An elevating work platform, also known as a MEWP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) is a mechanical device that elevates a working platform to access a work area at height safely.
There are essentially 5 different types of elevating work platforms, each of them slightly different to each other – and depending on the type and the height you work at in Australia, they have different training and licencing requirements.
In this article I will explain the definitions of each type of Elevated Work Platform, the training and licencing requirements for EWP’s (Including Working Safely at Height training), the importance of planning your work and highlight what I believe are the most misunderstood and aspects of safe EWP operation.
What is the ‘11m Rule’?
Whilst all states maintain their own OH&S laws, there is common agreement between states laws in most areas. One of those areas is High Risk Work Licencing.
The WP Class of High Risk Work Licence applies to:
- A Boom type elevating work platform that can exceed 11m in platform height
It does not apply to scissor lifts or vertical lifts as they do not have boom sections. However, self-propelled, trailer-mounted and truck-mounted boomlifts all fit the definition of a boom type elevated work platform and as such – if their platform height exceeds 11m, you must get a High Risk Work Licence (Class WP) to be an operator.
What are the five types of Elevated Work Platforms?
A scissor lift is a mechanical lifting device used to gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas at height. Its name comes from the scissor-like cross beams that are hydraulically driven to elevate a work platform.
There are many different terms also used to describe different types of scissor lifts, such as rough terrain scissor lifts, slab scissor lifts (used on concrete slabs) and indoor or outdoor rated scissor lifts.
Training and Licencing requirements – Scissor Lifts
Whilst you do not need a licence to operate a scissor lift (because they are not included in the 29 classes of High Risk Work Licences), under all Australian OH&S laws, you must have proof of appropriate training to operate a scissor lift.
The ‘11m rule’ does not apply to scissor lifts – Whether your scissor can or can’t reach above 11m, you do not need a High Risk Work Licence for scissors.
A vertical lift is a mechanical lifting device that elevates through the use of a mast with several sections that are elevated hydraulically to gain access to high working areas generally in tighter and more confined working areas. The working footprint of a self-propelled vertical lift will be smaller than a scissor lift mainly because vertical lifts are designed for one occupant only. Push around vertical lifts are also often used, which have their own distinctive advantages and disadvantages to their self-propelled counterpart.
Training and Licencing requirements – Vertical Lifts
Exactly the same applies to vertical lifts – The ‘11m rule’ does not apply to vertical lifts, whether a vertical lift can not reach 11m or can reach above 11m, you do not need a High Risk Work Licence to operate.
Self-Propelled Boom Lift
A self-propelled boom lift is a telescopic or hinged device that uses hydraulics to telescope out or raise hinged sections of boom to elevate a work basket to a desired height, with the base being drivable from the basket. They are generally designed to carry two occupants. These differing methods of elevation lend their names being either a ‘straight’ boom or a ‘knuckle’ (I.e. articulated) boom.
In the same way as with scissor lifts – you have access to rough terrain boom lifts, slab boom lifts (operating on concrete slabs), indoor and outdoor rated boom lifts and narrow boom lifts for working in tight and restricted areas.
Training and Licencing requirements – Self-Propelled Boom Lifts
Now it is boom lifts and only boom lifts that have an 11m High Risk Work Licencing rule that applies in Australia. If a boomlift has the ability for its platform height to exceed 11m, the operator must obtain a Class WP High Risk Work Licence through an approved WorkSafe provider.
If the boom lift platform height cannot exceed 11m, you do not need a licence to operate. However, like scissor and vertical lifts – you must have proof of appropriate training.
These same set of rules apply for all boom-type elevating work platforms, which includes self-propelled boom lifts, trailer-mounted boom lifts and truck-mounted boom lifts.
Trailer-Mounted Boom Lift
As its name suggests, a trailer-mounted boom lift or ‘trailer lift’ is a boom lift attached to a trailer and is therefore the most economical of the boom lifts to move as they can be towed behind any vehicle with adequate towing capacity. They usually use a combination of hinged crossed beams and telescoping section to obtain maximum height. In addition to this, they also use outriggers to level up and stabilise. As a consequence, the operating footprint can be larger than a self-propelled boom lift and can cause your starting point to be further away from your destination to allow for initial setup.
Training and Licencing requirements – Trailer-Mounted Boom Lifts
Because a trailer-mounted boom lift is considered to be a boom lift by definition, the ‘11m Rule’ on high risk work licencing also applies. If a trailer-mounted boom lift has the capability for the platform height to exceed 11m, the operator must obtain a Class WP High Risk Work Licence. If not, then proof of adequate training is required.
Truck-Mounted Boom Lift
Similar to the trailer-mounted boom, the truck-mounted boom is a boom lift mounted on a vehicle. As such, they allow for a much bigger booms and therefore greater heights can be reached. The truck-mounted boom lift is the easiest to set up, and therefore is ideal for completing work over multiple locations in short time.
Another unique feature of truck-mounted boom lifts is that many of them have insulated booms which make them ideal for working on power lines and other components within the electrical supply industry.
Training and Licencing requirements – Tuck-Mounted Boom Lifts
As above, a truck-mounted boom lift is a boom lift. And so a WP Class High Risk Work Licence is required if the platform can reach above 11m.
Planning Your Work
To ensure safe operation of any EWP, planning your work and complying with your legal requirements are paramount.
Selecting the appropriate EWP
Planning your work initially consists of a site inspection to identify and visualise the work that needs to be completed, as well as noting any obstacles and hazards that exist. As the vast majority of EWP’s require level ground, locating a flat area on which to base your work is critical. Once a flat working area has been selected, the following decisions need to be made:
- What height is needed to reach the work area?
- Do we need a rough terrain EWP to reach the work area?
- What type of EWP is most suitable?
Conduct a Risk Assessment
A Safe Work Method Statement must be completed for all EWP operations.
Identification of all potential hazards is not just critical for the safety of the EWP operation, it is required by law. Consultation with others involved in your work is a great way to collaborate multiple views and thoughts to ensure all hazards are identified. A site walk of the work area whilst this consultation occurs is, in my view, critical to a safe working outcome.
All hazards must be recorded on your Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and the applicable control measures outlined. Upon completion, a review of the SWMS is then required to ensure all hazards were controlled and all control measures worked as intended.
Pre-Operational Safety Checks
All trained operators know about the legal requirement to conduct pre-operational safety checks on all EWP’s prior to use. However – We all know that this does not occur as often as it should. If the pre-operational safety checks are not completed each state health and safety regulator has the power to issue significant penalties. Let’s not forget, these machines lift us high into the sky – we need to make sure they’re operating as they should before our feet leave the ground.