A new safety campaign has been launched by Aerial Work Platform Training (AWPT) in North America to encourage all users of boom-type platforms to wear a full-body harness with an adjustable lanyard attached to a suitable anchor point. Called "Click It!" the campaign has received the approval of the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) and other organizations.
The new program's initiative came from companies frustrated with the fact that needless accidents and personal injuries have occurred — and continue to occur — when occupants of boom lifts are ejected as a result of the catapult effect on the platform of a boom lift. The guardrail system of the lift does not provide occupants with the safety needed when this event takes place.
While aerial work platforms are probably the safest and most efficient way to perform temporary work at a height, accidents can happen if basic operator training is skipped. Part of any such training is learning when it is necessary to wear a harness. To fully appreciate the need to wear a harness in a boom lift, it's important to understand the differences between fall protection and fall restraint. Fall protection devices are designed to "protect" against falling. Guardrails around the platform of an aerial device constitute "fall protection" according to ANSI standards.
On the other hand, a fall restraint system, consisting of a full-body harness and appropriate lanyard, is designed to keep you physically inside the guardrails and prevent you from being ejected from the platform. This is particularly significant in boom lifts where the occupants of the platform can be bounced around and possibly projected up and out of the platform when traveling over rough terrain or uneven ground that can cause a sudden shift in the platform load, or if the boom becomes caught on an overhead obstruction while raising or lowering, or if the lift is struck by a passing vehicle.
It is important to understand that you don't have to be elevated to any great height in a boom lift to experience a catapult effect — a few feet off the ground is all it takes to throw you out of the platform if you drive over a curb or into a pothole.
To remind and encourage people to wear a harness in a boom lift, AWPT had that advice printed on stickers that are designed to be placed on the boom lift where they can be seen by all occupants in the platform. In addition, AWPT has made available a document titled "Technical Guidance Note AWPT H1" that provides information on its recommendation for the proper use of harnesses and lanyards on different types of aerial platforms. This is similar to the one introduced this past year in Europe by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), AWPT's parent organization.
The AWPT version reflects current OSHA, ANSI and CSA standards regarding safety harnesses and states that, because of the design of boom supported lifts, operators must use a fall restraint system incorporating a full-body harness (not safety belt) with appropriate short-length lanyard to keep them from being ejected from the platform.
Adjustable lanyards set as short as possible are recommended, as fixed-length lanyards might be too long or too short for the particular platform. Both lanyards and harnesses need to be regularly inspected and be in good condition to make sure that they are not torn, covered in paint or oil etc. Furthermore, lanyards and harnesses work best if operators have their own equipment adjusted specifically to their size.
Operators of scissor lifts and vertical lifts are not normally required to utilize fall restraint systems since they are not subjected to the same risks as operators of boom lifts. The use of safety harnesses and appropriate lanyards, however, should always follow a job-specific risk assessment and abide by all local regulations, employer guidelines and manufacturer recommendations.
If your organization is interested in obtaining "Click It!" stickers for your machines or copies of "Technical Guidance Note AWPT H1," visit www.awpt.org. Small quantities of stickers are available free of charge and larger quantities or custom-printed versions can be ordered for a nominal price. Downloadable artwork is also available online for printing your own stickers.