A guide to the safe use of EWPs on construction sites

3 January 2017
 Categories: , Blog


An elevating work platform (or EWP) is a type of machinery which enables labourers to be lifted off the ground so that they can perform tasks which need to be carried out at a height. There are several different types of EWPs, including travel towers, boom lifts, cherry pickers and scissor lifts. Whilst this form of machinery can be incredibly useful, it does present a number of risks to both its operators and those working in the vicinity of it. Here is more about why EWPs can be dangerous and how construction workers can mitigate some of the risks associated with their usage.

The dangers associated with the use of EWPs

Serious accidents can occur if an EWP is used incorrectly. If the machinery topples over whilst in use, it can result in the operator falling out of their seat and hurting themselves, or the vehicle itself crushing people standing nearby. It could also lead to the labourer standing in the basket being thrown from the EWP onto the ground; if this occurs when the basket is positioned at a great height, it could cause a very severe injury or even a fatality.  Additionally, if the site in which the EWP is to be used has not been inspected for potential hazards, such as overhead power lines, there is also a risk of the vehicle colliding with an electrical wire and its operator being electrocuted.

Preventing fatalities and injuries

The vast majority of risks associated with using EWPs can be greatly reduced by making sure that only those who have received EWP training and who hold a valid EWP licence are permitted to operate this type of machinery. A person with the appropriate training and qualifications will be better placed to identify, assess and manage potential hazards than someone who has only a minimal amount of operational experience and has never been formally trained in EWP usage.

On a more general note, there are several things which can be done to prevent an EWP-related accident from occurring during a construction project. A pre-operational inspection is crucial; this involves the operator walking around the area of land on which they intend to use the EWP and checking for anything which could potentially pose a risk to them or others whilst they are operating their machinery. Examples of possible hazards include power lines, overhead tree branches or an excavated pit.  

To prevent nearby labourers from being crushed by the EWP whilst it is in use, it's also important to establish exclusion zones around the operating area, in which, for example, construction workers are not allowed to walk or perform ground-level tasks. Prohibiting labourers from standing directly underneath a boom whilst the EWP is switched on is also vital.

To reduce the chances of an EWP tipping over, this machinery should not be used on extremely steep slopes (manufacturers will usually provide specific gradient guidelines for their own EWPs). Additionally, in windy conditions, operators should take care not to carry items with large surface areas, such as plasterboard or wood panels, in the boom, as these could throw it off balance.