When The American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) updated A92.20/22/24 standards go into effect this December, they’ll aim to harmonize the world of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) through changes to safety, design, and technology.
Although the changes should improve the industry, adjustments will take time, effort, and several hours of training manpower.
At their core, the ANSI standards are based on current ISO standards, allowing North American manufacturers to be in better alignment with global markets like Europe. Because of this, most terminology used in training and compliance is set to change. Aerial Work Platforms (AWPs) will now become known exclusively as Mobile Elevating Work Platforms, or MEWPs.
MEWPs will be classified as Groups A and B and Types 1, 2, or 3. Group A will refer to work platforms directly over the equipment’s chassis, meaning they go up and down and are limited to vertical motion. Group B will refer to work platforms that do not always stay over the chassis during operation. Type is determined by how MEWPs are driven to, from, and around job sites.
Along with new terminology, the standards also include changes to the equipment itself. The most prominent addition: load-sensing technology, also known as an overload system or load sense system. Load sensing assesses the weight of operators and equipment in the work platform, and will only allow machine operation if the total load stays within the MEWP’s rated capacity. The machine will disable functionality if it exceeds it.
“Platform capacity is calculated by the number and weight of people in the basket,” says Chad Hislop, Genie’s director of product management.
“It also includes tools like welding equipment, hammers, buckets, etc., and materials such as pipes, panels, signage, and windows.”
Operators must also account for the weight of clothing and personal gear, such as heavy jackets and boots. For many operators, this will be the first time they will encounter the platform-overload feature.
“When you get in the platform, it’s not going to ask you what weight envelope you’re working in, it’s going to know,” says Rick Smith, JLG’s global training manager.
“People that are used to calculating the weight in the basket, including their tools and safety gear, are going to be prevented from doing some of the jobs that they did in the past with that same machine. It’s not going to let them go places where they’ve been able to go before.”
Inaccurately calculating the weight of objects in the MEWP basket, or adding weight while working, will also overload the platform.
“I think that’s going to frustrate some folks,” Smith says. “Some are going to think the machine is not working properly, when in fact, it’s doing exactly what it should do.”
When the platform becomes overloaded, an audible and visual alarm will alert the operator that it has been loaded above the limit. On most MEWPs under ANSI, a sense recovery feature will allow operators to return safely to the ground, though with limited functionality.
“As soon as operators are on the ground, they must remove weight from the platform until overload warnings turn off,” Hislop says.
The A92 standards also require MEWPs be equipped with dynamic terrain sensing. According to Hislop, all lifts must have a chassis-angle sensor, which measures the angle, or tilt, of the machine’s chassis during operation.
“With this sensor, if the machine is working on a grade, a warning will alert the operator when the angle of the chassis has reached an operational limit,” he says.
“At this point, the machine will automatically restrict certain drive and boom functions, requiring that the operator safely return the machine to terrain that is within its operating range.”
When the machine is working on a grade and the chassis isn’t level, an alarm will alert the operator that the chassis has reached its limit.
“Technology changes will differ depending on manufacturer,” says Hislop. “But we have been proactively working for several years on a response to implementing the new requirements across our entire MEWPs product range to offer solutions worldwide.”
Machines will disable certain functions if the tilt angle or incline exceeds the limit. On JLG machines, the drive function is locked out until the boom is returned to a stowed position.
Smith says with angle tilt sensors in the past, operators were able to choose to continue to drive, even on an angle above a certain percent.
“In the future under the new standard, that machine will not continue to drive, it’s going to stop, which is going to be another thing for our end users to get used to,” he says.
Hislop says Genie engineered a new generation of booms, called Genie Xtra Capacity (XC), to work in more applications that require higher capacities, with a focus on “interface and simplicity.” The new generation of booms comply with A92.
“These booms reduce the number of lift cycles, as well as the amount of equipment operators need to get tools and materials to work areas at height,” Hislop says.
A92 also puts restrictions on wind force, particularly in scissor lifts.
“You’ll have some machines that are indoor-only scissor lifts,” Smith says. “The end result is, some machines will be limited in their height when they’re outside, or will only be allowed to work inside.”
To be rated for outdoor use, machines may require reduced platform capacities and increased weight for more stability. Machines must be clearly marked if they are rated for indoor use only.
The new standards also place a large emphasis on the responsibilities of the user when it comes to training and proper machine use. Regardless of the scope of the job, the user is responsible for the safety of both people involved in operating the MEWP, and people in the surrounding area.
For example, users are now required to develop a safe use program that is specific to MEWPs. The program involves performing a risk assessment that identifies onsite risks, develops control measures to mitigate those risks, and communicates that risk assessment plan with anyone using the equipment.
Users and operators must begin their site risk assessment by defining the work they’re doing and selecting an appropriate MEWP to complete a task. Tony Groat, a manager at IPAF North America, says this depends on several factors: how the equipment will be used, worksite terrain, and the weight of materials, tools, and additional equipment.
“Just because you’re a contractor and you bought a 19-foot scissor lift, doesn’t mean that the 19-foot scissor lift is the right mobile elevating work platform for every job you’re going to do,” Groat says.
