In this article
MEWP stands for Mobile Elevating Work Platform. They are used to move people to working positions where they can carry out work from the work platform, and then return them to the starting level. They are not intended to be used to transfer people from one level to another or for people to exit the basket at height. People using MEWPs should only get on and off the work platform at ground level or on the chassis.
MEWPs consist at a minimum of a work platform with controls, an extending structure and a chassis. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, but they essentially all do the same thing; lift people up to a height of about 60+m within a protected cage or platform.
When using a MEWP people can get much faster access to the working area, saving time which could be spent on more productive work. Anyone who needs to work on something that is beyond their natural reach while standing on the ground could benefit from the use of a MEWP.
What are MEWPs used for?
Principally MEWPs are used to get people, tools and equipment to heights safely and quickly, offering a flexible way to reach jobs at height. They are fully mobile, can access areas with restricted space and can improve the safety of working at height.
MEWPs are widely used in the construction industry by, for example:
- Acoustical, sound and lighting installation contractors.
- Air conditioning contractors.
- Carpentry and finishing contractors.
- Electrical and mechanical contractors.
- Glass, window and vertical blind installers and/or cleaners.
- Heat and ventilation contractors.
- Painting contractors.
- Plasterboard installers.
- Road building and maintenance contractors.
- Service & maintenance contractors.
- Sign installation contractors.
Other industries that use MEWPs include, but are not limited to:
- Aircraft facilities including airports.
- Department stores, large retailers and shopping centres.
- Exhibition centres, hotels and resorts.
- Film, television and theatres.
- Manufacturing, warehousing and distribution operations.
- Museums, galleries.
- Parcel, post and courier services.
- Ports and shipyards.
- Schools, colleges and universities.
- Sports clubs and stadiums.
- The armed forces.
- Train stations.
- Transportation manufacturers e.g. cars, buses, trains.
- Utilities including telephones, water, gas, electricity.
- Wineries, bottling facilities and breweries.
Selecting the correct type of MEWP
When you are selecting the right MEWP for a particular job, there are a number of questions to ask before making your selection:
- Who will use the equipment?
- How many people will be in the platform at once?
- Will they need operator or familiarisation training?
- What kind of work will be performed?
- What are you lifting, and how much does it weigh?
- What are the obstacles on the worksite?
- Are there unusual work conditions or multiple shifts?
- What is your power source preference?
- Where will the equipment be used?
- Are you working on a single site or multiple sites?
- Is the work indoors, outdoors or a combination?
- What site characteristics influence the lift’s use?
- Do you need to drive up or down a ramp?
- Do you need doorway access? Single, double or larger?
- Is the ground level?
- Is there a slab, concrete or asphalt floor?
- Will you have narrow or congested access?
- Is it a caustic or hazardous environment?
- Will fuel be readily available?
- Is there access to electricity on site?
- How will the equipment be used?
- How high do you need to reach or work?
- How much outreach is needed?
- How much weight do you need to lift?
- How will you transport the equipment?
- When will the equipment be used?
- For how long?
Once you have answers to most or all of these questions, they will provide you with a valuable insight to enable you to select the right MEWP for the job. Using the wrong machine could damage the workplace, the equipment or cause serious injuries.
Types of MEWPs
There are many different types of MEWP with various rated capacities, working heights and outreaches. Choose the most suitable type and size of MEWP for the job you need doing.
The different types of MEWP include:
Also known as articulated boom lifts, cherry pickers are a practical, versatile type of MEWP. Cherry picker benefits include an extensive range of movement and a strong sideways reach, making them a great choice for both internal and external use. MEWP cherry pickers can be found in various sizes with differing features, further cementing their flexibility in the working environment.
Telescopic booms, also referred to as stick boom lifts, are similar to cherry pickers but offer increased extension and manoeuvrability. Their caged platforms can extend horizontally as well as vertically, and again, can be used either indoors or out. Rough terrain features can also be found on certain models for external use.
Lorry mounted platforms
As the name suggests, this type of MEWP is ideal for moving between multiple workplaces or locations, as well as for projects with tight deadlines. Offering both vertical and horizontal extension, lorry mounted platforms are versatile and easily transportable. This type of MEWP is well suited to external use.
These lifts are best suited for working in external environments and can cope well with steep or uneven ground, improving their accessibility. Benefits of spider lifts include their extension, low-point loading, and suitability for use on soft ground. Highly versatile, spider lifts are regularly used by those working at height.
Scissor lifts are one of the most common types of MEWPs. Providing vertical access with a large, secure platform for workers, these straight lifts can be used both indoors and out. However, standard size scissor lifts can be quite bulky, so narrow-width versions are also available for more confined spaces.
