IPAF issues operating guidelines to minimize COVID-19 risks
The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has issued a comprehensive set of operating guidelines to assist those using mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), mast-climbing working platforms (MCWPs), construction lifts and hoists to work safely and minimise the risk of spreading the Coronavirus.
All organisations need to prepare a risk assessment of COVID-19 to ensure machines can be used and work undertaken while maintaining social distancing. By following government advice, planning and preparing in advance and implementing the findings of risk assessments, it is possible to undertake most work activities safely.
The document which has been developed and reviewed by IPAF’s safety experts is centred on a hierarchy of risk, with guidance on how to mitigate possible exposure to the virus to help protect employees, colleagues, customers and users of powered access equipment. The hierarchy is ranked from eliminating risk entirely, through reducing risk, isolating users from risk and controlling risk to protecting against risk through use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Peter Douglas, IPAF’s CEO & MD, says: “Ours is an industry founded on the principles of safe working and adopting best practice through sound risk assessment and mitigation. There’s an increased risk at present posed by the spread of the Coronovirus and we must do everything we can to eliminate, reduce, control or protect against it. Powered access equipment is key to conducting work at height safely, the services our members provide are of vital importance on construction sites, maintenance and infrastructure projects around the world. If powered access firms can’t do this work, projects will be hampered and safety while working at height could be compromised.”
On construction sites, enhanced risk assessment, cleansing of machines, use of additional PPE such as face masks and visors, and using extra machines to allow a ‘one operator per platform’ rule to maintain social distancing are all recommended. If contractors need to hire additional machines, it’s important to only ask trained and familiarised operators to use the equipment and for work to be adequately supervised.
“Remember, it is very important not to use the virus as an excuse to cut corners on established principles of work at height safety. It is vital that employees are protected from risks associated with working at height at the same time as being mindful of the additional risk posed by the virus,” says Douglas.
“Never ask someone who isn’t properly trained to use a MEWP, MCWP, lift or hoist, and always ensure you have the right machine for the job. These basic principles have not changed. Likewise, powered access equipment should be provided in a safe working condition and subject to correct inspection, maintenance and thorough examination at all times. Work should be supervised to ensure best practice is being observed, and it is recommended supervisors or managers should also be trained, for instance using IPAF’s MEWPs for Managers training, which can be conducted wholly via eLearning,” he adds.