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Rapid Access on FM operations at heights

With 20 years experience of operating the Middle East’s largest powered access fleet, Rapid Access is an expert in its field. This month, the company’s regional team shares its four key considerations when selecting and using powered access equipment

Rapid Access’s machines in use at Dubai Opera.
Rapid Access’s machines in use at Dubai Opera.

Step 1: choosing the right machine

The first step in selecting the right equipment for the task in hand is to work with the customer to assess their requirements. At Rapid, we carry out on site surveys on behalf of customers to develop a full brief and be able to make an appropriate machine recommendation.

Choosing the right size of machine is crucial, as workers struggling to use equipment which is too low or potentially over sized can increase the operational risks considerably. The right machine should allow the operator easy access to the area of work from within the basket with their feet planted firmly on the floor of the basket. In addition to the size of the machine, we need to consider a range of other aspects of the work, including whether operators are working indoors or outdoors, floor finishes, floor loading capacity, charging points availability, access restrictions, whether materials need to be carried within the basket, and so on.

Understanding the answers to all of these questions and more will help us in choosing the right machine, including whether to supply an electric or diesel unit, marking or non-marking tyres – and in terms of weight and access restrictions – whether or not to select a unit from our specialist range of equipment.

Stacey Loftus, business development manager for FM.

Step 2: to rent, lease, or buy?

The perception of providing rental equipment to the FM sector is that it is implemented on a short-term basis, but that is not always the case. We supply equipment for a range of contracts that could span a day, a week or a month, and even be a long-term contract for more than three years or equipment sale. The choice of what method of supply to adopt is up to our customer. We are on hand to offer advice and proposals but ultimately, we aim to work with the end user and deliver the best service possible.

The diverse nature of FM often leads to requirements for a range of different equipment at different times of the year. This variation means the best option is to rent equipment, as customers can then focus financial capital in different areas of their business rather than holding a depreciating asset with unpredictable utilisation levels. Rental ensures that our customers are using a specialist provider to supply and maintain a very specialist piece of equipment.

Darren Spring, Rapid Access’s UAE regional sales manager.

Step 3: optimising your equipment

Once the appropriate machine and method of supply has been agreed upon, a major consideration is the actual work to be carried out by the operator inside the basket. In many cases, we may supply an accessory from our BlueSky range that could improve operator and operational safety and deliver increased efficiency of working at height operations. BlueSky is a specialist division of Lavendon Plc, Rapid’s parent company. The BlueSky team works at the cutting edge of the powered access industry to develop accessories that can be supplied along with equipment to help in a range of applications.

One of our products for the FM industry is the SkyRak series. These are a range of OEM-approved and third-party certified lightweight racking attachments that can be fitted to scissors and booms. These attachments allow operatives to safely and securely lift materials to height. Whether you are installing new lighting systems or decorating a new marketing campaign billboard, these attachments make sure your operators work productively and efficiently and without potential insurance risk caused by loading the railings of the basket in contravention of manufacturer guidelines.

SkySentry is an innovative GPS enabled keypad system which can be used to limit equipment operation to those users that are properly trained and permitted to do so. The system can also be used by customers to track the location of the equipment, which is ideal for a multi-site environment; it also displays whether the unit is in operation or being transported.

These features are proven to help our clients manage their fleet of equipment. Under-utilised equipment can be off-hired to reduce costs and clients can easily ensure the machines are being used by their own operatives, and only in pre-approved areas.

Andrew Youssef, regional BlueSky product manager.

Step 4: training is critical

Whilst powered access equipment is designed to be the safest and the most efficient method of working at heights for many applications, it is also crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the operation and management of the equipment is properly trained for the job. Rapid Access delivers around 30% of its International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) training to clients from FM companies.

As the leading provider of ISO 19978 internationally recognised training with around 60% market share in the GCC region, we have deep insights into the needs for specialist mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) training in the sector.

Most of these training modules are for operators, and the IPAF syllabus covers topics such as legislation, machine components, common hazards, and familiarisations. During the practical elements of training with FM clients, we utilise the more common small electric scissor lifts and articulating boom machinery that they would need for interior and exterior maintenance tasks.

Mike Palmer, QHSE & regional training manager.

Top tips

Rapid Access’s top four factors to bear in mind to safely and efficiently use powered access equipment for FM works

- The first stage to safe operations at height is to ensure correct equipment Selection.

- Working at heights is a high-risk activity – make sure that you consult a specialist supplier for the unique equipment it requires.

- Ensure your operators have the best possible tools and attachments to allow them to work safely and efficiently.

- Everyone involved in the operations must undergo TRAINING to internationally recognised standards.


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