IPAF: 2014 saw more MEWPs but fewer fatal injuries

Although the global mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) rental fleet grew in size during 2014, the number of related injuries fell, according to the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF)

Researchers have found that MEWP-related fatalities fell year on year during 2014, despite an increase in the size of the global rental fleet.
Researchers have found that MEWP-related fatalities fell year on year during 2014, despite an increase in the size of the global rental fleet.

Data concerning mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) suggest that despite an increase in the size of the total MEWP rental fleet during 2014, the fatal injury rate fell.

The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) found that the MEWP-related fatal injury (the number of fatalities per 100,000 days a rented machine was operated) for 2014 was 0.035, compared to 0.040 during the previous year. The organisation cited this as further evidence that MEWPs “are one of the safest ways to perform temporary work at height”.

Since no accurate data is currently available for the total number of end user-owned machines and their utilisation rate, IPAF calculated the fatal injury rate based on the number of MEWP fatalities worldwide against the MEWP rental fleet worldwide and estimated utilisation rate.

Presenting the research, Chris Wraith, IPAF’s technical and safety executive, explained: “Comparing facilities across the whole industry with the total fleet size will most probably bring down the fatal injury rate, so IPAF is currently taking a more conservative approach to the question: ‘How safe are MEWPs?’ [This] is an initial attempt to measure and quantify MEWP safety.”

Based on the estimated rental fleet size, the average utilisation rate, and the average days worked per year, IPAF estimated the global total number of days rented machines were operated in 2013 at 168.4 million. Taken with the 68 reported MEWP fatalities worldwide during that year, the fatal injury rate was calculated at 0.040. In comparison, the global total number of days machines were operated in 2014 was estimated at 182.4m. As the number of reported MEWP fatalities during that year was 64, this resulted in a fatal injury rate of 0.035.

The MEWP fatal injury rates for 2013 and 2014 were put into perspective with existing data on accidents and fatalities worldwide. Statistics published by official bodies based on accidents as a proportion of workforce were found for France, Singapore, the UK, and the US.

The comparison with fatal injury rates due to falls from height and fatalities at work showed MEWPs to be a safe way to work at height, according to IPAF. In the US, for example, the MEWP fatal injury rate per 100,000 of the workforce in 2013 – the most recent year for which data are available – was 0.03. The fatal injury rate per 100,000 due to falls from height was 0.4 (the number due to falls from height involving MEWPs was excluded from this figure) and the fatal injury rate per 100,000 due to fatalities of any kind at work was 3.27 (the number of fatalities involving MEWPs was excluded from this figure).

IPAF also reviewed the MEWP fatal injury rate against other relevant industry sectors, but the research found little commonality between industries in the way that fatalities are reported or tracked.

Commenting on the research, IPAF CEO, Tim Whiteman, said: “We are examining the feasibility of distinguishing between accidents involving rented equipment and those involving end user-owned equipment. This ground-breaking project is helping us to create relevant safety campaigns and improve our training programmes – we would welcome comments and suggestions for improvement.”

Launched in 2012, IPAF’s accident reporting project has been designed to create a comprehensive record of known accidents. The organisation uses accident data gathered to improve the content of its training programmes, to develop technical guidance, to target specific high-risk professions or activities, and to provide research findings used to influence standards.

All of IPAF’s calculations and comparisons have been checked and validated by Ducker Worldwide, an industrial market research and consulting company that specialises in construction equipment and materials.

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