An elevating work platform (EWP) is a device used to support a platform on which personnel, equipment and materials can be elevated to perform work. It’s important to remember that working at heights can come with great risks, but by performing some pre-operational checks along with routine and annual inspections, the risks to the health and safety of the aerial work platform operators and those around them can be significantly reduced.
Prior to using the EWP, pre-operational checks should be completed by the operator and records of these should then be kept for future reference. The aim of the pre-operational inspection is to check the EWP is fit for the work to be completed, it should not take too long and includes the following:
- Checking of engine and hydraulic oil levels
- Checking tyre inflation pressure and general condition of tyres
- Checking of hydraulic hose system for leaks
- Ensuring pipes and hoses are secure to prevent damage
- Greasing/oiling pivot points and moving parts where applicable
- Checking of platform gate locking system
- Checking of the condition of padding on the platform top rail to prevent injury
- Checking the wheel nut tension
- Checking the condition and tension of chains and sprockets (if applicable)
- Checking of fuel level
- Checking of the exhaust for damage or holes which may contribute to excessive noise
- Checking that all controls, linkages and cables are free from damage and operate smoothly and freely
- Checking the travel brakes are operational
- Visual check of stress areas such as boom mounts and boom and stabiliser bars for signs of cracking and fatigue
If concerns are noticed with any of the above checks, then the operator can report these and repairs can be done promptly.
Routine and Pre-Harvest Inspections
In addition to daily operational checks, more thorough inspections should be carried out on a regular basis. Ideally, inspections should be completed at quarterly interval unless the EWP has been out of service. If it has been stored and not in use for a period of time, it should be inspected prior to resuming service. Routine inspections may not require stripping of the major components of the EWP but where covers and guards prevent access to items requiring inspection, lubrication, measurement or adjustment these covers are to be removed. In addition to covering the same items as the daily check, this inspection should include:
- Normal servicing
- Lubrication of pins and bushes
- Measurement of free play in pins and bushes
- Adjustment of levelling rods and linkages
Annual or Third Party Assessments
To ensure the EWP is safe for continued service, an annual or third party assessment should be conducted by an automotive tradesperson who is independent of the operation of the EWP. This should be performed once a year and will include a visual inspection as may also include the use of non-destructive testing to identify any structural faults that are not easily detectable. The use of this testing will depend on the frequency of use and the history of the particular EWP model. If it is known a particular model develops cracks in a certain area, testing may be done during the annual inspection to be sure no cracks develop.
At the end of the design life of the EWP, a major inspection will be undertaken. This involves a strip, thorough inspection and re-build of the EWP. As stipulated by the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1418.10:2011 Cranes, hoists and winches – Elevating work platforms, the design life should be 10 years. If actual use and loading are greater than the original design, the major inspection may be required prior to the ten-year limit. A report must accompany the major inspection and outline the work undertaken, methods of assessment used and qualifications of the person involved.
Major inspections include:
- Stripping of all mechanical components for measurement and replacement as required
- Checking of all structural components for cracks, corrosion and damage
When it comes to EWPs and safety, it’s so important that proper daily checklist procedures are followed and the necessary routine and annual inspections are completed on time. It’s also essential that any faults or concerns are addressed as well as records kept, after all, everyone is entitled to a safe workplace so we need to minimize risks where possible.
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