWPs and different models and brands).
- Ask the EWP operator, crew and others about problems they encounter at the workplace; including with operation, inspection, maintenance, repair, transport and storage requirements.
- Review inspection, test and maintenance records, for example logbooks.
- Review incident and injury records, including near misses.
Common hazards related to EWP use include:
- uneven or unstable ground
- working around or beneath overhead structures, trees or electrical lines
- traffic and pedestrians
- weather hazards (strong winds, rain etc)
- falling objects, and failure of the machine
EWPs should be maintained and inspected to ensure they remain safe to use. For further information, see the Guide to inspecting and maintaining elevating work platforms.
Ways to control risks
Once you have identified potential hazards in your workplace, you must assess the related risks. In many cases the risks and related control measures will be well known. In other cases, you may need to carry out a risk assessment to identify the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, the likelihood of somebody being harmed by the hazard and how serious it could be. This step may not be necessary if dealing with a known risk with known control measures.
A risk assessment can help you determine what action you should take to control the risks and how urgently the action needs to be taken. You should implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances and ensure it remains effective over time.
You must always aim to eliminate a risk where reasonably practicable. Where a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable. You should manage risks by working through the hierarchy of control measures from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest.
When implementing controls, the first thing that must be considered is whether the risk can be eliminated. For example, plan the work so that an EWP is not required, such as by carrying out work on the ground where possible. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk, you must minimise it using one or more of the following approaches, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- substitute the hazard for something safer, such as fixed scaffolding
- isolate the risk from workers: for example, set up exclusion zones to minimise the movement of workers around the EWP, and
- engineering controls: such as fitting EWPs with sensing devices to prevent collisions.
If a risk still remains, administrative control measures should be implemented, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Administrative control measures include training, instruction and supervision as well as processes such as scheduling usage to limit the number of workers in the area of operation and carrying out regular inspections and maintenance.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to control any remaining risks. Suitable protective devices for operators must, so far as reasonably practicable, be provided for EWPs including training on the correct use of PPE if necessary. Full safety harnesses, secured to the anchor point, should be worn by people on the platform of a boom-type EWP and where a risk assessment determines it is required.
A combination of control measures may be used where a single control is not sufficient to minimise the risks. All controls should be monitored and reviewed to ensure they remain effective.
For more information see the Guide for managing the risks of elevating work platforms.
Control measures for common hazards
Examples of control measures for some common hazards relating to the use of EWPs are listed below. Remember, you must ensure that you implement control measures specific to the hazards at your workplace. These are only examples and you may identify additional and different hazards when undertaking a risk assessment.
Hazard: Uneven or unstable ground
- ensure the ground is stable, flat and appropriate supports are used if needed
- ensure the type of EWP used is appropriate for the work and worksite conditions
- regularly check that the tyres are correctly inflated
- do not use the EWP if a competent person assesses that the ground is not sufficiently stable.
Hazard: Working around or beneath overhead structures, trees or electrical lines
- consider installing a protective overhead barrier to minimise the risk of crush injuries
- position spotters on the ground to communicate with the EWP operator and alert them of their proximity to surrounding structures, trees and electrical lines
- ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, no person or EWP at the workplace comes within an unsafe distance of an overhead or underground electric line.
- if work must be carried out near electrical lines, then carry out a risk assessment and implement control measures to manage the risks. The control measures must be consistent with requirements of the relevant electricity supply authority.
Hazard: Traffic and pedestrians
- set up exclusion zones using signs and barriers to ensure workers and others cannot enter an area where the EWP is being used
- where possible, restrict site access to people who are directly involved with the work activities and minimise the movement of people and mobile plant in the EWP working area.
- when there are other types of mobile plant or traffic in the workplace, use traffic controllers to ensure the EWP does not collide with any plant, structure or person.
Hazard: Weather hazards (strong winds, rain etc)
- do not operate the EWP outdoors if there is a risk of the machine being struck by lightning
- check the machine’s maximum wind speed capacity and ensure that work is not carried out when the wind speed may exceed its capacity
- assess the ground conditions during and after rainfall, as the wet ground may cause the machine to become unstable.
Hazard: Falling objects
- secure all loose items before raising the platform to eliminate the risk of falling objects
- set up exclusion zones under the machine, and if possible, do not use the machine above people or structures to avoid injuries if an item falls from the platform
- set up a falls suspension device to ensure people or items of equipment do not fall to the ground.
Hazard: Failure of the machine
- carry out pre-operational, routine, periodic and major inspections in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Ensure the inspections are carried out by a competent person
- carrying out regular inspections enables you to detect any potential issues, including signs that the machine, or components of the machine are wearing, not fit for use or need to be serviced or repaired
- ensure that any safety issues identified through an inspection are rectified and the EWP is safe before it is used.
Review control measures
Risk management is an ongoing process. You should review control measures regularly to ensure they are working as planned and that risks are managed so far as is reasonably practicable. Consider any changes to your workplace or the nature and duration of work and whether the control measures are working effectively. Control measures should also be reviewed following any incidents or near misses.
Further information on the risk management process is in the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks. The model Code of Practice: Construction work also offers guidance on managing the risks related to construction work.
Under section 4.5 of the model WHS Regulations, the operator of a boom-type EWP where the boom length is 11 metres or more must hold a high risk work licence. You must not direct or allow a person to carry out high risk work unless you have seen written evidence of that person’s high risk work licence.
For other types of EWPs that do not require high risk work licences, including boom-types with a boom length of less than 11 metres, you must still ensure that any worker operating an EWP is adequately trained and has been provided the necessary information and instruction to safely do so.
Safe work method statements
Under the model WHS Regulations, certain classes of work are considered to be ‘high risk construction work’. Regulation 291 defines the types of work that are considered high risk construction work. Construction work that uses an EWP is likely to be considered high risk construction work. A safe work method statement (SWMS) must be in place before high risk construction work commences and all work must be carried out in accordance with the SWMS.
A SWMS is an administrative control that documents the high-risk activities, hazards arising from those activities and the measures to be implemented to control those hazards. A SWMS must:
- identify the type of high risk construction work being done
- specify the health and safety hazards and risks arising from the work
- describe how risks will be controlled, and
- describe how the control measures will be implemented, monitored and reviewed.
A written SWMS should be based on a risk assessment and must be readily accessible and easily understandable for the workers, including those from a non-English speaking background. Pictures and diagrams can be an effective method of communication.
You must put in place arrangements to ensure the SWMS is being complied with, such as workplace visits and providing required resources such as PPE. The SWMS should clearly document control measures for any hazard that may arise from the use of an EWP, for instance crush, overturning and collision risks.
The model Code of Practice: Construction work and information sheet: Safe work method statement for high risk construction work provide further information on developing a SWMS.