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Mobile Elevating Work Platforms

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWP) are machines which are designed to act as access platforms for any high level access that may be required for building or maintenance. This can be working on the roof of a warehouse or replacing a window in a residential property. Working at heights has always involved a high level of risk, the correct MEWP training helps to ensure that any risk is minimal

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWP) include a wide range of different type of lifts these include:

• Scissor Lifts
• Cherry pickers
• Personnel Lifts
• Self Propelled Booms
• All Terrain Booms
• Trailer Mounted Booms
• Vehicle-mounted booms

Each MEWP is specifically designed for a certain job. To ensure the safety of the operators and anyone in the vicinity the appropriate machine must be operated by personnel who have successfully completed a MEWP training course.

Mobile elevating work platforms can provide a safe way of working at height. They:

• Allow the worker to undertake tasks easily and safely
• Have guard rails and toe boards which prevent falls
• Can be used in or outdoors

Before contacting a MEWP hire company, you should spend some time considering the job the kit is required for. Some key points to take into account are:

• The maximum height you will need to reach using the kit
• The access situation to the working area - look at the terrain the machine must cross to get to the work area and note any obstacles the terrain you will need to use the kit on and the condition of the ground - is it uneven or unstable in any way?
• Are the people using the MEWP trained and competent
• If using the lift inside, is there adequate ventilation for a machine powered by an engine with exhaust fumes?
• Any permissions or organisational issues which need to be sorted out in advance

Once you have answered these questions, contact an established hire company to talk through your requirements. They should be happy to advise you on the equipment best suited to the job, and other considerations such as hire periods and the insurance you need. If you are unsure whether you need an operator for the MEWP, you can also talk this through at this stage. When agreeing a hire period, ensure you have allowed enough time to transport the machine to the site and back again, as well as leaving adequate time on site for the job.

Safety Considerations

• Could the MEWP be caught on any protruding features or overhead hazards, e.g. steelwork, tree branches or power lines?
• Is there passing traffic, and if so, what do you need to do to prevent collisions?
• Do you need to use either work restraint (to prevent people climbing out of the MEWP) or a fall arrest system (which will stop a person hitting the ground if they fall out)
• Has the MEWP been examined, inspected and maintained as required by the manufacturer's instructions and daily checks carried out
• Are the people using the MEWP trained and competent


The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) promotes the safe and effective use of powered access worldwide. IPAF is a not-for-profit members' organisation that represents the interests of manufacturers, distributors, users, rental and training companies. It serves as a forum for all active in the world of powered access. IPAF has played a key role in promoting many of the design, safety and testing procedures that are now established in the powered access industry.

IPAF Courses

Health and safety legislation including the work at height regulations 2005 require that any operative using an MEWP must be competent and trained to do so. IPAF is the nationally recognised governing body dedicated to the training of MEWP operatives.

There are four main categories of training available, each one covering a type of MEWP:

• 1a Static Vertical (e.g. static scissor lifts)
• 1b Static Boom (e.g. static cherry picker)
• 3a Mobile Vertical (e.g. mobile scissor lift)
• 3b Mobile Boom (e.g. mobile cherry picker)

Categories can be done as an individual one day course or two categories e.g. Mobile Vertical and Mobile Boom can be combined into one days training.

Course Content:

Courses are designed to give operatives the knowledge, understanding and instruction to ensure that they are competent in the safe use, maintenance and inspection, as required by the Work at Height Regulations 2005. On successful completion, each delegate will receive a certificate and PAL card as proof of their training.

The courses cover:

• Various Health and Safety Legislation
• Safe systems of work
• Understanding of the capabilities of mobile work platforms
• Duties of the operator
• Emergency systems for lowering
• Hazards and risks
• Checks and inspections
• Controls
• Storage
• Written & practical assessment

Safety Harness Training

This IPAF safety harness training course is for anyone who will be involved with MEWPs which require the use of safety harnesses e.g. boom type and cherry pickers.

These half day courses cover all the necessary information required to ensure delegates are able to select, use, maintain and inspect appropriate fall arrest equipment when using MEWPs.

Courses Available

Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) courses for:

• Operators
• Demonstrators
• Instructors

Categories of MEWP equipment:

• Static Vertical (1a)
• Static Boom (1b)
• Mobile Vertical (3a)
• Mobile Boom (3b)
• Push Around Vertical (PAV)
• Insulated Aerical Device (IAD)
• Specialist machines (SPECIAL)

Mast Climbing Work Platform (MCWP) courses for:

• Mobile Operators
• Demonstrators
• Installers
• Advanced Installers
• Instructors

Other courses:

• Harness Use and Inspection (H)
• Loading/Unloading (LOAD)
• MEWPs for Managers (MM)
• Telehandler Platform - Integrated (TPI)

PAL Card

Those who successfully complete IPAF training are awarded the PAL Card (Powered Access Licence), the most widely held and recognised proof of training for platform operators. The PAL Card is valid for five years and shows the machine categories that the operator has been trained in. It also features the holder's photo and signature, and can be verified by calling IPAF. The PAL Card (Powered Access Licence) is recognised worldwide across industries as proof of platform operator training to the highest standard.

