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Safe Equipment: New aerial work platform guidelines ensure safer operations

It’s much easier to follow the rules when you know what they are. That’s the theory behind the aerial work platform industry’s landmark effort resulting in “the first tangible” document to ensure safer operations of lift equipment.

For equipment users in many industries including metal construction, the new “Statement of Best Practices of General Training and Familiarization for Aerial Work Platform Equipment” provides a clearer and more concise source for understanding responsibilities and required training for lift owners, leasers and operators.

Clear Industry Guidelines Promote Operator Safety
While training programs are readily available for training lift operators, tiers of accountabilities for proper training and operation of the equipment rests mostly with employers who are often not aerial work platform experts. However, safe equipment use in any industry requires following proper operating procedures and being compliant with set standards. These risk-deterring responsibilities usually belong to the equipment owner and/or leaser.

"In the new guidelines, we’ve compiled information which clarifies accountabilities for the safe operation of aerial lifts including operator and end user responsibilities. We’ve also detailed the American National Standards Institute or ANSI and OSHA requirements governing aerial work platform safety," Steve Phillips, who co-authored the document, explains. "It offers a clear differentiation between training and familiarization and that’s information all users need to know."

Phillips, vice president for health, safety and the environment for Millville, N.J.-based Trico Lift, a 30-year aerial work platform provider, said that if an equipment provider and/or the user does not take the training and equipment familiarization step seriously at the beginning of the relationship, things can end badly. Either non-compliance or, even worse,unnecessary and even fatal accidents can result from such negligence.

To positively impact this often gray area, the American Rental Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the Scaffold Industry Association, the Associated Equipment Distributors and the International Powered Access Federation joined forces to develop what they term in the document as “general guidance and best practices” in such matters as training and the “safe use of aerial work platforms.” The document boasts being a source for exactly “what is required of all parties when it comes to general training and familiarization.”

A Collaborative Effort
A work group made-up of all industry stakeholders created the document under the guise of the associations. The guide was introduced at ARA's 2010 Rental Show held in February in Orlando, Fla. Phillips and other members of the working group, who collaborated for10 months on the project, were on hand to provide details of the document.

Established players in the lift industry, like Trico Lift, were asked to participate in the project because of their safety expertise and resources. Serving as an industry-training source, Trico Lift has received annual awards including the American Subcontractors Association of New Jersey and the American Builders and Contractors’ Chesapeake Shores Chapter.Most recently, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association presented a Contractor Merit Safety Award to the company.

Phillips, a credentialed trainer and former manager of health, safety and environmental programs for Halliburton/KBR, said: "Each year we conduct elevated and aerial work platform and other training for hundreds of operators outside our company and we deliver thousands and thousands of units to job-site contractors. We get to see first hand how the vital responsibility for operator safety can be missed or ignored.”

According to Phillips, through established safety initiatives, including 90-day inspections for all equipment pieces and comprehensive fleet management programs, providers like Trico Lift are ensuring safer and more reliable equipment. “But none of this will prevent the type of tragedy that can occur when an operator isn’t properly trained or intimately familiar with the equipment or the safety standards laid down for operating it,” he said.

In fact, Phillips said, one of the most unsafe things that even operators who have received training can do is assume all models and brands operate the same. “This assumption can get the trained and experienced operator into serious trouble. And that’s why separate training courses exist for various makes and models.”

Get Your Copy
“More than 80 construction workers die each year from aerial equipment accidents and just a few short months ago, in November, a metal worker was killed in Missouri when the lift he was working in toppled over,” Phillips explained. “Surely these facts justify why those in the metal installation and construction arena need to familiarize themselves with the available guidelines.”

To obtain and review a copy of the “Statement of Best Practices of General Training and Familiarization for Aerial Work Platform Equipment,” visit www.ara.org, or www.tricolift. com, as well as several Web sites from the associations and suppliers involved in the project. Contact Steve Phillips at (800) Go-Trico (468-7426) or email to: sphillips@tricolift.com to obtain a free hard copy.

Terry Carpenter serves as communications advisor to Trico Lift, Millville, N.J.. For more information, go to www.tricolift.com.