Top 4 MEWP Safety Hazards

Mar 01 2021 | 4 Min. Read MEWP Safety

Recognize and avoid the four major safety concerns associated with MEWPs. 

Let’s start by reviewing the new terminology. MEWP stands for Mobile Elevating Work Platform. The category used to be called Aerial Work Platforms and includes boom lifts, scissor lifts, cherry pickers and more.

These lifts are useful for getting workers up to shop ceilings, high warehouse shelves, or other lofty places. Often, they replace ladders and scaffolding because of their greater mobility and flexibility. 

Many MEWP accidents and injuries can be avoided with basic safety practices such as:

  • Ensuring that operators understand and follow all applicable safety rules and regulations.
  • Having operators thoroughly inspect the equipment at the start of their shift and getting problems fixed before the machine is used.

However, there are four major safety concerns associated with MEWPs that you should know. Remembering these concerns is easy when you use the mnemonic, EFCT, which stands for:

  • Electrocution
  • Falls
  • Collisions
  • Tip-overs

Here’s an explanation of each of these hazards with tips for avoiding accidents.

Hazard #1: Electrocution

A MEWP is often used to access electric lines, whether outdoor power lines or indoor circuits. Or a MEWP may be used for another purpose but bring the operator close to power sources. The operator needs to be cautious and assume all lines are energized.

Safety tips:

  1. Have the operator walk the route to the job site, looking for electrical hazards, especially overhead. Then he or she can work out a plan to avoid those hazards.
  2. New ANSI/SAIA standards say operators should stay at least 10 feet away from electrical hazards like power lines unless the operator is qualified.

Hazard #2: Falls

MEWPs can extend many feet above the ground so falls can be serious and even fatal. Even a slight jar at the base of the machine can cause a powerful whiplash at the platform. Operators must wear and use proper fall protection. A properly fitted full body harness with a lanyard or lifeline attached to the platform will reduce the potential for falls.

Safety tips:

  1. MEWPs are less stable when the platform is elevated, so it should not be moved with the platform raised.
  2. No one should sit, stand or climb on platform guardrails. Operators should maintain a firm footing on the platform floor at all times.
  3. Exiting an elevated platform can be dangerous. If it has to be done, first thoroughly assess the risks involved, make sure it is the best way to access a location, and train your operator.
  4. Operators should keep a cell phone or two-way radio with them while in the platform so they can call for help.
  5. Keep the platform floor clear of debris to eliminate tripping hazards.

Hazard #3: Collisions

MEWPs can be difficult to maneuver and have poor sightlines for operators. They can run into obstacles of all kinds, including pedestrians. Overhead obstacles are a special concern.

Safety tips:

  1. Sightlines are severely compromised when a MEWP is operated from an elevated platform; therefore, MEWPs should not be moved with the platform raised.
  2. Have a spotter walk ahead of the lift to alert the operator to obstacles and warn pedestrians to stay clear.

Hazard #4: Tip-overs

MEWPs can be very sensitive to uneven terrain, and a tip-over can be catastrophic for the operator and others, causing injury or death.

Safety tips:

  1. Have the operator walk the route to the job site, looking for rough, slippery or unstable surfaces, holes, slopes, and any other hazards. Then he or she can work out a plan to avoid hazards.
  2. Since elevated MEWPs are top heavy, they should not be moved with the platform raised.

New MEWP standards

There are no OSHA standards written specifically for MEWPs. OSHA standard 1926.453 recommendations are helpful.

However, a recent collaboration of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Scaffold and Access Industry Association (SAIA) is very relevant. The two organizations worked together to develop new MEWP design/manufacture and usage standards. The changes included in the new ANSI/SAIA A92.20/24 standards went into effect in June 2020 and include these changes, among others:

  • Terms What was once called an Aerial Work Platform (AWP) is now a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP
  • Electrical Hazards Operators must stay 10 feet away from electrical lines unless qualified to be closer.
  • Training Supervisors of MEWP operators need specific supervisor training. This is in addition to the requirement that operators be trained.
  • Continuing education Operators need to be trained in these new standards, even if they’ve received training before.

Your Training Partner

Make sure all your MEWP operators and their supervisors receive proper training on the exact equipment they will use as well as on the new ANSI/SAIA A92.20/24 standards. TrainMOR offers mobile, memorable, and measurable training for MEWP operators and their supervisors to help keep you in compliance with the OSHA and ANSI/SAIA regulations and standards.

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