More than 80,000 PAL Cards are issued each year through over 400 IPAF-approved training centres around the world.

Who needs a PAL Card

If you need to work at height and use access equipment:

• IPAF believes that you should receive basic training.
• In addition to your main job, e.g. electrician, painter, decorator, cleaner, you will acquire a new skill.
• Platforms are designed to be easy to use and offer a safe way to work at height, but with basic training you will use the equipment more effectively and safely.

If you are an employer:

• You can be sure that legal requirements have been fulfilled if your platform operators have the PAL Card.
• Most legislation, covering health and safety obligations, accident prevention and work at height regulations, require you to provide employees with proper and adequate training in the use of work equipment.
• IPAF training to the highest standards means that your platform operators will also work more efficiently and productively.


The PAL Card is valid for five years. It shows the date on which the holder was assessed and the expiry date by which re-training would be needed.

• It shows the types of equipment that the holder has been trained to operate.
• It shows the level to which the holder has been trained, e.g. operator, demonstrator and instructor.
• It has security features including a holographic logo and the holder's photograph and signature to prevent mis-use.

International acceptance

The PAL Card is accepted and recognised as proof of platform operator training in many countries. Some examples are:

• UK Contractors Group
• Scaffold Industry Association in the USA
• Berufsgenossenschaften in Germany
• Assodimi in Italy
• Asociace ZZ-CR in the Czech Republic

The PAL Card shows the holder has been trained to work with platforms correctly and safely.

Health and Safety

• What access is there to the site?
• How much base area is available at the work position?
• What terrain and gradient will the MEWP encounter to get to the work position and is visibility and space enough for the manoeuvre?
• What is the maximum ground bearing capacity at the work area and along the route to and from the work positions?
• How many people need to be lifted?
• What height/outreach is required?
• Will the MEWP be expected to move in the elevated position?
• Are there any overhead power lines on site?
• Are there likely to be any overhead structures which the operator could be crushed against?
• Are there any materials to be lifted and how heavy/long are they?
• Are there any manual handling issues?
• What interface is there with other vehicles and pedestrians and are there any unusual issues, eg aircraft or rail traffic?
• What fuel type is allowed on site and where will you refuel?

All the safety issues above should be considered before selecting your MEWP.

Managing the risk

Once you have chosen the most suitable type MEWP for the job you need to look at the hazards that could occur when using it, assess the risks and identify control measures to ensure a safe working method. The following areas must be considered:

Transport and delivery to site

Think about what size of delivery vehicle or vehicle mounted MEWP that will need to enter the site or whether a self propelled MEWP will have to be offloaded on the road:

• What time of day will be most appropriate and what additional measures will be needed?
• Will the MEWP need to be reversed off the carrier or, if vehicle mounted, reversed onto site? What size turning circle will be needed?

Storage/charging area

Wherever possible, keep MEWPs in a secure compound or in a designated area with the engine or motor switched off, the working platform lowered to its parking position and the brakes applied. If it has to be parked on a gradient, the wheels must be chocked.

When not in use, all keys should be removed from the MEWP to make sure it cannot be used by unauthorised persons. The MEWP could also be isolated using a security keypad with a designated PIN number.

Positioning before and during work

• What type of ground will the MEWP have to travel across before reaching its work position? Will it be hard, firm, soft, sloping, uneven terrain, soft spots. Will there be subterranean hazards (such as tanks, cellars, inspection covers, sewers or service trenches), paved areas, footpaths, waterlogged areas, frozen ground?
• What is the ground bearing capacity at the working position and along the route to it? Is there enough space for the outriggers to be deployed and what is the maximum point load (under a wheel, outrigger or jack pad)? Are spreader plates required?
• Will the MEWP have to pass beneath overhead power lines? Is there enough clearance and has the area been demarcated?
• Will the MEWP have to be lifted into position by crane? Are the MEWP lifting points well indicated and is the weight known?
• Will the MEWP have to operate on elevated floor slabs? Has the risk of the MEWP running off the edge of an elevated floor slab been considered? How will the risk be controlled?

Handling materials

If MEWPs are to be used to install materials, it is crucial that you know the weight and dimensions of those materials and to consider any manual handling and load distribution issues.

Boom-type MEWPs have smaller baskets and lower lift capacities than scissor-type MEWPs and their platforms can 'bounce' at height due to the boom structure flexing. This makes them unsuitable to use for installing long or heavy materials, or bulky materials that obstruct the function controls.

In these cases, consider using a scissor lift, crane or a telehandler of appropriate capacity with an appropriate material handling attachment if necessary. This combination reduces the risk of overturning, removes the need to balance materials on the MEWP's handrails and minimises the risk of injury due to manual handling.

If you plan the work properly the need for outreach may be avoided by preparing or reinstating the ground conditions in the area directly beneath planned overhead work or by adjusting the work schedule to delay the construction of lowlevel structures until work overhead has been completed.

