New regulations that will address the design, safe use, and training requirements for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) are presently being drafted by U.S. and Canadian standards-writing organizations.
In the United States, the Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA) is one of more than 220 standards-developing entities accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and serves as secretariat for the ANSI A92 series of regulations that address MEWPs. In Canada, the CSA Group (formerly the Canadian Standards Association) is revising its B354 suite of MEWP standards.
As new standards are drafted, these organizations are referencing similar standards, such as those of the International Standards Organization (ISO), in an effort to bring global uniformity to the design and use of MEWPs. The new standards are scheduled to take effect Q2 2017.
In the proposed standards, machines formerly identified as “aerial work platforms” will now be identified as MEWPs. Further, standards will no longer address MEWPs by specific machine types, such as telescopic-boom, articulating-boom, or scissors models. Instead, each MEWP will be categorized by Group (A or B) and Type (1, 2, or 3).
Group A machines are those having platforms that are always over the chassis, such as scissors lifts; Group B models are those with platforms that do not always remain over the chassis, such as telescopic- and articulating-boom models. Type 1 machines can only move whenin a stowed position; Type 2 machines can be moved when elevated, but controls are located on the chassis; and Type 3 machines can be moved when elevated and have controls on the platform. Any operator certification required will now list the MEWP category (made up of a combined Group and Type designation) on which an operator has been trained.
The proposed standards also will be written in a topic-specific format, compared with machine-specific topics in predecessor standards. For example, the revised ANSI/SAIA standard will cover design for all MEWP variations in A92.20, safe use in A92.22, and training in section A92.24. Comparable sections in the proposed CSA standard are B354.7, .8, and .9.
Design changes for mobile work platforms
The proposed North American standards also will address specific design aspects for MEWPs, including platform-weight sensing, control activation, function speeds, stability testing, tires, and access guarding. Platform-weight sensing, for example, will require an onboard system that continually compares weight on the platform against a manufacturer-set limit, and the system will disable function if the limit is exceeded.
Ian McGregor, director of product safety at Skyjack, notes that proposed standards for control activation will require designs that protect against “inadvertent and sustained involuntary operation,” requiring perhaps the use of physical guards, interlocks, additional enabling devices, or time-out systems.
“As with any change in functionality,” says McGregor, “operators will need to familiarize themselves with these new controls, and rental companies should be prepared for potential inquiries regarding control performance.”
Further changes in control strategy, based on information available, might prevent the activation of any control simultaneously with travel controls, and the proposed standards also will specify appropriate maximum function speeds, which might vary from speeds typical for current machines.
Material available on Genie’s Aerial Pro website (https://aerialpros.genielift.com/category/mewp-standard/) further indicates that the drive function and certain boom functions will be disabled when the machine exceeds slope limitations.
According to Skyjack’s McGregor, the new standards, in addition, will determine machine stability requirements using a different approach than in previous standards, including accounting for the forces generated by wind loading.
“Machines typically will be rated for a 12.5 m/sec wind speed when used out of doors,” says McGregor. “The new testing methods for stability might result in changes to machines, including adding weight or other design features. Ultimately, such changes—as an increase in machine weight—could result in additional cost.”
McGregor also notes that the new standards might affect the type of tires use on MEWPs.
“The proposed standards require that calculations include the effect of failure of any one tire in the working position, unless protected by a low-tire-pressure warning system. Ultimately, this means a move toward solid/foam-filled tires, possibly reducing the selection of tire types available. This could limit availability of ‘flotation’ tires for use on delicate ground. Of course, the user [of nonpneumatic tires] benefits from puncture-proof tires that have more resistance to damage in general.”
The proposed standards also address the type of access guarding to be used on future machines, prohibiting the use of “flexible” materials, such as chains and ropes. This requirement likely means the use of more expensive access gates.
Safe use of MEWPs
According to Tony Groat—International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) North American manager and Aerial Work Platform Training (AWPT) executive vice president—safe operation of all MEWP categories will be governed by common guidelines, such as those stating minimum safe distances allowed from an energized conductor or those referring the operator to the manufacturer-defined safe working load for the platform.
“The draft standards also include a requirement to place a means to notify the user when the last annual inspection was completed by the MEWP owner,” says Groat. “This was not required in prior standards, and although some owners did this, it was not done universally—despite users being required to ensure that an annual inspection be completed prior to operation. Now, all owners will have this responsibility.”
Also, says Groat, the new draft standards detail the process for performing a workplace risk assessment, which is to be completed prior to MEWP use.
“The risk assessment,” he says, “includes requirements for properly selecting the MEWP for the task to be performed, identifying potential hazards at the work site, defining methods for removing or mitigating these risks, and for developing a written rescue plan when a fall from height is identified.”
At present, according to Scott Owyen, global marketing training manager for Genie, operators of MEWPs in the United States must be trained in accordance with current ANSI A92 guidelines. Current standards, says Owyen, require that an operator provide proof of training upon request, including the entity/instructor providing training and models the training covered. Training must be provided in a language the operator can understand.
Based on drafts of proposed standards released for public comment and on information available on the Genie Aerial Pros website, training requirements under the new standards might be expanded to address the following concerns:
- Supervisor Training (ANSI only) requires MEWP supervisors to be fully trained
- Safe-Use Programs, specific to MEWP use, must be developed and documented by the user
- Occupant/Emergency Training requires that all platform occupants have a basic level of knowledge to work safely on the MEWP, including how to operate controls in an emergency
- Maintenance/Repair Training (new for CSA) requires that a competent person inspect and maintain the MEWP in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and applicable standards
Draft standards released for public comment are not final and are subject to ongoing change, says IPAF’s Groat, requiring that MEWP owners and users comply with current standards until proposed standards are approved and published. He cautions also that any information providing highlights of proposed changes might not define all changes and that a careful review of completed drafts is in order when issued for public comment.