Horizon Platforms Blog

IPAF Training – Make sure you’re in safe hands with a MEWP rescue plan

Speak to the Experts

By Ian Moorhouse, IPAF Instructor

Work at height should never be taken lightly, as there’s the potential for heavy consequences if you use a MEWP without taking the necessary precautions. In IPAF training – such as the 3a & 3b course for boom and scissor lifts – it’s important you learn how to recognise hazards to ensure your operator’s safety. Whether that’s assessing your ground conditions, preparing for work near overhead power lines, or ensuring you have the correct PPE – including harnesses, preparing for an emergency or machine malfunction  is critical to your work at height.

In 2015, IPAF reported that there were 68 fatalities when using MEWPs from overturning, falls from height, electrocution, and entrapment.

As a worldwide figure this may not seem a lot, but work at height should not be life-threatening with procedures and precautions in place. Creating a MEWP rescue plan before all work is vital in preparation for possible emergency situations.

Our IPAF training experts recommend these five easy steps to put together your MEWP rescue plan:

  1. Always consult the manufacturer’s manual for your MEWP to understand how ground and auxiliary functions work. With it, you can make sure to locate and test controls before you start work at height – that way you’ll avoid unnecessary hazards if faults are found.
  1. Ensure that ground controls can be operated if you’re at height, especially with boom lifts. In some cases, you will need to ensure that the starting key is at ground level so that your MEWP rescue plan can involve others to act if the platform controls malfunction or there’s a medical emergency.
  1. IPAF training recommends that other personnel familiarise themselves with ground and auxiliary controls. They can then be on hand if there is an emergency or malfunction at platform level.

Familiarisation should include:

  • Reviewing the manufacturer’s manual and instructions
  • Getting up to date on the features of the specific model of MEWP
  • Understanding the control functions (both ground and auxiliary)
  • Identifying where and how the MEWP’s safety devices can be used

In some boom lifts, the auxiliary controls aren’t always immediately apparent and may involve pumping controls by hand to release the lifting mechanism. It is the employers’ responsibility to ensure all operators are familiarised and trained with machines.

  1. Your MEWP rescue plan should always make sure that a service engineer is contactable in the event all normal and auxiliary functions fail. They can then work to get your operator down quickly and safely.
  1. However, in extraordinary circumstances you may need your senior site management prepared for mid-air rescue.

If a service engineer is unavailable or a quick fix cannot be found, then your site manager may need to authorise platform to platform access for medical emergencies. You’ll need processes in place as part of a site-wide rescue plan to ensure this is carried out safely – and only ever in extreme situations.

Putting a rescue plan in place is paramount for work at height so that operators are kept safe in dangerous environments. Our IPAF training experts run courses throughout the year to get you up to speed on the latest industry advice – that way you’re sure you’re in safe hands.


Need further training? Book onto our IPAF training courses, available 6 days a week.