Mobile access towers can provide safe access for work at height, so long as they are erected and used correctly. However, if towers are erected incorrectly or used in the wrong way, they can easily become unstable or workers can fall from them leading to serious injury.
Anyone who needs to erect, modify or dismantle a mobile access tower, needs to be competent to do so and work in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. They should have been trained in the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association qualification, or equivalent. This course will cover how to reduce common risks associated with tower use but is not a substitute for practical training.
Regulations and requirements
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 set out the requirements for working at height, including the need to prevent falls. Correct erection and use of mobile towers should prevent falls.
The Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturer’ Association has published an Approved Code of Practice specifically aimed at the safe erection, use and dismantling of mobile towers.
It is important that the manufacturer’s instructions for the system in use are available on site, and you follow them while erecting, modifying, moving or dismantling the tower. The instructions will also cover important information such as maximum safe wind speeds, platform loading capacity and maximum height.
Common hazards associated with the erection, use and dismantling of mobile access towers are listed below.
There is a lot of pressure pushing down onto the ground through the tower legs and castors, so it is important that the ground suitable, stable and firm. You should check for any areas of weak ground such as shallow services, nearby excavations or inspection chambers.
Check for overhead power cables before erecting the tower. These can cause electrocution if contact is made with the tower or workers.
Make sure the castor brakes are engaged and working before erecting or using the tower.
When erecting, modifying or dismantling a tower, there should be no risk of falls from height, and you certainly must not stand on an unguarded platform. When placing guard rails, use either an advanced guard-rail system or the through-the-trap method to prevent falls.
Before use, check that the guard rails and the board are in place and secure.
Do not overload the tower. The safe working load will be shown on each platform, and includes people and equipment.
Check weather conditions before and during use. Do not use the tower in bad weather and check the manufacturers instructions for safe wind speeds.
Check if the tower could be hit by plant or vehicles and establish an exclusion zone or redirect traffic around the area.
Use barriers and signs to warn drivers and pedestrians of the tower location. Pedestrians passing near the tower could be struck by falling objects.
When using a tower, always make sure that the tower is not overloaded. Always access the working platform via the built in ladder up the inside of the tower. Check that all guard rails are in place, and never use hop-ups or step ladders on a tower. Do not overreach from the tower platform, and ensure the wheels are locked before climbing the tower.
Make a plan for how you will get materials and equipment to the work platform. Avoid hauling items up the side as this can make the tower unstable. It is safer to hand items up through the lifts.
If you are only working from the tower, rather than erecting it, make sure you are aware of the hazards and how to work safely. This will be in the method statement for the job.
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