Allan Parsons is National Rental Manager at Briggs Equipment, a unique engineering and equipment provider. In addition to being the sole UK distributor for Yale and Hyster forklifts, Briggs enjoys strategic partnerships that offer customers a total solution, and services all the equipment it sells.
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More stringent health and safety legislation is driving increased use of access equipment, and it's a welcome development because the number of serious injuries due to people falling from a height is on the decline.
Access equipment can be easier to use and more cost-effective than scaffold towers, which have to be erected before work can start and dismantled once the job is finished. Boom and scissor lifts can go into service as soon as they arrive on site and can be off-hired upon completion of the activity.
Here are my top tips to hire the right Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) for the job:
1) Choose the right equipment
* Scissor lifts are ideally suited to applications where there is a requirement to raise workers vertically to a given height. In all instances, the total weight carried on the platform, including operatives, tools and materials, must not exceed the specified maximum load.
* Cherry pickers are appropriate where jobs involve reaching out at an angle as well as up. Operators are advised to wear a safety harness because of the machine's bouncing action during lifting.
* Stock pickers allow one person to ascend to 12ft vertically and are widely used in retail and warehousing environments.
* Straight masted boom lifts travel vertically and then horizontally, so are ideal for environments which involve working over the top of steelwork or tree branches.
Access equipment can be easier to use and more cost-effective than scaffold towers
2) Talk it through with experts
If you don't know the ropes, seek expert advice. This way, you get the right MEWP for the application and neither the safety of the operator nor the work environment is compromised.
3) Understand the terminology
The hire industry uses American sizing, so a 19/30 scissor lift has the capacity to lift to 19 ft. (5.8 m) and features a 30 in. (76 cm) wide bed. Ask for advice to avoid confusion over dimensions.
4) Size is everything
MEWPs are quite small - some can even pass through a standard warehouse doorway - so it is easy to overlook site access. Make sure that the transporter can reach the drop-off point and check that the machine can be moved to the specific work environment.
5) Indoor use or outside application
If you are working indoors on a flat surface, a scissor lift can carry two people to height, but for outdoor jobs, it is safe for only one person to ascend. The equipment's small wheels will not cope with gravel or muddy ground conditions, and strong winds may destabilise the platform. Stock pickers can only be used indoors, but boom lifts have an oscillating axle so are suited to working outside on uneven and sloping ground.
6) Additional power source
Scissor lifts are electrically powered so for outside jobs it makes sense to have an extra battery to hand or to choose a biofuel machine. When the battery is low, scissor lifts with a built-in generator automatically switch to running on diesel, simultaneously charging the battery.
7) Trained, competent operators
Reputable hire companies will always instruct their delivery drivers to familiarise operators with the equipment, but it is the hiring company's responsibility to ensure that anyone using a MEWP is properly qualified and fit to use it.
8) Getting the best deal
A typical hire period of one to two weeks is invariably governed by the time slot allocated to a particular activity, such as carrying out routine maintenance checks, cleaning lighting or installing a mezzanine floor. As always, the best deals are available to those who book machines in advance, so the longer the lead time, the better the rate.
9) Quality counts
To reduce the risk of breakdown or malfunction, it pays to hire quality, LOLER-certified equipment. MEWPs should be examined, inspected and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and daily checks should be carried out.
10) Back-up support
Consider the whole package rather than just the headline rate because back-up support is especially important in the event of a breakdown due to overloading or equipment malfunction.