Horizon Platforms Blog

IPAF TRAINING – Spread the Load of Outriggers for Safe Work at Height

Horizon's IPAF training experts offer advice on outriggers and spreaders

By Damian Edge, Senior IPAF Instructor

Keeping your MEWP stable is vital for your safety when working at height. If the platform tips or overturns unexpectedly, you risk your life if you’re catapulted from the cage. That’s why MEWPS fitted with outriggers should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, reducing ground pressure and increasing stability. When deployed, spreader plates should be used without exception when using boom type MEWPs fully supported by their outriggers. With all other MEWPs, spreader plates should also be used with outriggers unless a specific risk assessment indicates that they are not necessary.

You could be in a warehouse using a fully extended scissor lift to install a heating system, working on a sloped or finished floor that can’t be marked.

Or you might be outside using a boom lift for essential facilities maintenance; here, there’s the chance that your machine could tip during slew on uneven ground or be exposed to high winds.

Though some models don’t require spreader pads, more often than not they add greater stability and help prevent damage.

IPAF’s Spread the Load campaign reports that up to 80% of a machine’s weight can rest on one outrigger, so there’s huge risk of an accident if it presses on unstable ground.

With this in mind, our IPAF training experts outline the steps you need to take to use outriggers and spreaders together correctly.


  1. Assess your ground and site conditions

I’ve spoken before about how ground condition hazards should always be covered in your pre-inspection of a site.

If you spot ground with uncompacted fill, sloped paved areas, or uneven surfaces, then spreaders will help stop the MEWP’s outriggers from shifting as it works at height. Here, outriggers help stabilise the machine while the spreaders prevent the outrigger from sinking into soft ground or putting concentrated pressure on finished flooring.

IPAF training recommends that a risk assessment of the site would also require outriggers and spreaders if you’re exposed to high winds or other difficult weather conditions. It is important to continually monitor ground conditions that could be affected by changes in weather conditions.


  1. Choose your spreader plates carefully

With spreader plates, it’s all in the name. They help spread the load of a MEWP across a bigger surface, reducing the pressure on the ground underneath.

Your MEWP’s manufacturer’s manual is your first port of call when choosing spreader plates to support the outriggers or stabilisers on your machine. Here you’ll get direct guidance on what’s best for the particular MEWP you’re using.

IPAF’s Ready Reckoner tool is then excellent for expert guidance on the recommended size of your spreader plates for the machine and ground conditions.

As a general rule, spreader plates should always be larger than the outrigger foot and strong enough that they don’t distort.

It’s also usually recommended that spreader plates up to 600mm in diameter are at least 25mm thick or 50mm thick for plates up to 900mm in diameter.

  1. Place your outriggers correctly

It’s vital to ensure that your outrigger foot is always in the centre of the spreader plate. If it’s near to the edge and the MEWP shifts, your spreader might not be effective.

Keep an eye out to see if you need to support your spreader plate further on unstable ground conditions. For example, if you need to put a spreader in a dip or hollow, then make sure it’s filled in first.

  1. Keep checking your level indicators

Once you’re up and running, it’s important to check the level indicators on your platform before and during work at height.

Our IPAF training experts always say that staying safe is a constant thing – and not just during set up. So, if any warning lights flash take heed, as they could be a sign that your outriggers and spreaders need adjusting.

Found this helpful?

At Horizon, we ensure that safety is paramount when we or our customers are working at height. Our IPAF training experts run courses throughout the year to get you up to speed on the latest industry advice, so book today to make sure you know how to play it safe.