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Work platform safety

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article image The design and usage of work platforms is strictly regulated.

ALL work platforms manufactured by East West Engineering are supplied with a risk control and risk assessment manual, assisting the safety inspector or responsible person to identify the hazard, assess the risk and to implement risk control measures. The manual is provided in conjunction with instructions and spare part lists to fully inform the relevant personnel in usage and maintenance.

When fitted to a forklift a work platform is a convenient and economical way of providing safe access to work at heights. However such platforms, usage and the forklifts they are connected to must conformm to the relevant regulations. The design of a work platform is strictly governed and is to be in accordance with Australian Standard 2359.1, with the usage detailed in AS2358.2. The platform is restricted to a maximum of two people and will carry loads up to 250kg. These standards provide guidance on the legal requirements covering the use and maintenance of these platforms, along with the circumstances in which it is appropriate to use them. Also covered are the minimum requirements of the forklift truck to which the platform is fitted. Further advice is available from your local statutory authority, such as Workcover, who have guidelines available for work platforms. In some states the local authority must approve the use of a work platform. Tasmania has a further requirement for the proposed platform to be design registered.

Forklift trucks are involved in a disproportionately high number of workplace accidents, caused primarily by lack of operator training and inappropriate forklift and attachment usage. Many serious accidents have occurred when people have failed to use a correctly designed work platform, either from falling or being trapped by moving parts in the forklift mast. The most common accident is personnel falling from the tines of the forklift or a pallet. Other accidents are caused by the improper use of a platform, such as using a ladder within the cage or standing on the guardrail to gain additional working height.

The Australian Standards cover design requirements such as platform size, slip resistant floor, guardrails, rear protective barrier and method of securing the platform to the forklift. The gate should be inward opening and self-closing. Duplicate independent locks, clearly visible to the personnel within the cage, are to be used to attach the cage to the forklift. A warning notice must be fitted in a prominent position advising the operator of basic specifications and requirements of the platform and forklift. The platform is to be fitted with a rating plate noting the manufacturer of the equipment, serial number, its tare weight and safe working load. A caution should also be displayed on the rating plate "Warning. Actual load may be restricted by reference to the capacity of the truck."

Usage of a Work Platform should be restricted to "special tasks of short duration", or tasks that require the forklift to remain in one location for a short period of time. Factory maintenance would be considered suitable usage while order picking and stores activities are specifically noted as inappropriate usage, along with transferring goods or people from one level to another.

The use of a platform should not be considered if the rating of the forklift truck is less than 1800kg for a counterbalanced type, or 1000kg for a reach truck, with the mast vertical and at full height lift. To protect the personnel should the hydraulic system of the forklift fail a flow limiting device must be fitted to the lowering cylinder permitting a maximum rate of descent of 0.6m/s. Any hydraulic controls, other than raise and lower, must be immobilised by either a key lock-out switch or a lock plate to the lever. This would include common forklift attachments such as a sideshift or fork positioner.

Assuming a responsible person checks that the forklift and platform combination is correct, the platform meets the design requirements and the proposed usage is within the guidelines the next most important consideration is the operator and their ability to safely carry out the assigned task. The operator must hold an appropriate certificate of competency or forklift driver's license. They should be competent in the handling of the forklift and aware of the responsibilities to which they have been assigned. Once the platform has been fitted and checked as secure by the operator and the elevated personnel it should be lifted to the required working height empty to confirm that all systems are functioning correctly. The operator must stay with the controls at all times and keep hands and feet clear of any controls other than those in use. Raising and lowering is to be carried out slowly and smoothly. Any manoeuvring of the forklift should be minimised while the platform is elevated.

The use of a work platform should only be considered in suitable areas. It should be used only on hard level surfaces. Of particular importance is keeping clear of overhead obstructions including electrical conductors. When lifting in an area subject to passing traffic barriers should be placed and warning signs prominently displayed. Areas of excessive noise should not be considered due to difficulties in communication. Lifting operations need proper planning, appropriate supervision and an emphasis on safety. In the event of a malfunction persons being lifted must not be exposed to danger and a reliable means of rescue must be considered before hoisting.

Operators are to be made aware that attachments such as work platforms should be regularly inspected for wear or damage. A competent person must undertake this examination of the equipment and ensure there is no damage to the platform of any signage. This inspection should be carried out prior to the commencement of each working day or shift, along with a through examination of the forklift. Any forklift or attachment found to be defective should be immediately withdrawn from service.

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