Putting on and taking off seasonal decorations can quickly turn into a festive hangover if those in charge of the job don’t know how to do it safely, warns Brian Parket, IPAF’s Safety and Technical Manager .

Failure to use the correct type of mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), neglect the need to use professionally trained operators and supervisors, or try to save time and money by failing to do an assessment site or ignoring safe work practices are just a few of the ways someone’s vacation season could be ruined.

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) has already been made aware of several worrying examples of MEWPs being used in dangerous ways to erect festive lights and decorations in 2021.

Power access users should remember to perform temporary work at height to ensure their operators are trained, supervised, and act in accordance with accepted industry safety practices as they apply specifically to work at height. roads and in public places.

IPAF is in the final stages of developing a comprehensive new guidance document on working with MEWPs in public places, including along highways. At this time of year there are several key messages we cannot stress enough in terms of working at heights safely in public spaces and near roads.

We appreciate that people sometimes feel pressed for time and that those who install or remove festive decorations want to minimize the disruption, but cutting corners on safety is not an appropriate way to go about it, and there are additional specific risks which are increased when working away from a controlled working environment.

In a public space or next to traffic, such as a busy main street or shopping arcade, for example, MEWP operators are exposed to additional risks which must be taken into account when planning a safe working system. , including proximity to vehicular traffic, working above pedestrian areas, and knowledge of power cables and other possible overhead obstructions.

Add to that factors such as working during dark hours, bad weather or unsafe ground conditions, loading and unloading the MEWP – there are a number of variables to consider when setting up. planning for this type of task.

IPAF can advise you on everything you need to do this type of work safely and efficiently, including industry-recognized training for MEWP operators and supervisors, information and training on how to do this work. how to perform site assessment and correct selection of MEWPs, safety awareness and advice on assessing ground and weather conditions, managing traffic, separating the work area from pedestrians, preventing objects and materials from falling from the platform, and identify and avoid hazards associated with overhead power cables and radiofrequency (RF) radiation sources.

IPAF cites the 2019 Street Smart Safety Campaign as a good example of key considerations and risk mitigation when working at height using MEWPs in a public place or along roadsides. This campaign highlighted the key steps to take, including:

  • Plan ahead – assess the risk; use a traffic management scheme.
  • Be visible – wear high visibility PPE. Make sure vehicles are in sight and work areas are well lit.
  • Manage traffic – use temporary traffic lights or close roads; use signs and cones to warn oncoming vehicles.
  • Exclusion Zones – separate the work area from passing vehicles and unattached personnel. Position the
  • MEWP so that it does not overlook traffic or pedestrians.
  • Load / unload MEWPs safely – in a well-lit area, away from traffic or obstacles.

At this time of year, it’s nice to see the festive decorations around our stores and city centers, all the more so given the long difficult months of the pandemic. We generally look forward to spending time with family and friends and celebrating together.

But making our shopping streets and malls look festive should never come at the expense of safety – whether it’s an individual operator cutting corners to finish an urgent job, or a client or contractor not taking proper care and attention in the planning and supervision of the task. .

A job done safely is a job well done; each work task should end with all participants able to return home in one piece, to enjoy their festivities in peace.

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