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Tips to Help Prevent Tip-Overs

Tech Tips - Oct 21

Tips to Help Prevent Tip-Overs

JLG Industries, Inc.
World-leading access equipment manufacturer
McConnellsburg, PA

Although the benefits of safe work practices apply to all types of equipment, it is especially true for equipment like mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). This is because these machines are designed to put people up in the air — even if it’s just a few feet off the ground — to safely complete work at height. 

According to the ANSI A92.20 standards, MEWPs must be designed and tested to ensure they meet certain stability requirements. Because of their design and how they work, changing conditions or misuse of the MEWPs can negatively affect the stability of the machine, potentially leading to a tip-over.

As the saying goes, “The best way to avoid an accident is to prevent it.” Here are six safety tips every operator on any job site should follow every day to proactively prevent a MEWP from tipping over.

Tip #1: Follow instructions
Always read and understand the Operation & Safety manual before operating any MEWP. The manual will outline the necessary precautions that operators need to follow for proper and safe machine usage, including the appropriate safety, training, application, inspection, and operation of the MEWP. 

A copy of the machine’s Operation and Safety Manual, AEM Safety Manual (ANSI markets only) and ANSI Manual of Responsibilities (ANSI market MEWPs only) should be enclosed in the weather-resistant storage container of the MEWP. If these manuals are not in the MEWP, please contact the MEWP’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM), like JLG, for a copy of the machine’s Operation and Safety Manual and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for a copy of the Safety Manual and Manual of Responsibilities.

Tip #2: Conduct a workplace inspection
Before operating any MEWP, it’s essential to complete a workplace inspection to identify potential hazards on and around the job site.  

To do this, have the operator walk the route to/around/from the job site, looking for hazards, including obvious ones and not-so-obvious ones like some of the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Rough, slippery or unstable surfaces such as loose dirt or unsupported floors;
  • Drop-offs or holes;
  • Slopes, ditches or bumps;
  • Debris 
  • Floor/ground obstructions like curbs and manhole covers;
  • Underground infrastructure like wells, septic tanks, foundations or buried utilities;
  • Inadequate ceiling heights;
  • Overhead electric power lines and communication cables;
  • Other overhead obstructions;
  • Other hazardous locations and atmospheres;
  • High wind and other severe weather conditions, such as ice; and
  • The presence of others in close proximity to the work.

Tip #3: Plan ahead
Once the hazards are identified, the operators should develop a plan to avoid these hazards. Planning ahead enables MEWP operators to proactively think through each aspect of the job — from the work environment to the tasks to be performed. 

The plan should include a complete list of the job site hazards, as well as an outline of what corrective actions need to be taken to avoid and/or eliminate the hazards before and during machine operation. And because conditions can change throughout the day (for example, turf softening after a rain shower), workplace inspections should be done at the beginning of every work shift or at each operator change. 

Updating the hazards plan regularly will make sure that each operator is fully aware of and ready to work in the most current job site conditions.

Tip #4: Know about the ground conditions
All machine operators and site supervisors must understand the operating surface where the MEWP will be working and know how the machine will interact with it. All equipment users must be familiar with the operating surface before driving the MEWP on it.

This starts by making sure that the job site’s ground conditions are adequate to support the maximum weight and maximum wheel load of the machine, which is indicated on the wheel load decals located on the chassis adjacent to each wheel. 

Before operating, always check the allowable capacity of the surfaces, including floors, bridges and so on. Also, figure out if the machine could potentially damage the surface during operation, such as leaving ruts in the soil or scuffs on the concrete. Whenever possible, operators should consult with a structural engineer or other qualified person to know as much as possible about job site surfaces where work will be done.

For safe operation, the MEWP should be positioned on a smooth, firm surface within the limits of the maximum operating slope before elevating the machine’s platform or driving with the platform in the elevated position. Operators should never exceed the machine’s allowable side slope or grade, especially while driving. The machine’s platform should not be elevated, either while the machine is stationary or being driven, while working on or near a sloping, uneven or soft surface.

When working around potential ground-level obstructions, like holes, bumps, drop-offs or debris, position the machine’s chassis at least 2-ft (0.6 m) from the hazard.

Tip #5: Be aware of the weather
Weather impacts the performance of a MEWP and changing weather conditions can negatively affect the stability of the machine, potentially leading to a tip-over. For example, wet weather increases the amount of mud on the ground, making driving the machine around the job site more difficult. 

Wind also plays a significant role in the productivity of this type of equipment. As mentioned previously, because of these machine’s design and how they work, exposure to wind can greatly affect the machine’s stability. That’s because wind generates force that pushes against the machine, and wind speeds can be significantly greater at height than at ground level — this means that the amount of force on the machine also increases at height. Factors affecting wind speeds are platform elevation, surrounding structures, local weather events and approaching storms.

Every MEWP has a wind load capacity rating, which is the allowable amount of exposure to wind that the machine can withstand during operation. The machine should never be operated in conditions that exceed the specifications shown on the capacity placard on the platform billboard.

Because wind speeds can change rapidly, it is crucial for operators to always be aware of approaching weather events and constantly monitor the current and potential wind conditions. MEWPs should never be operated in wind conditions that exceed specifications. 

Tip #6: Take all safety precautions
Operators’ actions, both inside and out of a MEWP’s platform, also greatly influence the safe use of this type of equipment. Therefore, operators need to follow all safety precautions spelled out in the machine’s Operation & Safety manual to avoid tipping hazards. 

For example, operators should never cover nor increase the surface area and/or carry large surface area items in the MEWP’s platform, unless specifically authorized by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer), when operating outdoors. This can increase the exposed wind area of the machine and change how the machine behaves. For example, wind will cause items in the platforms to act as a sail, which can decrease the machine’s stability.

MEWPs are only designed to lift people and materials moving upwards; operators should never use a MEWP to push, pull or crane objects. Also, operators should avoid performing work that will subject the MEWP to a horizontal force, like wind (as mentioned in the section above) or create an exaggerated swaying motion of the platform, more than is generated from normal machine movement like travel or moving around in the platform.

That said, there can be quite a bit of residual movement produced in the platform during operation, especially from operators shifting around weight or walking from one end to the other. This should not be misunderstood as machine instability; therefore, operators should also avoid tying off the machine to an adjacent structure or attaching a wire, cable or similar item to the platform to restrict platform movement. For instance, any items draped over the platform’s rails can easily snag or catch on something near the MEWP and could pull the machine in the opposite direction of where it’s positioned, increasing the chances of a tip-over. That’s why JLG designs MEWPs with power in the platform, with its optional SkyPower® system, so there is no need to access power via an extension cord from the ground to operate JLG® accessories, including SkyWelder® and SkyCutter® packages.

Finally, if a MEWP gets caught on something during operation and one or more of its wheels is off the ground, operators and occupants must be removed before attempting to free the machine. Cranes, forklift trucks or other appropriate equipment can be used to stabilize the machine once platform personnel are free and clear of the machine. 

Safety is very important to JLG. That’s why JLG provides information on everything safety-related, from inspections and manuals to how-tos and manlift safety videos to better support its equipment owners and users. To review essential aerial lift safety, product and training information relating to JLG equipment, click here.

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