Maintenance: IPAF Panel discusses maintenance problems in the industry
The proper maintenance of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) is quite literally a life or death issue, yet despite this, many companies, employers and users have still not got to grips with what their responsibilities are.
With most faults occurring in the field, the onus is on those using the machine to make sure it is properly inspected and maintained for the duration of its use onsite, but despite this, the reality is that a lackadaisical attitude to maintenance is still widespread.
To get to grips with these thorny issues, IPAF held a debate, with participants including Joy Jones, an HSE principal inspector; Mark Kelly, QSHE manager at Nationwide Platforms; Chris Wraith, IPAF technical officer; Peter Ashburner, director of Higher Access and Jim Senior, Brookfield Multiplex health and safety manager.
Joy Jones (HSE) stated that having looked at reports from the UK, the USA and New Zealand, it is clear that mechanical failure causes around seven per cent of MEWP accidents.
The discussion clearly showed that many businesses and operators mistakenly thought that as long as a piece of equipment was verified as in safe working order by the hire company when it came to them, they themselves did not have any responsibility to check or maintain the equipment for the duration of the job.
The opposite is true, with the best equipment hire specialists working hard to ensure their customers understand their own responsibilities by providing training or even refusing to hire equipment to companies they suspect will not behave responsibly. Similarly, IPAF is introducing new Smart PAL technology – an optional interlock on a MEWP which means that it can’t be used unless a card with the correct category is presented to the card reader – which will help to reduce unauthorised use of equipment.
The stress that MEWPs are put under by poorly trained operators while out in the field was also discussed, with the panel sharing horror stories about the poor condition they have had equipment returned in. Peter Ashburner of Higher Access perhaps walked away with the prize when he commented that: “We’ve had a machine returned from hire to a tree surgeon where the basket’s aluminium handrail was severed in two places – cut through by the chainsaw. The customer tried to repair it using aluminium foil in the hope we wouldn’t notice.”