Push around vertical platform lifts (PAV) are a type of compact, mobile scissor lift. Offering limited vertical extension, PAV lifts are primarily used for indoor access at low levels, such as in warehouses. Lightweight and easy to move around, PAV lifts are the smallest of the life options on this list.
When you have selected the best MEWP to use for the job, you will need to carry out a risk assessment.
MEWP risk assessment
Working at height using a MEWP requires a suitable MEWP risk assessment to avoid potential dangers. The law requires employers and self-employed contractors to carry out an adequate MEWP risk assessment of the potential risks on each job so they can do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm.
Carrying out a MEWP risk assessment does not need to be overly complicated but it does need to be an important part of planning and completing a job. A risk assessment will identify potential hazards and ensure that potential problems are managed and can be prevented, so each job is completed without an incident or injury.
The MEWP risk assessment must also take into consideration:
- Planning travel to and from the work area.
- Accessing the work area.
- Lighting (to aid good visibility).
- Carrying out the work task at a height.
- Step 1: Identify the hazards – This is where you determine what could go wrong based on knowledge and past experiences. This should cover point of travel to where the job is to be carried out, assessing the work area with the MEWP, then the main task (the nature of the work, and job-related hazards). Considering all these areas, you should be able to identify tangible hazards associated with the task at hand.
- Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how – After identifying the hazards, you should determine who could be affected by the hazards and how. For example, if the MEWP overturns, who will get hurt? If materials fall from a height, who will be affected? etc.
- Step 3: Evaluate the risks – The likelihood of them happening (low, medium or high) and the potential harm if they do happen, and decide on precautions to control the identified hazards.
- Step 4: Record your findings and implement them – The result of the MEWP risk assessment should be implemented and documented for reference purposes. The implementation process should be monitored to ensure a good outcome.
- Step 5: Review your assessment and update as necessary – As circumstances change all the time, so should your risk assessment; changes in legislation, any accidents or incidents, or the introduction of a new MEWP may require the risk assessment to be reviewed to accommodate the changes.
MEWP risk assessments should be done for each specific MEWP used. Your risk assessment should also state any training need if identified.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) most fatal and serious accidents, incidents and injuries involving MEWPs arise from:
- Entrapment: Operator trapped between part of the basket and a fixed structure, e.g. when manoeuvring in confined overhead areas of steelwork. Operators may become trapped against the platform controls, and if this happens, they may not be able to stop the machine running.
- Overturning: The machine may overturn, throwing the operator from the basket.
- Falling: An operator may fall from the basket during work activities possibly from insufficient safety equipment, not following procedures or worker fatigue due to exposure to weather conditions or lack of access to rest and refreshment facilities.
- Collision: The vehicle may collide with pedestrians, overhead cables or nearby vehicles.
You should also check wind and weather. All MEWPs have a manufacturer’s recommended wind tolerance. The most commonly quoted wind tolerance is force six which is a strong breeze 28 to 31 mph or 12.5 metres per second; however, some MEWPs will have no wind tolerance because they are designed for indoor use only. Always check the recommended wind speed for the machine you are using.
This information can be found in the operator’s manual and it should also be on a decal (information sticker) on the machine. Designated wind speeds are based on 3-second gusts; more exposure could cause the machine to become unstable. Wind speed should be checked at the working height by means of a handheld wind meter (anemometer) which is the only method considered reliable.
These hazards should be identified within a risk assessment and suitable control measures put in place.
Transporting and delivering a MEWP
MEWPs must be correctly and safely loaded, secured and unloaded prior to or following transportation by road to and from the work site. About a third of the accidents recorded by rental companies take place during the delivery and collection process.
- Ensure that a designated senior manager is responsible for planning MEWP deliveries, collection and transportation.
- Ensure that transport vehicles used for the transportation of MEWPs are suitable for the purpose and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
- Ensure the operator is facing the direction the MEWP is travelling in, that they lower the MEWP when travelling between work areas, lower any boom, and point it in line with the direction of travel.
- Never attempt to travel with the outriggers or stabilisers in their deployed position; you must always check that they are fully retracted.
- Schedule deliveries for a quiet time and try to avoid peak traffic periods (these may be limited by local authority planning restrictions on times of delivery and complaints from neighbours, especially if reversing alarms are used). Particular problems may arise by loading or unloading around and during school arrival and departure times.
- Identify where the delivery vehicle will park on the highway, considering the proximity of the site entrance to bus routes and narrow roads. Where practical and safe to do so, reserve the parking space by placing marked cones on the kerb side, allowing an enlarged length of kerb to incorporate a suitable ‘run-off’ distance at the rear of the transport vehicle. The run-off distance refers to having sufficient space at the rear of the vehicle to allow for the MEWP to clear the area.
