The use of aerial work platforms is on the rise. In a recent study, the International Platform Access Federation, an industry group, found that AWPs continue to grow as a percentage of rental fleets. This expanding user base is one of the concerns driving revised ANSI safety standards, as many operators are not highly experienced. The comment period for its new rules ends on May 16, and big changes are coming to the main industry-wide safety standard for AWPs.
“In these new standards, we’re looking at what we know today that we didn’t know when we wrote the last standard,” says Tony Groat, development manager at IPAF North America and an ANSI committee member. “We’re looking at new equipment in the marketplace, as well as new technology available to us.”
The proposed draft standards from IPAF and the Scaffold & Access Industry Association are A92.20 Design, Calculations, Safety Requirements and Test Methods for Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs); A92.22 Safe Use of MEWPs; and A92.24 Training Requirements for the Use, Operation, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of MEWPs. These will replace the existing A92.2, A92.22 and A92.24 standards.
Aerial work platforms, referred to in the new standard as “mobile elevating work platforms,” or MEWPs, have been reclassified in the new A92.2 as either vertical- or boom-based lifts. The categories now also include truck-mounted lifts, which were not addressed in the previous edition of the standard.
One of the biggest changes in the draft standard is the requirement for load-sensing alarms and cutouts to be built into new work platforms. “The load-sensing system in the current draft would be new to market,” says Brent Hoover, product safety manager at platform maker JLG. An audible alarm and a flashing red light will activate when a platform is overloaded, while a cutout engages to prevent further movement. A cutout also will trip when a tilt sensor goes off. “The tilt cutout is required when the MEWP is on a slope greater than the manufacturer says is acceptable,” says Hoover. “You can’t drive farther in the direction that put you on the slope.”
In addition to design changes, the new ANSI standards also will include new guidelines for operators, passengers and supervisors. Fall-protection gear will be required on all boom-type lifts, and the new standard will discourage the use of MEWPs to transport workers from one level to another. Further, it will be the supervisor’s responsibility to prepare a risk assessment for any use of the platform, placing the onus not just on the worker at the controls but also on site managers and contractors. “We define ‘supervisor’ as all personnel who directly supervise MEWPs,” says Frank
Bonesteel, ANSI committee member for the new standard. According to Bonesteel, all occupants on the MEWP will get the same training as the operator under the new standard.
For the first time, the draft standards address the issue of wind and weather, requiring ambient conditions to be considered during any risk assessment. “Indoor” use is defined as working in any space shielded from the wind. The draft standard “is not a new system, but we know some people will object to the new limits,” says Groat. “Today, if a machine performs well, they keep pushing it, then it falls over. Users will say the new machines are not as good as the old machines, but really it’s the same machine. We just enforce the existing limits.”
Although OSHA does not yet have specific rules for MEWPs, ANSI standards remain important recommendations—and civil courts may rely on them in deciding negligence. “OSHA does reference some ANSI standards, so if they choose to reference the new standards, they will enforce them as law. But until that time comes, these standards will be advisory in nature,” says Bonesteel.
Still, Groat says, OSHA may reference standards under broader safety citations. “Even if OSHA does not specifically reference MEWPs, under the general-duty clause for a safe workplace, they will reference ANSI standards as best practices for an industry. So, while they can’t cite specific standards, they do reference it currently, and I don’t see that changing.”