Erect­ing scaf­fold­ing or hir­ing aerial work plat­forms (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. Ir­re­spec­tive of whether op­er­a­tors have 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 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.

“AWPS are recog­nised as the safest means of work­ing at height, but the most im­por­tant ser­vice we of­fer our cus­tomers is ed­u­ca­tion. Im­prov­ing site safety is as much about ed­u­cat­ing com­pany man­age­ment to make the right de­ci­sions, se­lect the right equip­ment, and en­sure the cor­rect pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures are in place, as it is to en­sure op­er­a­tors are qual­i­fied to op­er­ate ma­chines,” says Rankin.

Rapid Ac­cess, which has been op­er­at­ing in the Mid­dle East since the 90s, has emerged as the lead­ing sup­plier of train­ing re­lated to work­ing at height, with over 50% of Mid­dle East op­er­a­tors trained through the com­pany’s pro­grammes.

“Rapid Ac­cess of­fers a range of multi-tiered and multi-dis­ci­plined train­ing cour­ses. In ad­di­tion to AWP op­er­a­tor and scaf­fold­ing li­cens­ing, we also pro­vide full day work­shops for man­agers, gen­eral work at height qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ma­chine fa­mil­iari­sa­tions, short tool box talks for sites, as well as a range of be­spoke cour­ses. We de­liver the cour­ses in dif­fer­ent for­mats such as class­room and prac­ti­cal lessons as well as vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) sim­u­la­tions,” says Rankin.

Rapid Ac­cess serves the Mid­dle East re­gion through its de­pots in ev­ery GCC coun­try, and the com­pany’s foot­print ex­tends to North and East Africa, In­dia, and Western Asia.

Its rental fleet has grown 40% to over 4,000 AWPS, rep­re­sent­ing over 30% of the to­tal num­ber of AWPS in the Mid­dle East. In 2017, Rapid Ac­cess was ac­quired by France-based Loxam Group, the third largest AWP rental com­pany in the world. Rapid Ac­cess cur­rently op­er­ates as a pow­ered ac­cess spe­cial­ist di­vi­sion within the Loxam Group.

“Rapid Ac­cess is more than just a rental equip­ment and train­ing com­pany; we serve as con­sul­tants for work­ing at height op­er­a­tions. We pro­vide cus­tomers with ad­vice and be­spoke so­lu­tions that in­clude con­duct­ing sur­veys on cus­tomer work sites, pro­vid­ing cus­tomised train­ing so­lu­tions, de­vel­op­ing new sys­tems to in­crease safety and pro­duc­tiv­ity, and help­ing to man­age the util­i­sa­tion and ef­fi­ciency of hired equip­ment. We pride our­selves on build­ing trust with our cus­tomers and de­liv­er­ing the ser­vice they ex­pect of the world’s largest ac­cess spe­cial­ist,” says Rankin.

Since 2011 Rapid Ac­cess has de­vel­oped over 25 be­spoke prod­ucts, de­signed to in­crease safety and ef­fi­ciency, or to tackle unique and spe­cific cus­tomer prob­lems. Two ex­am­ples of such prod­ucts are Skysiren and Sky­sen­try. The Skysiren was de­signed to re­duce the like­li­hood of se­ri­ous in­jury due to en­trap­ment in boom type AWPS. It has since been man­dated by large con­trac­tors and or­gan­i­sa­tions across the world and can be found on many sites in the GCC. Sky­sen­try, which was de­vel­oped over the last 5 years and launched in 2018, helps pre­vent unau­tho­rised use of equip­ment and drive ma­chine ef­fi­ciency on site.

“We’ve achieved the biggest tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in af­ter-mar­ket so­lu­tions such as Skysiren and Sky­sen­try. Since the be­gin­ning of the year, al­most 100 cus­tomers have started to use our Sky­sen­try prod­uct to help im­prove their site op­er­a­tions. Other ex­am­ples of be­spoke so­lu­tions in­clude Sky­tel, de­vel­oped to help in­stall and main­tain cel­lu­lar an­ten­nas, MRS, de­signed to in­stall mod­u­lar sys­tems faster and more safely than cur­rent meth­ods and Sky­han­dler, an at­tach­ment for tele­han­dlers which work as a pair of ro­botic arms to in­stall heavy equip­ment at height,” says Rankin.

Rankin points out that most of the emerg­ing prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in the AWP in­dus­try will be in the elec­tri­cal sys­tems and main­te­nance pro­ce­dures that can ben­e­fit the rental mar­ket, sim­i­lar to the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try. This is all the more im­por­tant be­cause the num­ber of com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing AWP rental so­lu­tions has steadily in­creased over the last few years, re­flect­ing the in­creas­ing stan­dards of health and safety and the aware­ness of AWPS within the re­gion. The AWP rental mar­ket is grow­ing glob­ally, and there is no rea­son to ex­pect the Mid­dle East to per­form any dif­fer­ently. It is ex­pected that re­gional AWP fleets will con­tinue to shift to­wards smaller and medium sized equip­ment as com­pa­nies be­come more aware of the ef­fi­ciency and safety ben­e­fits of AWPS, such as in FM and M&E sec­tors.

“Cus­tomers want a wider range of elec­tric and hy­brid op­tions from new AWP mod­els.

The fun­da­men­tal de­sign of AWPS has changed very lit­tle over the last 30 years. Op­er­a­tors to­day will no­tice very lit­tle dif­fer­ence in a ma­chine model from the 1990s and a ma­chine from 2018. What is more im­por­tant is en­sur­ing that rental com­pa­nies pro­vide the high­est qual­ity in their main­te­nance pro­ce­dures, which is only pos­si­ble with ex­pe­ri­ence in this unique part of the world,” says Rankin.

Rankin elab­o­rates on the AWP rental busi­ness model and why it re­mains more pop­u­lar than equip­ment pur­chase in the re­gion.

“There is no sim­ple for­mula to in­di­cate whether buy­ing an AWP is a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to rent­ing. The rea­son why rental is pre­ferred is that it is easy. The de­ci­sion to buy ac­cess equip­ment is dif­fi­cult be­cause there is no one-size that fits all. You can’t buy a 15m ma­chine and ex­pect it to work at 40m. Does that mean you should buy a 40m ma­chine, which is harder to trans­port, store and op­er­ate than a 15m ma­chine? With Rapid Ac­cess, our cus­tomers can choose al­most any model be­tween 3m and 60m, and if they want they can re­turn it af­ter a day. They don’t have to worry about a high-value as­set. Even for our largest cus­tomers, rental is the sim­plest and most cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion be­cause they ben­e­fit from the ex­per­tise that we have in the main­te­nance and re­pair of equip­ment, which are ex­pen­sive. AWPS are high-value and com­plex items of equip­ment de­signed to pro­vide safety in high-risk en­vi­ron­ments. Com­pa­nies all over the GCC pre­fer Rapid Ac­cess to look af­ter the com­plex­ity of own­ing this equip­ment, and in­stead re­ceive ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice and a has­sle-free work ex­pe­ri­ence,” ex­plains Rankin.

The most im­por­tant ser­vice we of­fer our cus­tomers is ed­u­ca­tion. Im­prov­ing site safety is as much about ed­u­cat­ing com­pany man­age­ment to make the right de­ci­sions, se­lect the right equip­ment, and en­sure the cor­rect pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures are in place, as it is to en­sure op­er­a­tors are qual­i­fied to op­er­ate ma­chines."

Paul Rankin, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor-mid­dle East and In­ter­na­tional, Rapid Ac­cess.

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