HSE Report identifies serious knowledge gaps about the risks of entrapment
IPAF has welcomed a report on entrapment from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and stated that it hopes the content of the research will prove useful in improving safety practices in order to reduce the risk of entrapment - where a worker becomes crushed against an overhead object.
RR960 Mobile elevated work platforms - Phase 3 is a comprehensive analysis of the risks surrounding entrapment. The 178-page report, based on 30 pre-arranged and semi-structured interviews of 10 different organisations, including painters and decorators, electricians, steel erectors and racking installers identifies known and unknown risk factors specifically relevant to entrapment.
All those who took part in the research were male, with experience of working at height ranging from approximately 10 weeks to 30 years. They included company directors, a project manager, a health and safety officer, supervisors and MEWP operators.
As a result of the study, a comprehensive list of 260 issues centred on entrapment risk factors was compiled. The main risk factors highlighted include: the environment, control errors, human error, lone working, management factors, leaning over/standing on the guardrail, poor observation, condition of MEWP, lack of knowledge/experience, control panel design, poor position of MEWP and poor route planning.
The final report suggested that critical knowledge gaps had been exposed by this research, including users of equipment simply not realising that high-risk situations were dangerous.
Focussing on trades such as electricians, painters and racking installers, the report showed that while all trades could identify some of the risks, none were aware of all of them. For example, electricians interviewed wrongly identified that that wind, ground obstacles and knocking controls were not risk factors, while some steel erectors thought that leaning out over the guard rail was not a risk factor. Similarly some racking installers did not identify high winds as a potential entrapment risk.
The report also showed that many workers appeared to have received inadequate training, and not enough had been done by managers to ensure their workers fully understood the capabilities and safety features of the machine they were using.
The report even showed that some interviewees were simply not familiar with the concept of ‘MEWP entrapment' even though they may have had a few near misses themselves.
Because of instances like this, the report explicitly states that "MEWP training is not fully effective in instilling the right knowledge" at both operator and management levels. It also points out that there is low awareness of what Best Practice Guidance for MEWPs and concludes that cumulatively, these factors may be an indication of the industry's lack of comprehension of the risks of entrapment.
The interviews raised many issues, for example a lack of standardisation in MEWP control systems. Until a standardised MEWP design can be achieved, it was suggested that on-site familiarisation processes should be improved.
The report also suggested that the IPAF MEWP Safety Forum should produce a risk ranking of the critical knowledge gaps, so that the right support can be targeted at particular trades where a knowledge gap is evident.
IPAF technical officer Chris Wraith commented on RR960: "Many of the entrapment factors identified in this report were already known and being acted upon by IPAF, its members and the industry in general. Between the research interviews being conducted in 2009-10 and the publication of this latest document, key developments that address the major recommendations of the HSE report have already been implemented."