By Luke Jones, Internal Accounts Manager
Working at height in a cold environment is safe and productive if you take the right precautions – and know how to notice key warning signs that your MEWP isn’t performing at its best. Safety is paramount when working at height, so getting up to speed on the latest IPAF training from industry experts is vital.
Working indoors in cold store and food distribution industries, an electric boom or scissor lift can be essential for stock taking, planned or emergency maintenance, and racking. However, sub-zero temperatures can limit your machine’s capability.
Most MEWPS are designed to function normally in temperatures of -20°C to 40°C.
JLG advises that you should never operate MEWPs in cold conditions below -40°C.
If you’re working in temperatures between –20°C and -40°C in a cold store, then to safely operate MEWPs in cold conditions you need to be aware of their limitations – and the precautions you can take to maintain productivity.
With this in mind, here’s our four top tips for making the most of your MEWP by our IPAF training experts:
- Swap your oil
The function response of your electric MEWP can be affected if you don’t consider your choice of oil. Standard hydraulic oil can thicken easily and clog the valves in cold conditions, not only making it ineffective but also running the risk of damaging your machine.
If you’re using electric MEWPs in the cold conditions of an indoor store, then, our IPAF trainers would recommend swapping your hydraulic oil for a suitably graded synthetic equivalent. This will ensure that your hydraulic lift system continues to function properly – and keeps the job running smoothly. Once back in normal working temperatures, though, make sure that your hydraulic oil is replaced.
- Switch your batteries
Battery powered machines are the best solution for indoor jobs when working at height – so they’re perfect when working in cold stores and food distribution warehouses.
However, normal battery capacity reduces sharply at low temperatures, leaving you with a machine you can no longer rely upon to get the job done. If you want to keep productivity at its best, then your MEWP should be using gel batteries in temperatures below –20°C.
Make sure to charge batteries fully after use to get the best performance from your MEWP, this way you’ll reduce the chances of damaging your equipment and ensure you’re operating safely.
- Plan your time
To get the most out of your machine, our IPAF training experts consider it best practice to plan work in short burst intervals.
Working for an hour at a time will ensure that your machine can work at full capacity for the entirety of the working period. It should then be rested at normal temperature for three times the duration of exposure to return it to its original state. As such, you won’t put undue stress on the performance of hydraulic lifts or damage any function response.
- Double your resources
If working in hourly bursts – with three hour resting breaks – will affect your productivity, then we recommend planning ahead and increasing the number of machines you have to hand. If you own a platform or have a trusted platform partner, look to hire additional machines. Hiring gives you greater flexibility and reduces cost for short-term jobs.
You’ll need double the number of machines you usually require. That way, you can maintain production levels and reduce risk of damaging any hired equipment.
Regardless of whether you’re using MEWPs in cold conditions or an atypical environment, a risk assessment is essential. Lifting work should always be halted if you don’t think you’re able to work efficiently and safely.
However, with these top tips from our IPAF trainers, you can stay productive and safely operate to get the job done.