Horizon Platforms Blog

What is Entrapment and How to Prevent it

When it comes to working at height, safety is paramount. Ensuring the well-being of operators and those around them requires a combination of reliable access equipment, training, processes, and a collaborative approach. One crucial aspect that often takes centre stage in discussions about MEWP safety is the concept of anti-entrapment. 

In this blog, discover everything you need to know about the prevention of entrapment, including how to reduce the risk of life-threatening accidents on-site.

What is Entrapment?

Entrapment refers to a situation where a person becomes caught or entangled in a hazardous space, posing severe risks to their safety. In the context of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs), entrapment can occur during various operations, making it imperative to implement adequate machine familiarisation measures and training. Operators could become trapped between part of a basket and a fixed structure. Or they may become trapped against the platform controls, and if this happens, they may not be able to stop the machine running. 

MEWP Design Requirements

Understanding the intricacies of MEWP design is crucial for creating a safe working environment. Modern MEWPs are equipped with advanced safety features, and among them are primary and secondary guarding. 

Primary guarding systems – integral to all machines – are designed to prevent inadvertent operation and ensure that the operator always has control of platform movement.

Secondary guarding is just one option  sometimes fitted as standard on newer machines or as an additional optional extra.

As stated in IPAFs, ‘MEWPs – Guidance on secondary guarding devices available to reduce the risk of entrapment injury’ IPAF experts say

 ‘A secondary guarding device is a piece of equipment which can be fitted to a MEWP in addition to the primary guarding systems and is intended to further reduce the risk of entrapment and/or provide an alert that an entrapment situation has occurred.’

There is an array of secondary guards available, including: 

  • Physical barrier: fixed full cage structure 
  • Physical barrier: operator protective structure
  • Physical barrier: side protection barriers
  • Pressure sensing bar
  • Break-away or moveable pressure sensing standoff bar
  • Pressure sensing control panel

No particular secondary guarding device will prevent entrapment when operating a MEWP, and when selecting a device to address a single hazard, consideration should be given to the potential for significantly increasing other possible hazards.

Effective Anti-Entrapment Considerations

As with any health and safety matter, the key to avoiding accidents and injuries all comes down to adequate planning and preparation, and most of all, proper training to help eliminate risks altogether.

Upskilling Operators

One concern raised by industry experts is the potential for operators to become overly reliant on secondary guarding systems. Comparisons are often drawn to car parking sensors, where users may develop a dependency on the technology and, as a result, may become less aware of their surroundings.

MEWP safety expert, Chris Wraith, explains “the fitting of any additional device cannot replace the operator’s responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, and the need to follow safe working practice and protocols must be in addition to these fundamental requirements.”

To reduce the risk of entrapment, our advice is for both operators and managers to stick closely to all training protocols, remain vigilant and take the time to upskill operators to avoid over-reliance on secondary guarding alone.

Anti-Entrapment Safety Checklists

For any MEWP operator, the integration of secondary guarding systems highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to anti-entrapment and safety in general. While these systems offer additional protection, operators must pay attention to the importance of traditional safety practices, such as thorough pre-operation checks, risk assessments and adherence to operator and safety guidelines. 

Operators & Nominated Rescue Person

Here is a list of IPAF-recommended steps that operators and nominated rescue personnel can take to minimise risks:

  • Plan the MEWP route carefully, ensuring it is free from obstacles
  • Select MEWP type carefully
  • Ensure MEWP is not faulty by carrying out thorough pre-inspection
  • Ensure familiarisation of both the MEWP and route is specific
  • Ensure good ground conditions 
  • Ensure good visibility at height
  • Do not construct or override the MEWP controls
  • Practice the rescue procedure
  • Minimise distractions
  • Slow down, do not crouch over the controls and be vigilant!

Managers, Planners & Supervisors 

For managers, planners and supervisors, it’s your responsibility to assess both the site in question and the best MEWP selection for the job at hand.

Here are a list of IPAF-recommended considerations to help with the smooth-running of the project: 

  • Risk assessment
  • Planning considerations 
  • Safe systems of work
  • Training/competence 
  • Secondary guarding options
  • Emergency and rescue plans 

Operator Training: Safety Beyond Secondary Guarding

In addition to specific built in safety features of MEWPs, operators should undergo training to ensure they are well-prepared for operating machines safely and handling the complexities of working at height. This includes understanding the platform’s controls, emergency procedures, and the importance of clear communication within the team. 

At Horizon Platforms, we offer a selection of training programs, to provide a wealth of knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of operating MEWPs and working safely from heights. 

Our training list includes but is not limited to:

We also offer several IPAF Safety courses, including Operator, Harness Awareness and Site Assessment for MEWP selection.

Discover More Safety Tips From Horizon Platforms

In addition to accredited and approved methods and MEWP operator best practices, Horizon Platforms remains committed to promoting a holistic approach to MEWP safety, ensuring that operators are not just skilled in using the equipment but are also equipped with the knowledge and awareness needed for a safe working environment. 

To find out further tips about MEWP safety, training courses and more, head to our knowledge centre.