What You Need to Know About Elevating Work Platforms (EWPs)
Elevating work platforms (EWPs), sometimes called aerial work platforms, are mechanical equipment that provide temporary, flexible at-height access for various purposes.
EWPs are commonly used in construction, farming, and warehousing, although they can also be used for any task that might require a means of entry to inaccessible areas. A perfect example here would be firefighters and rescue workers.
Many EWPs can be set-up or operated by one person. They can lift up to about 1 tonne, although some are designed to have higher safe working loads (SWL). There are also EWPs that are designed with additional features such as electrical outlets or specialist equipment.
What Are The Different Types Of Elevating Work Platforms?
There are two common types of EWPs: boom lifts and vertical lifts. Each can either have a static or mobile operation; if the equipment is the latter, they are then classified as mobile EWPs (MEWPs).
A popular name of a boom lift is “cherry picker” because the machines were originally used in orchards to harvest cherries and other fruits. Meanwhile, a vertical lift is also called a scissor lift because of the criss-cross pattern of the lifting mechanism. (The proper name for the mechanism is “pantograph.”)
To be able to operate MEWPs, you need to complete a MEWP training course. It may also be referred to as cherry picker training, but make sure to check with the establishment to verify if you’re receiving the correct NZQA unit standard.
How Do EWPs Work?
A standard boom lift is composed of two main parts: the boom arm and the platform. The boom is attached to what is called the turntable and is lifted up and down by lift cylinders, which are usually powered by hydraulics.
There are also two kinds of boom lifts: straight mast and articulated. A straight mast boom lift is also called a telescopic boom lift, and the arm can be extended forward so it can provide diagonal and horizontal coverage. An articulated boom lift or knuckle boom lift, on the other hand, has several joints on the arm. This structure allows the machine to go up and over obstacles.
Meanwhile, scissor lifts are more straightforward. A platform is attached on top of the pantograph, which can be lifted up or down through hydraulic or pneumatic pressure. Sometimes, scissor lifts are called “flying carpets” because the up-down motion can be reminiscent of the fictional modes of transportation.
Which MEWP Should You Use?
The type of MEWP you need depends on the task at hand. If you only need to work at heights, such as for painting, cleaning high ceilings, or changing signage, scissor lifts are the best options.
There are also PAVs or push-around vertical platforms, which are essentially scissor lifts but on a smaller scale. These are ideal for indoor usage, replacing step ladders that may not provide ample support. PAVs are commonly used in warehouses, where you need extra height to stock shelves.
For outdoor use in open spaces, a telescopic boom lift is ideal. Its sweeping coverage allows you to manoeuvre above obstacles, such as rough terrain or trees. A telescopic boom lift is also great for working on rectangular structures.
Meanwhile, if you need to get into tight spaces or go around complicated obstacles, you’re going to need a knuckle boom lift. Its articulating arms can be moved in a variety of directions, giving you freedom of movement that other MEWPs may not be able to provide.
How to Stay Safe When Using EWPs
One of the first and foremost safety requirements when using any kind of EWP is to have a qualified person operating it. As mentioned, there are corresponding training courses that must be completed. If no one among your group is duly certified, find someone who is before attempting to use an EWP.
Other safety tips include the following:
- Make sure that you are using an EWP that is suitable for your task.
- Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment for your task, which may include but are not limited to safety helmets, goggles, overalls, and safety shoes.
- Wear a fall restraint system (i.e., body harness with tether).
- Verify the EWP’s records to confirm that it has been properly inspected and monitored.
- Refrain from using EWPs that are visibly damaged or malfunctioning.
- Keep away loose cords and other obstacles that can get in the way of the machine’s wheels.
- Do not use any EWP outdoors during harsh weather. In particular, strong winds can topple over boom lifts and scissor lifts when they’re extended or elevated.
Popular Makers of EWPs
When it comes to EWPs, you only want the best ones to ensure top notch performance and safety. For those looking for machines to purchase or rent, some of the most trusted names in the industry are JLG, Skyjack, Genie, Haulotte, and Snorkel. They’ve been in the market for years and their machines deliver optimum performance for longer.
Much like any other machine or equipment, knowing more about elevating work platforms—and getting certified for them—will ensure that you can use them safely and efficiently.