Understanding entrapment hazards with mobile platforms

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) are powered platforms used to carry out work at height. Here we look at their potential hazards.

What are examples of mobile platforms?

A mobile platform is a machine or device intended for moving people, tools and material to working positions.

There are two types of basic MEWPs:

  • Booms, such as cherry pickers, which have both static and mobile forms.
  • Verticals, such as scissor lifts, that can also be static or mobile.

What are the dangers of mobile platforms?

An entrapment hazard relates to anything that could potentially trap a worker when operating a MEWP, such as a confined space.

There have been long standing concerns regarding the risk to workers being trapped between a MEWP and the roof or other structure after falling or slipping during work.

Between 2016 and 2020, incidents entered into the IPAF accident reporting portal from 15 countries identified that 73 people died in entrapment incidents globally.

The main concern around MEWPs is that ‘sustained involuntary operation’ of the machine can occur if an operator is forced onto the control panel. This can cause the MEWP to continue moving, potentially crushing the user between the control panel and fixed structure.

Secondary guarding devices

Attempting to remove some of the concerns surrounding MEWPs, manufacturers have developed ‘secondary guarding devices’. These devices tend to be either:

  • Pressure sensing devices to identify if someone has fallen onto the control panel.
  • Physical barriers to create a protected zone for the user.

In 2022, the HSE published a study observing how the secondary guarding devices performed. The results found that the devices reduce but do not completely eliminate the risk.

In addition to this study, the Construction Industry Plant Safety Group (PSG) issued some guidance in 2023 to help MEWP users, which can be found here. The guidance gives illustrations of each option, along with advantages and disadvantages. This will then allow companies to determine what works best for them.

Aegis has experienced health and safety professionals who can assist in conducting reviews of health and safety management systems. Contact our team today to see how we can help.