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NEW RESEARCH ON MEWP CRUSHING AND ENTRAPMENT

Design and human factors contribute to ‘significant number’ of incidents

HSE has published Research Report 961 Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) incident analysis 2013 prepared by the Health and Safety Laboratory for HSE.  The report considers on incidents in which MEWP occupants are trapped against overhead or adjacent objects whilst in the platform, particularly when the operator becomes trapped over the controls.

Information about MEWP incidents was obtained from international sources and analysed to identify key factors that contributed to such incidents. The objectives were to: (a) identify data sources and initiate interrogation requests for MEWP incidents (b) gather, organise and review the data collected and (c) highlight findings of the review and analysis of MEWP incidents.

Main findings

The researchers found evidence that there are significant numbers of accidents particularly when working in confined areas with accidents resulting from:

  • operators reaching a position where they have been unable to operate/cease operating controls (sustained involuntary operation of controls); and
  • incorrect operation of controls. This can arise from different types of human error (slips, lapses and mistakes). To avoid such accidents there is a heavy reliance on operators not making foreseeable mistakes.

In addition:

  • many MEWP users are likely to have low levels of experience of operating a MEWP, because it is a secondary and infrequent activity generated in connection with their main jobs (as electricians/painters, etc.) and this can adversely affect competence;
  • poor lone working and rescue procedures have exacerbated the level of injury sustained; and
  • many incidents can only be effectively addressed through better design.

The researchers stress the importance of effective training to address, for example, incorrect operation of controls, not just on a class of machines but on specific models given the variation in designs.

Implications of research

The Strategic Forum for Construction Best Practice Guide on Preventing Trapping/Crushing Injuries in MEWPs published in July 2010 contains sound advice on assessing and mitigating the risk. The review did not identify any mechanisms of harm, which were not included in this publication.

The following implications are enumerated in the report:

  • Action – needs to be taken to address the potential for sustained involuntary operation of controls specifically and entrapment/crushing more generally;
  • Engineering solutions – which can be retrofitted to existing machines, are needed for the use of such machines in high entrapment risk situations and more creative solutions are needed for new machines;
  • Manufacturers – should, as a long-term aim, provide greater consistency and clarity in the design of platform and base controls;
  • Innovation – the need to improve engineering features on these machines and to improve the person-machine interface to protect against the potential for crushing/trapping injuries has been recognised by the committee revising BS EN 280:2001. The state of the art has not yet changed significantly to introduce effective engineering safeguards on new machines. Work in this area needs to continue;
  • Knowledge – some of the practices that have led to accidents can be readily observed e.g. operators leaning over the guardrails whilst driving the equipment. This suggests there is scope for the reduction of injury potential through more knowledgeable, robust supervision of MEWP use on site; and
  • Training – contractors have a vital role to play in reducing risk, ensuring that MEWP operators are competent, appropriate familiarisation training is provided, there are people on the ground available and able to effect rescue and that the MEWP is in good condition and suitable for the job and the site.

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