Horizon Platforms Blog

A Guide to Hiring MEWPs for the Food Processing Industry

Over recent years, the demand for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) has increased within the food processing industry. MEWPs are regularly needed to carry out day-to-day tasks in food and drink factories, from carrying out maintenance and repair work to providing safe access to elevated workspaces. 

Food and drink manufacturing takes place in diverse environments – from bakeries and distilleries to factories processing raw meat products. Whilst the day-to-day demands of each may be very different, one thing that can’t be compromised across the industry is the need to work at height safely and efficiently. Unstable ladders and waiting for scaffolding to be erected are a thing of the past.

What is a MEWP? Essentially a MEWP is a platform, often powered, that is designed to help an individual carry out work at height or in hard-to-reach places in a safe manner. For example, repairing or cleaning large or tall machinery or retrieving ingredients or materials safely from racking or high shelving.

MEWPs are also referred to as powered access platforms, and allow workers to perform different tasks at varying heights. Read our push-around platforms, personnel lifts, cherry pickers, scissor lifts, and boom lifts, pages to learn more about their capabilities. 

Why Are MEWPs Essential for The Food Processing Industry?

According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), falls from height in the food and drink industries are the third highest cause of fatal injury, comprising 20% of fatal accidents. Each year, ‘80 major injuries result – including broken limbs and fractured skulls – with a further 230 over-3-day absence injuries each year.’ These figures provide evidence that employees are being placed in unnecessary danger – or are taking unnecessary risks – while employers are exposing themselves to the risk of prosecution and hefty fines, not to mention the damaging effects on a company’s productivity, morale and reputation.

Despite recent reductions, falling from height remains one of the most common causes of accidents in the food and drink manufacturing industry. Maintenance and cleaning tasks account for some of the highest risk activities in food factories, but if work is properly planned, supervised and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) are used correctly by trained, competent operators, they can dramatically increase the safety of those working in the food industry.

Work at height platforms enable:

  • safe access to hard-to-reach places, reducing the risk of injury and falls while carrying out essential cleaning and maintenance tasks on food industry machines
  • operators to work at height for longer
  • a range of tools and equipment to be carried on the platform rather than by the individual
  • work at a variety of different heights, from mid-level conveyor belts to full-height ceilings
  • jobs to be carried out quickly – particularly important in chilled food environments

Key Features Of Mewps For Use In The Food Industry

The MEWPs we recommended for the food processing industry come with a variety of features, including: 

  • Indoor-only use
  • Compact: fit through a standard doorway
  • Reach heights of 5 – 30m
  • Battery/electric powered: perfect for extended running time
  • Narrow aisle and ultra-narrow aisle models
  • Clean: fleet dedicated to food industry use
  • Quiet: food factories can be noisy environments; we won’t add to it
  • Manoeuvrable
  • Zero tail swing
  • Versatile: straight up only or up and over an obstacle
  • Non-marking tyres

A range of accessories are also available – from wheel covers to nappies/drip trays – and platforms can be tailored for use in non-standard environments such as cold stores where synthetic oil and gel batteries are recommended for operation below -20°C temperatures.

Why Are The So Many Accidents When Working At Height In The Food Industry?

All too often, people resort to quick and easy work-at-height solutions, putting themselves at risk in the process. The use of ladders accounts for 40% of all work-at-height accidents in the food industry, followed by falls from vehicles (17%), many due to forklifts truck operators standing on the forks themselves or creating make-shift platforms by attaching pallets to forks.

All work-at-height tasks – from routine maintenance and high-level cleaning to clearing blockages, stock takes and carrying out ad hoc repairs – should only be carried out after a full risk assessment has been conducted. A risk assessment will allow you to identify likely hazards and manage risk properly to ensure corners are never cut and safety remains paramount.

By far the best work-at-height solution is to ‘design out’ the need to work at height in the first place, but this is usually only feasible if you are building a food factory from scratch. The next best solution is to hire a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) that meets the particular needs of food processors and manufacturers.

Access Platform Training is a Must in the Food Processing Industry

The experts at Horizon Platforms can offer advice on all your food processing MEWP hire needs, but that’s only half the story. 10% of work-at-height accidents in the food industry occur even when workers are using work-at-height platforms – that’s where training to use your platform correctly comes in. IPAF training is essential, both to get the best out of your machine and most importantly, to ensure you stay safe at height. MEWPs are a very safe option if they are used correctly, so make sure you build training into your health and safety plan.

Our IPAF training courses were developed with leading industry professionals to make sure that you and your employees get the best training for safe at-height access. You can book a course at either of our IPAF training centres in Wakefield, or if you prefer, we can come to you.

All our training courses conform to the international ISO quality mark and satisfy standards required by many Health and Safety legislation and Work at Height regulations. Call the team to find out more about food processing, MEWP hires and training from the experts.

Calling On Our Experience To Advise on the Best Use of MEWPS in Food Processing

Horizon Platforms has been reliably supplying platforms to the food processing industry in Yorkshire and across the UK for many years.  In that time we’ve built an extensive knowledge of the requirements and regulations within the industry. Meaning we know exactly why businesses can’t ignore MEWPs when keeping employees safe when working at height. 

Small, safe, clean access platforms

Working at height in the food manufacturing industry can cover tasks ranging from cleaning silos and disinfecting vats to carrying out ceiling repairs and clearing blockages. All tasks come with the risk of falling and injury, especially if the right safety precautions are not considered or deployed.

