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Worker falls from elevating work platform

In July 2021 a worker sustained multiple fractures and internal injuries after he fell approximately six metres from the platform of a truck mounted elevating work platform while trimming tree branches.

Safety issues

An elevating work platform (EWP) is a device used to support a platform on which personnel, equipment and materials can be elevated to perform work. Types of EWP include self-propelled scissor lifts, self-propelled boom-type, truck-mounted, and trailer-mounted. EWPs specifically designed to lift people can be used to access a tree.

Risks from EWPs are caused by:

  • faulty platform gate catches
  • over-balancing while climbing onto platform mid-rails
  • mechanical failure of the levelling rod, boom or hydraulic cylinder mounts
  • ejection from the platform due to rough or obscured ground surface conditions, enhanced by higher speed of travel
  • machine rollover due to ground surface conditions or higher, less stable machine centre of gravity e.g. travelling with the boom extended
  • accidental movement of the platform leading to crushing against a solid object
  • electric shock from direct contact with, or electrical arcing from, overhead powerlines.

Other issues that could occur when using an EWP to trim or remove a tree include:

  • workers cannot get close enough to the tree to trim it safely
  • the tree is too large
  • the work platform may impede the cutting or lowering of the limb, branch or section of tree
  • a falling limb may strike a worker (either on the ground or in the work platform), part of the EWP or powerlines
  • the ground is sloping or unstable
  • a building or other infrastructure is in the way.

Ways to manage health and safety

Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.

Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents

Employers and self-employed people must control the risks associated with EWPs including the risk of falls when tree trimming. You must consider various risk controls and choose those that most effectively eliminate or minimise the risk in the circumstances. Managing the risks of operating an EWP often requires a combination of controls. These can include but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Carrying out the work from the ground as this eliminates the risk of falls, problems with tree integrity and avoiding the use of high-risk plant.
  • Where it is not reasonably practicable to use a fall prevention device or a work positioning system to adequately protect against the risk of a fall, workers working in travel towers, boom lifts or cherry pickers wear a properly anchored fall arrest harness and lanyard. The lanyard should be as short as possible and should be attached directly to the designated anchor point on the EWP, not to the handrail (unless the handrail is the manufacturer’s specified anchor point).

Develop a safe system of work for EWP and tree trimming work. This could include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Planning EWP operations as early as possible through consultation, cooperation and coordination with everyone engaged in the work. Planning involves:
    • selecting the right EWP:
      • some are designed for hard flat surfaces only while others are designed to be operated on rough terrain. Some types are designed for indoor use and are not suitable for windy conditions outdoors.
      • a scissor lift-type EWP has a greater risk from being struck and knocked over by falling timber than a boom-type EWP because their supporting structure is directly under the platform. Scissor lift-type EWP should not be used unless the risk of falling timber striking the unit can be eliminated.
    • if you hire or lease an EWP, you should:
      • consult the person who owns the EWP about potential hazards, because both parties have responsibility for ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, the EWP is safe.
      • before you hire the EWP, you should assess whether the plant is suitable for its intended use.
      • check the EWP has been inspected and maintained by the supplier according to the manufacturer’s specifications. This may involve checking the logbook or maintenance manual.
      • ensure the supplier provides you with the manufacturer’s information about the purpose of the EWP and its proper use. Anyone hiring or leasing an EWP to others has duties as both a supplier of the EWP and as a person with management or control of the EWP at the workplace. They must check the EWP is safe to use and properly maintained and provide specific information including safe operation instructions.
    • planning, scheduling and coordinating the work
    • EWP siting and setup
    • operating the EWP safely, including shut down.
  • Providing information, training and instruction to workers on how to safely operate the particular brand and type of EWP as well as safe work procedures that avoid crushing and electrical hazards
  • Ensuing training and instructing of workers in the safe use of fall arrest equipment and emergency rescue procedures
  • Ensuring workers operating boom-type EWPs with a boom length of 11 metres or more either:
    • hold a boom-type EWP high risk work licence, or
    • are enrolled in a training course to obtain a boom-type EWP high risk work licence and are supervised by the holder of a boom-type EWP high risk work licence
  • Ensuring the EWP is only used as a working platform and not as a means of lifting or lowering heavy materials or for entering and exiting a work area unless the conditions set out in AS 2550.10: Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe use –Part 10: Mobile elevating work platforms are met
  • Checking the surface area to make sure there are no penetrations or obstructions that could cause uncontrolled movement or overturning of the EWP while ensuring the EWP is only used on a solid level surface, unless it is designed for use on rough terrain

If after implementing the above control measures, a risk still remains, consider the following controls in the order below to minimise the remaining risk, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • use administrative controls (e.g. rotating jobs and varying tasks to reduce the risks associated with repetitive manual handling tasks)
  • use PPE (e.g. safety eyewear, hearing protection, safety helmets, cut-resistant leg protection or reflective, high-visibility clothing, safety boots, gloves).

A combination of the controls set out above may be used if a single control is not enough to minimise the risks. The control measures put in place should be reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.

More information

Support for people affected by a serious workplace incident

For advice and support: