Horizon Platforms Blog

Wind Safety When Working At Height: The Do’s & Don’ts

Powered access platforms, such as cherry pickers and scissor lifts, are safer alternatives for working at height than using a ladder. Whether working on general maintenance or warehouse builds, you may find yourself exposed to variable weather conditions with the wind causing significant issues. Access platforms can provide a broader range of mobility to complete tasks above ground level, whilst also ensuring health and safety regulations are met and people are kept safe. 

In this blog, Horizon Platforms looks at how in windy conditions working at height can become unsafe, requiring further safety precautions to reduce risk. To avoid both harm to yourself and others, causing damage to your machine, or breaking rules and regulations, follow this important advice.

What is a MEWP’s Maximum Wind Speed?

All MEWPs designed for outdoor use have a maximum wind speed at which it’s safe to operate, usually 28 mph or 12.5 ms (Beaufort scale 6). Regulations state that this information should be clearly labelled on the equipment, and the wind speed limit can often be found on the manufacturer’s data plate on the platform’s base, as well as in the operator manual. For access platforms designed for indoor use, the maximum safe operating wind speed will be zero, as this equipment is strictly for indoor operation only and using it outside would seriously compromise its stability and safety. 

Whenever you operate a cherry picker or scissor lift outdoors, it’s best to exercise plenty of caution and carefully assess the potential level of danger in windy conditions. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that if the wind speed is above 23 MPH (10.3 ms or Beaufort scale 5), it’s likely that a worker’s balance will be affected. 

However, there are multiple factors to consider, such as the restrictions and limitations of the machine itself and the height you need to operate at. Keep in mind that the wind gets stronger as you get higher, and the wind chill factor will also increase. This means that on a day with an ambient temperature of 10°C and a wind speed of 20 mph (9 ms), an operator’s hands and face can experience wind chill of 0°C.   

Always check a MEWP’s user manual and machine decals for guidance on maximum safe operating wind speeds, and check the wind speed from the platform with an anemometer or against the Beaufort scale before use.

Beaufort Scale for Assessing Wind Speed

Beaufort numberWind speed (mph)DescriptionWind Effects on Land
0<1CalmCalm. Smoke rises vertically
11-3Light AirWind motion visible in smoke drift
24-7Light BreezeWind can be felt on skin, leaves rustle 
38-12Gentle BreezeLeaves and small twigs on trees in constant motion
413-18Moderate BreezeDust and loose paper raised. Small branches in motion
519-24Fresh BreezeSmaller trees begin to sway 
625-31Strong BreezeLarge branches in motion. Whistling can be heard in overhead wires. Umbrellas become hard to use 

The Beaufort Wind Scale | Royal Meteorological Society 

Stay Safe When Working At Height In Windy Conditions

One of the most important steps to take when carrying out work at height in any weather conditions is a pre-work risk assessment. This should include not only an assessment of your MEWP and its condition but a thorough inspection of your working environment. When working at height, the weather is just as important as the ground you are working on, meaning you’ll need a sturdy surface to begin the work and suitable conditions to be able to complete tasks safely. 

Make use of an anemometer to accurately check the wind speed, and consider other conditions such as where your MEWP will be set up. For example, being near a large building could mean stronger gusts, or being between two buildings, or inside large building erections where walls or windows may be missing, could create a wind tunnel effect.

Also keep in mind that wind speed is rarely constant, and sudden gusts can exceed the safe maximum operating limit as well as take an operator by surprise. 

Even if it is deemed safe to work at height in windy or any weather conditions or indoors for that matter, you should always have a rescue plan in place. Never operate a MEWP in any circumstances without a rescue plan.

Avoid Objects Falling From Access Platforms At All Costs

A crucial part of the risk assessment should cover which pieces of equipment and items you’ll need to use whilst working at height. This means you can accurately review which pieces will need to be fastened down, attached to your body or secured to the MEWP. This will prevent the wind from blowing it off the platform and keep those around you safe from falling objects. 

This also applies to your environment, meaning that you should avoid working around objects which aren’t secure when wind speeds are high. Panels, tiles, piping and other objects on buildings can all create hazards if they become disturbed by high wind speeds.

The Sail Effect of Wind on Objects 

Another risk for working at height in windy conditions is the ‘sail effect’. This is when an object with a large surface area – such as cladding materials, sheets, and panels – can act as a sail when caught by gusts of wind. This effect can make these materials much more difficult to handle safely at height, as well as greatly impacting the stability of the access platform. 

It’s an important factor to take into consideration when handling these types of objects in windy conditions, especially when a MEWP is involved. 

Horizon Platforms Wind Safety Recommendations

In any instance where you are working at height on an access platform, you should always familiarise yourself with the machine prior to use, including its maximum wind rating, and take note of the wind conditions using the Beaufort scale or anemometer,  and if you are in doubt call us. We are always on hand for any queries you may have regarding the safe use of access platforms, as your safety is our priority.

Every machine has different restrictions and limitations when it comes to wind speed but all outdoor access platforms are rated to specific maximum wind speeds stated in the operator’s manual and on the manufacturer’s data plate. Remember that platforms designed for indoor use cannot be used outdoors no matter the weather conditions. Sometimes access platforms also have restrictions on the number of persons and quantity of tools or other objects in the basket.

Working at Height Training

Training is an essential part of working at height as you will need to obtain the correct licences before operating any powered access platform. This is required regardless of the weather, but the training provides operators with the knowledge and awareness of the risks of working at height in windy conditions, and how to minimise them. 

At Horizon Platforms, we offer a series of expert-led IPAF training courses for a variety of different certifications and qualifications.

To learn more about MEWP safety when working at height, keep an eye on our blog where we post regular updates and information on the proper usage of powered access platforms.