- Consider which way the lorry should face in order to increase vehicle visibility (normally facing the traffic). Consider that the driver may have to stand and operate ramp lowering levers on the side of the vehicle. Avoid movements involving the MEWP or delivery persons crossing the traffic flow. Where needed, provide a competent and authorised supervisor/signaller wearing high visibility clothing positioned in a safe place using agreed hand signals. Signallers should give priority to the passage of pedestrians and other road users. Signallers have no authority to stop traffic on the highway.
- Where cones or barriers need to be used and placed on the public highway, then the duty holder should discuss their use with the police and local/highway authority. Pedestrians should not be directed into the road.
- Provide adequate lighting in hours of darkness and take any other precautions applicable to the specific location.
Law and regulations relating to MEWPs
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASWA) employers must:
- Provide information, instruction and training.
- Provide safe systems of work and a safe working environment.
- Provide safe transport and storage.
- Accept responsibility for unsafe actions of their employees.
Under The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) employers must:
- Undertake risk assessments and if they employee five or more people, document all significant findings.
- Put in place a hierarchy of measures to avoid, reduce and control risks.
- Implement health and safety measures from risk assessment.
- Appoint a competent person.
- Provide clear information and training to employees.
- Work together with other employers sharing the same workplace.
Under The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) employers must ensure that:
- Work equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the purpose for which it is provided.
- Equipment is in good working order, maintained and repaired.
- Employees are authorised to use the equipment.
- Equipment is inspected at suitable intervals to ensure it is safe to use.
- They provide adequate training to operate the equipment.
Under The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) employers must ensure that:
- Every lifting operation involving lifting equipment is properly planned, by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.
Under the Working at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) employers must ensure that work at height:
- Is properly planned.
- Is appropriately supervised.
- Is carried out in a safe manner.
- Includes the selection of appropriate work equipment.
- Is organised so that no person engages in any activity including organisation, planning and supervision in relation to working at height or work equipment for use in such work, unless they are competent to do so.
MEWP operators’ responsibilities
MEWP operators by law must have received adequate training for the category of machine they intend to use and be able to prove this with a certificate, card or ‘licence’, listing the categories of MEWP the bearer is trained to operate. The expiry date of the training licence or card should be checked by the employer or contractor.
Although specific courses are not a strict legal requirement, there are recognised schemes such as the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) courses available. If you have NOT been trained and received a certificate, you must NOT operate a MEWP.
In addition to formal training for the type of MEWP, operators should have familiarisation training on the controls and operation of the specific make and model of MEWP they are using.
The MEWP operator’s responsibilities include:
- The safe operation of the MEWP.
- The safety of the people who they work with and also the safety of anyone else who could be affected by their actions.
- Always following the manufacturer’s instruction manual and at no time attempting to or operating outside the recommended limits.
- Taking proper care of the MEWP as a major factor in maintaining safety.
- Never ignoring or interfering with any safety device provided on the machine.
- If driving on the public highway, holding the relevant licence for that class of vehicle.
- Making sure that the MEWP cannot be used by unauthorised persons.
Inspections and examinations
All MEWPs must be inspected by the operator before and after use. This is to ensure that it is safe and that there are no obvious defects. The inspection must always be carried out in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction manual. It is also good practice to keep a record of all inspections.
You also need to see evidence that the MEWP has a current six-monthly or annual maintenance examination as required under LOLER. The six-monthly maintenance inspection is required for MEWPs lifting people, and the annual maintenance inspection is for MEWPs lifting just equipment. These maintenance inspections must be carried out by a competent person.
Responsibilities of all employees under HASWA 1974 are that they:
- Are responsible for their own safety.
- Are responsible for the safety of any other person who could be affected by their actions or omissions.
- Must cooperate with employers.
- Must not interfere with or misuse any safety system provided for their safety or the safety of others.
Working at height poses many dangers and risks to workers. In the past four years it was reported by the HSE that within the construction industry 47% of injuries and 49% of fatalities were due to falls from a height. MEWPs are a simple solution for lifting both people and essential equipment such as heavy tools or materials, specialist equipment or breakables, safely and quickly at height.
They resolve a number of issues posed by traditional lifting methods. These include access to tight spaces, hard to reach areas and health and safety considerations. MEWPs are easy to operate and install, safe to use and can cater for a range of needs and requirements for different businesses that work at height.
The key is to ensure that you select the correct MEWP for the job, that the MEWP operator is fully trained and that you follow all safety laws and regulations relating to the use of MEWPs.