“So you ask: What are the requirements, what’s the task, and how is this task going to be done?”
Additional Design Enhancements
Finer machine details, including railing height requirements, have also been changed for small indoor scissor lifts. Taller folding rails will replace fixed, non-folding rails on select models so they can fit through standard doorways.
“The manufacturers in the U.S. know what the height of a standard doorway is,” says Tony Groat, a manager at IPAF North America.
“So if they manufacture a lift with that added height, they’re going to make those guard rails what we call ‘demountable,’ so they can be taken off or the midrails fold, so now it will go down and fit through that doorway.”
Most rough-terrain lifts will also feature solid and/or foam-filled tires based on new stability testing guidelines, to prevent them from flattening. Groat says operators often maneuver over bad terrain to position the lift.
“Because we have job sites that aren’t all flattened level, and need rough terrain to gain access to the work area, they will now be putting foam-filled tires on it to keep that high level of gradeability available,” he says.
Systems will also be put in place to prevent sustained involuntary operation. Skyjack will be making its Secondary Guarding Electric (SGE) system standard on all boom models.
“When pressure is applied to the sensor bar, boom functions are interrupted, and stopped when pushed for more than one second,” says Ian McGregor, Skyjack’s director of product safety.
“The system initiates an audible siren and high-intensity flashing beacon when activated.”
Evaluating risks is also a crucial part of safe use, like staying within a rated capacity when working at height, avoiding power lines, accessing hard-to-reach areas, and preventing unauthorized use of equipment.
“It’s really about how to protect people when we’re doing these tasks,” Groat says. “What if we’re up in the air and we drop something and there are people working below us? What are the things we’re going to do to prevent them from being in our work area?”
At JLG, training is “absolutely dictated” by the new ANSI standard, according to Smith. This training begins with a classroom portion and ends with a hands-on segment where operators are able to familiarize with the machine. They are then evaluated against certain criteria for a practical evaluation.
“At that point, you become qualified,” Smith says. “Folks that are trained today might not see an A92 machine for six or eight months, but that should be caught in the familiarization process. If familiarization is done properly, they’ll know it’s a load-sense machine, for example.
“We’ll have videos, we’ll have all kinds of resources out there as manufacturers,” Smith says. “But if the person doesn’t even know to go look it up, they’re not going to.”
Differences in functionality and performance continue to be addressed through operator familiarization to the particular MEWP they are using.
“Other features and functions may be implemented on machines, so it is important that this familiarization occurs,” says Ian McGregor, Skyjack’s director of product safety.
“Scissor lifts will generally use a combination of scissor stack angle sensors and pressure transducers on the lift cylinders, while booms will use load cells to measure platform load.”
According to Groat, past standards required a trainee to operate a particular machine for a sufficient period of time to demonstrate proficiency. The new standards implement a more performance-based method, focused on keeping operators safe and effective in the operation of their equipment.
“I know what [achieving proficiency] means to me, but to 10 other people that could mean 10 different things,” Groat says. “With the new standards, when you’re doing a practical, which is the hands-on evaluation, you must test to a level of proficiency deemed sufficient by ANSI.”
Previous training lasted close to eight hours for operators at all levels.
“That’s very prescriptive,” Groat says. “We don’t want to do that anymore, because if you take someone who’s never been on a piece of equipment, and someone who’s done it many times, and we go through training, how long it would take each of them get to that proficiency will likely be different. But we do want more consistency in the training delivered, regardless of how long it takes.”
To enhance the training process, JLG created AccessReady XR, a virtual reality boom lift. Operators use these virtual machines following classroom training.
“When they get into the real machine [after VR], it’s a piece of cake for them,” Smith says. “These are big machines with a sophisticated control panel. As a first-time user, it’s intimidating. With VR, you get that all out of the way. They jump in the real machine after getting in the VR and go ‘oh look, it’s just like the VR.’”
The simulator also helps meet another ANSI must: evaluating and observing operator skills on a regular basis. Smith says the simulator grades how the operator is doing, and gives them a score between 0 and 100.
“I see that as a great tool, where we can put them in the simulator, make them run through a prescribed exercise, and then we get an objective measure on their performance as an operator,” he says. “It’s a perfect way to evaluate someone’s skills with an objective score.”
Anyone who supervises a MEWP operator must go through supervisor training.
“We have an online resource for that,” Smith says. “Folks can go online and take supervisor e-learning on our AccessReady website. It’s a good solution for supervisors to take classes and get their training online in a matter of a few hours.”
Occupants are also required to learn site-specific work procedures related to MEWP operation, along with how their actions while in the platform could affect stability. According to Genie, at least one occupant must be provided with knowledge of control operation in
“While we haven’t changed what we should’ve been doing, if we don’t change your understanding of the consequences of it in the safe use and training, we will have potential issues,” Groat says.
“We’re trying to do this through education, and letting operators know there are benefits that are coming from these new standards, like increased rating capacities, increased extension. It’s an abundance of additional insights and improvements. But in the same breath, you need to implement them.”