THE REAL PERILS OF WORKING AT HEIGHT
The most common safety process ignored by AWP contractors is investment in continuous education
AWPS are recognised as the safest means of working at height. With increase in the applications of AWPS, the safety aspects and efficiency of AWPS over alternative working at height solutions are being widely recognised across industry sectors.
The global rental market for AWPS is booming, according to the latest market analysis from the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF). At the end of 2017, the worldwide rental AWP fleet size reached an estimated 1.35 million units, compared to 1.25m estimated at end 2016 – a year-on-year increase of around 8%.
Erecting scaffolding or hiring AWPS are not solutions by themselves to working at height. Organisations involved in working at height face huge safety and skill gaps all over the world including the Middle East. Slips, trips and falls are among the most common causes of workplace injuries and are also the most likely to result in deaths. In addition to operators having qualifications to erect scaffolding or operate AWPS, they need to improve their competencies and familiarity with machines to ensure site safety.
According to Paul Rankin, managing director, Middle East and International, Rapid Access, the knowledge partner of this special report, the most common safety process ignored by contractors is the investment in continuous education. He points out that knowledge about best practices or appreciation of working at height should not be limited to people working on sites. They must be initiated and driven from the top down.
Operator competency is required not only for safe use and operation of equipment but also to determine the risks associated with workplace environments and their impact on the equipment and find ways to minimise such risks. Operators tend to be unaware about performing site-specific risk assessments for AWPS. Generally, they don’t have sufficient understanding about suitable ground surface conditions, selecting the correct type of fall protection for different AWP models and then how to use the adopted fall protection solutions, overhead hazards during operation of AWPS, using emergency lowering systems, critical differences between operation of different models, and AWP operator responsibilities in relation to pre-use inspections.
There’s consensus that adopting advanced technologies, embracing change, utilising and analysing big data and most importantly relying on a skilled and highly engaged and energised workforce are all key to a successful and sustainable business model and enhancing safety in the powered access rental market.
The IPAF also aims to address the challenge of how AWP manufacturers can help redesign the work site of the future to increase productivity and safety at the same time. Some of the key focus areas of IPAF’S three-year strategic plan (2018–2020) are identifying opportunities to expand with the AWP industry into new countries to share good practice; creating career paths for people employed in the industry, from
PDI courses through to fully qualified specialist AWP technicians, including the development of other operator courses such as for telehandlers; and developing and implementing a strategy to optimise the use of virtual reality (VR), simulators.