OHS and WHS risks of operating an EWP

A young worker has been killed while operating a boom elevating work platform (EWP) on a construction site in QLD.

According to SafeWork QLD, the EWP basket was approximately 8-10 metres in the air and was being lowered when it caught on a steel support beam, causing two wheels of the EWP to lift off the ground.

In an attempt to disengage the basket of the EWP, the worker raised the boom causing the basket to release and violently recoil towards the roof of the shed. He was crushed between the top rail of the EWP basket and a steel roof purlin above.

Work Safe QLD is still investigating the incident.

Elevating work platforms are important for working at height but over the years there have been many serious incidents where operators have been trapped or crushed between the basket and overhead obstructions such as ceilings, beams, frameworks or other fittings. Two notable incidents occurred in South Australia, where two workers on separate occasions where killed while operating and EWP.

Safe Work QLD says the most common EWP incidents happen when reversing, slewing or elevating near an obstruction, or from unexpected movement of the boom near an obstruction.

Boom-type EWPs have additional risks because the boom raises in an arc shape rather than straight up.

They say these risks must be managed using the following controls:

  • Before starting work, visually check the work area for hazards such as overhead obstructions and power lines.
  • Where possible, sequence the building works so that adequate room is available to safely operate the EWP and the risk of the platform or boom becoming caught on an obstruction is minimised. In some situations a building fixture may need to be installed after the main structural members are installed and it can be extremely difficult to operate an EWP safely. In these situations alternative means of safe access should be considered.
  • Supervisors and spotters should be trained and on site when an EWP is in use to help the operator navigate difficult obstructions.
  • Movement of the EWP should always be slow, deliberate and planned, with careful use of the EWP’s proportional controls.
  • Start with the large movements of driving and elevating the EWP, and finish with finer movements when closer.
  • Safe work method statements are required for all high-risk construction work.
  • Operators must be competent and provided with adequate training, including familiarisation training for each specific make and model of EWP they use.
  • If the EWP has a boom of 11 metres or longer, the operator must hold a high-risk work licence.
  • Other workers should know how to use the ground controls and emergency descent devices for the type and model of EWP being used.

In addition to this fatal incident in QLD, there has been one other involving an EWP in 2012 and a further 65 that resulted in either serious injury or other injuries requiring immediate hospital treatment. 311 enforcement notices were issued in relation to EWPs including 138 prohibition notices, 166 improvement notices, three electrical safety protection notices and two infringement notices.

A total of 521 workers’ compensation claims have been accepted for injuries associated with performing work on or near an EWP, with 11% of these involving a worker being trapped between stationary and moving objects. Approximately 40% of EWP related claims have been made by workers in the construction industry.




Image sourced from Flickr cc: Elliot Brown

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