Hazards during use

Look out for localised ground features, such as trenches, manholes and uncompacted backfill, which could cause overturning

If operating on a pre-cast concrete slab, check the slab loading limits and how this compares with the maximum weight of the MEWP. What measures are in place to stop the MEWP running off the edge of the slab onto soft ground?

Think about wet, cold and windy weather:

• What is the manufacturer's maximum wind speed in which operation is considered safe?
• How will the wind speed be checked?
• Is the MEWP being operated between buildings where increased wind speed and/or turbulence can occur?
• What about the potential for wind chill? This can affect the operator's dexterity and concentration?

On some MEWPs fitted with proportional controls there can be an element of 'run-on' when the controls are released. This is designed to create a smoother operation but can mean that the MEWP continues to move after the controls have been released. This means particular care must be taken when working close to overhead structures to avoid the risk crushing.

If there are overhead structures against which an operator could be pushed onto the MEWP controls causing sustained involuntary operation of the platform, you should consider selecting a MEWP which has been designed to prevent such accidental contact with the controls. MEWPs with protected controls are available.

Extra care must be taken if MEWPs are used to manoeuvre up through several levels of steelwork as there is a risk of the operator being trapped should the boom or basket strike the steelwork. This risk increases with the number of levels the MEWP operates through and if materials are loaded out onto the lower levels which can reduce clearance.

Manoeuvring the basket with the operator crouched over the control panel to try to avoid overhead obstructions is dangerous and should NEVER be done.

Is there a risk of trapping other workers between the counterweight and an adjacent structure during slewing?

Look for any overhead hazards such as power lines, pipe bridges, arches or trees.

Think about how the MEWP interacts with other site traffic and personnel:

• Does the operator have limited visibility, particularly during reversing?
• What is required in terms of vehicle route signage, pedestrian segregation barriers, cones, crossings etc?
• Does any part of the MEWP protrude out of the confines of the site?
• Are people below protected from the risk of falling objects?
• When working in an area used by other workers or vehicles, the entire MEWP work area (based on reach distances and not just base structure footprint) should be barricaded using cones and warning signs etc.


The trained operator is responsible for carrying out a basic daily inspection and function check and records of these checks should always be kept.

The operator should be fully aware of the procedure you are expected to follow should they identify a faul, ie isolate the controls, tag the machine and report the defect to the person in control.

You should request a copy of the maintenance records as evidence that the MEWP and any related materials handling attachments that are going to be used on your site have been properly maintained.

Thorough examination

MEWPs, and any material handling attachments, must be thoroughly examined at least every six months by a competent person or in accordance with an examination scheme. You should ask to see and retain the report of the thorough examination for the equipment you are going to allow to be used on your site. If the report shows any defects seek confirmation from the supplier that the problems have been rectified.

Operator training and certification

All MEWP operators should have attended a recognised operator training course. On successful completion of the course they will receive a certificate, card or 'licence'. This document can be updated as the operator undergoes further training. You should check the expiry date of the training licence or card.

Operators using material handling attachments should have received additional training in accordance with the attachment manufacturer's recommendations.


Before being authorised to operate a particular make or model of MEWP, the operator should be familiarised with it by a competent person. Familiarisation should follow on from basic training and should cover:

• Manufacturer's warnings and safety instructions
• The control functions specific to the particular MEWP
• The function of each safety device specific to the particular MEWP
• Operating limitations such as limiting wind speed, wheel and outrigger loadings, set up requirements, maximum operating slope etc " Emergency lowering procedures;
• Safe working loads or load charts;
• The maximum number of people who can be carried; and
• The maximum safe operating speed.

All of the above can be found in the information supplied with the machine.

On completion of their familiarisation, the operator should know whether or not that particular MEWP is designed for the operator to travel on with the work platform in the elevated position and whether or not the controls are protected to prevent accidental contact with the operator's torso.

It is important that you allow enough time for your operator to check, inspect, function test and familiarise themself with every new MEWP.

All familiarisations should be recorded.

Personal protective equipment

One of the biggest risks in using boom-type platforms is being thrown out of the basket if the boom swings, jolts or tilts away from the machine's centre of gravity, or if the operator overreaches. Any risk assessment must still consider the use of personal fall protection equipment. A hard hat with chinstrap and cold/wet weather highvisibility clothing should also be worn.

Emergency and rescue procedure

The emergency and rescue plan should identify trained, site based personnel who would be available to lower the work platform using the control panel or emergency descent system situated at ground level. These people should be included in the familiarisation.

The plan should also include the cal lout details for the service engineer or other person who is authorised to lower the work platform in the event of an emergency.

Documenting what you have done

The next stage is to record the planning and communicate it to all those involved with the work.

Before work starts the plan should be reviewed to allow for any changes in circumstances.

Keep a record of who has been briefed and issued with the plan.

Tell those involved in the work to report any problems with the plan immediately. Should they need to deviate from the plan, this should be properly discussed any changes are made.

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