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IPAF’s MEWP controls research goes on the road

2017/10/26

A special Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP, also known as AWP) control test rig has been travelling the world since its debut at the APEX 2017 event in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in May, and most recently has been on three major UK construction sites to gather data to help the global standards body make recommendations as to the best way to standardise MEWP controls worldwide.

Rupert Douglas-Jones, Technical & Safety Officer at the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), has been braving all weathers this autumn in a major push to gain as much data as possible via the Which Way is Up? MEWP controls research project, which was initiated based on feedback from IPAF member firms, who wanted to explore means by which it may be possible to standardise controls across MEWPs around the world.

The test rig has been on construction sites operated by Sir Robert McAlpine in both Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria and Salford, Manchester, ahead of the data being uploaded for a recent meeting of the ISO TC214 Working Group, which is looking at ways to standardise some of the core MEWP controls to better improve safety. People took the test across the three construction sites, ranging from those who had never operated MEWPs to highly experienced powered access practitioners.

Rupert Douglas-Jones comments: “All we are asking people to do is to step into the dummy platform and either ‘lower’ or ‘raise’ the basket with a simple movement of the joystick; we then record that response and enter it into our growing database along with other salient information such as the operator’s age, nationality, experience level and whether they are left or right-handed. We’re also able to tilt the control panel through 75 degrees to measure what effect that angle has on the operators’ decision.

“This is part of an international effort to collect data across the experience spectrum in countries afar afield as Australia; taking it out on to construction sites has been really useful, as we were able to capture responses from a variety of workers, from those who have never used MEWP machines in their life to very experienced operators using the equipment on a daily basis.

“We have also received a great deal of encouragement, especially from experienced MEWP operators, who can very much see the potential safety benefits of better control standardisation between machine types and manufacturers.

“IPAF would like to extend thanks to all those who have so far taken part, and in particular Joe Rafferty, Health & Safety Adviser at Sir Robert McAlpine, who facilitated the most recent site visits. We’d also love to hear from other site managers in the UK and abroad who would be able to host a visit from the IPAF MEWP controls research team, or those who may know of a building site, health & safety event or training location where useful data could be gathered.”

Tim Whiteman, CEO & MD of IPAF, adds: “This is part of a long-running initiative begun by IPAF manufacturer and rental members back in 2009 to facilitate the standardisation of some major control functions on MEWPs. It builds on research first undertaken by Gil Male, our then Technical Officer, into which if any functions might be standardised, with the goal of further improving the safety of MEWPs by standardising some of the principle functions of MEWP controls across different brands and models.

“It’s gratifying to see this project moving to fruition, and hopefully we will soon start to see some of the recommendations of the ISO TC214 Working Group based on the data collected.”

For more information, or to suggest a location for the IPAF MEWP controls research to visit, please email rupert.douglas-jonesipaf.org

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