Horizon Platforms’ food processing MEWP experts understand the particular needs of the sector. We have a fleet of battery-powered platforms which are perfectly suited for use in food and hygienic environments, as well as a choice of specialist accessories such as wheel covers, nappies and drip trays. All are designed to reduce the risk of manufacturing line contamination.

Our machines are clean, quiet and versatile, allowing operators to clean and disinfect a broad range of food factory equipment efficiently and safely. Our food processing MEWPs enable maintenance and other essential tasks to be carried out quickly and easily, and with a choice of machine sizes available, you can hire platforms for use by one person or multiple users at the same time.

Flexible hire and buying options

Wherever possible, preventative maintenance and routine cleaning of food processing machinery are scheduled regularly to keep manufacturing lines clean and avoid breakdowns and downtime. Inevitably, some reactive work such as emergency repairs will be needed. 

Depending on the frequency of maintenance and cleaning, and the severity of any reactive repairs, there is a choice of regularly hiring MEWPs over a few days or weeks (with same-day or next-day delivery being an option) or contract hiring MEWPs that can stay on-site for years. Either way, all operators can be fully briefed and trained by Horizon.

Choose from a range of hire and purchasing options:

  • Last-minute hire: platforms for those short-notice repairs or unplanned jobs
  • Short- and long-term hire: platforms for planned jobs over a few days or several weeks 
  • Contract hire: a cost-effective option for long-term hire from 12 – 60 months. There is no capital outlay, machine hire is 100% tax deductible, you’ll get a new platform and all service & LOLER inspections are included
  • Platforms to buy: quality new and used platforms from the world’s leading manufacturers including Genie, Haulotte, Holland Lift, JLG, Niftylift, and Skyjack.

You can spread the cost with a range of finance options and make sure your machines are in full working order with our platform maintenance contracts. Whether you decide to hire or buy from us, our platforms will ensure you achieve the standards of quality, safety and hygiene you and your customers expect.

Horizon’s experts can carry out a site survey – free of charge and with no obligation – to assess your work-at-height equipment needs and recommend the best food processing MEWP hire options.

Assessing the hygiene risks within the food industry

The need for high levels of hygiene apply whether you are processing raw food for shops and supermarkets or manufacturing prepared food, so well-planned cleaning and maintenance regimes are essential. When you are carrying out this type of work at height, the law states that all work must be properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people.

. If you need access to areas positioned above food processing machinery and production lines, you will need a narrow aisle platform with zero tail swing and maximum horizontal outreach capacity, in which case our range of electric boom lifts are a great choice. Our experience in the food industry means our hire experts know the right questions to ask and can offer technical advice and bespoke solutions. For example, if you’re working in a cold store, we’d recommend using an electric scissor lift with gel batteries in temperatures below –20°C.

All our machines and equipment for use in the food industry are only ever used in clean environments and are thoroughly inspected before every hire to ensure they are both immaculate and provide the safest working environment for your employees.

MEWP advice and work-at-height machines are available 24/7

We have a large fleet of lean machines ideal for clean environments and small spaces. Before we recommend the best platform for your job, our experts will come to you to carry out a site survey, free of charge and with no obligation. That way, we can see your working environment first-hand before we recommend the best kit for the job. The most popular platforms for indoor use in food manufacturing and processing include:

  • Electric scissor lifts: providing straight up access, these lifts are available in a range of widths and platform sizes; electric/battery-powered models can carry multiple operators
  • Personnel lifts: a great choice for straight-up access in ultra-narrow spaces, personnel lifts have zero tail swing and allow you to get into nooks and crannies. These battery-powered machines are suitable for use by one operator.
  • Boom lifts: battery and bi-energy for up and over access, making them a great choice for cleaning high and mid-level food factory machinery such as conveyor belts. Some models can reach up to 30m.

We own a fleet of delivery trucks, so prompt transport of your chosen platforms to and from your site is fast and efficient. What’s more, all our delivery drivers are qualified IPAF demonstrators who can give you a refresher demo when they arrive on-site with your platform.

Our top access platforms for food manufacturers

Here are my recommendations for the best platforms for work at height in the food processing and manufacturing industry:

  • Genie 1930 battery scissor lift: a food industry favourite, this compact, versatile platform has a two-person capacity
  • JLG 1930 battery scissor lift: boasts extended battery cycle time from one charge
  • Skyjack SJ12 personnel lift: ultra-lightweight, perfect for mezzanine floors and goods lifts
  • Genie 40/47 battery scissor lift: 14m lift height and fits through double doors
  • Genie 30/20 narrow battery boom lift: just 1.2m wide with zero tail swing, this is perfect for narrow aisles
  • Niftylift HR17 bi-energy narrow boom lift: versatile machine with a small base ideal for narrow spaces; reaches up to 17m with a horizontal outreach of 9m up and over machinery
  • Niftylift HR15 bi-energy narrow boom lift: only 1.5m wide 15m working height
  • Star 10 narrow boom lift: compact and slim boom only 0.99m wide
  • JLG Toucan 10E: compact boom only 0.99m wide
  • Genie GR15 personnel lift: lightweight, compact and fits through a single door
  • Skyjack SJ16 personnel lift: lightweight, compact and fits through a single door
  • JLG M450 AJ boom lift: reaches heights of 15m; the bi-energy feature allows rapid re-charge of battery for indoor use via diesel power for external use
  • Genie GS 3232 ultra-narrow battery scissor lift: max vertical reach and fits through a single door.

Contact Horizon Platforms today to discuss your food processing MEWP hire needs.