Safe Powered Access Use With Spreader Plates and Out-Riggers

A new campaign aims to improve safety when using out-riggers, stabilisers and spreader plates with aerial work platforms and powered access machinery. IPAF’s “Spread the Load” campaign provides information and advice for the safe use of boom lifts and elevating work platforms when used with supporting outriggers.

IPAF is the International Powered Access Federation, an independent, not-for-profit organisation set up in 1983 that promotes correct and safe use of powered access equipment and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) across the world. Visit : It works with manufacturers, users, and rental, training and distribution companies.

The “Spread the Load” campaign has two main points:

1) When using boom-type aerial platforms, spreader plates should always be used when the platform is fully supported on its outriggers.

2) All MEWPs with out-riggers should be used with spreader plates unless a risk assessment has specified this unnecessary.

Aerial work platforms require a special set of safety guidelines, specific to each type of MEWP. Risk assessments should be carried out before use, and any user must have adequate training and insurance to operate powered access equipment.

One of the most common reasons for accidents and injuries is incorrect set-up of the powered access machinery. Improper set up means the platform may be unstable and can lead to overturning.

When setting up an aerial platform, you must first make a ground assessment and select your spreader plates or position your outriggers and stabilisers accordingly.

Unstable or poor ground conditions may shift, give or settle when subjected to the heavy loads of MEWPs, making the platform liable to tip. Level indicators on the platform itself should always be checked before and during work is carried out, and any warnings on the machine should be adhered to, for example the aerial wok platform (AWP) becoming out of level.

There are five general categories of ground sites that pose hazards to using an aerial platform. These are:

  • Greenfield Sites – where ground that is adjacent to water or flood plains.
  • Beaches – with difficult conditions from sand and rising water.
  • Filled Construction Sites – where basements, pits or tanks may create unstable ground.
  • Paved Areas – which may not be as secure and strong as they appear, having been laid over weak ground.
  • Town Centre Sites – with underground hazards such as tunnels, subways, basements, sewers etc.

Weather conditions can also affect the strength and security of ground sites, and should be taken into consideration when carrying out a risk assessment and ground survey.

The use and positioning of the out-rigger feet is another aspect which needs to be carefully considered, for example ensuring that the foot is centred on the spreader, and that the spreader is not positioned over loose ground or a filled in hollow.

IPAF’s campaign gives further guidance on how to do this, and when to use spreader plates. IPAF have provided tools for the safety campaign in several different languages, along with leaflets, posters, stickers and a video.

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