MEWP fatality rate declines despite global rental market growth

The fatal injury rate for mobile elevating work platforms declined in 2016, despite increases in both the size of the global fleet and the number of worldwide rental days

The fatal injury rate (FIR) for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) declined in 2016, despite increases in both the size of the global MEWP fleet and the number of worldwide rental days.

Data collated and interpreted by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) revealed that there were 66 reported MEWP-related fatalities in 2016, down from 68 reported deaths during the previous year.

During the same period, the size of the global MEWP rental fleet grew from an estimated 1.17 million units at the end of 2015 to approximately 1.25 million units at the end of 2016.

With a total of 192.2 million on-hire rental days and 68 reported fatalities in 2015, the FIR for the year stood at 0.35 per 100,000 operating days. This rate fell to 0.32 per 100,000 operating days last year, with 206.1m on-hire rental days and 66 reported deaths – equivalent to one fatal incident every 3.2 million operating days.

Falls from height, electrocution, entrapment, and overturn of machinery represented the four main causes of MEWP-related fatalities in 2016.

Commenting on the latest statistics, Chris Wraith, safety and technical executive at IPAF, said: “While it is heartening to see the effective fatal injury rate fall at the same time as the size of the rental market and number of machine operating days [increase,] we must not be complacent.

“It is disappointing to see the same main causes of fatalities being repeated year on year, which suggests that the industry as a whole is not learning the lessons from previous incidents. In 2016, falls from height accounted for 38% of the reported fatalities, and electrocution, 23%.

“There were fewer fatal overturns – 12% of total fatal incidents, as opposed to 27% in 2015 – but entrapments accounted for a higher proportion of the reported deaths (18%) than the year before. In 2015, electrocution and entrapment both accounted for around 15% of the total reported fatalities.”

IPAF’s investigations showed that accidents are most often caused by management failings or operator error, almost all of which could be anticipated, avoided, or at least mitigated, according to Wraith.

With this in mind, IPAF will continue to pursue it’s ‘back-to-basics’ safety agenda in 2017, reminding operators and managers of the need for effective risk assessment, equipment selection, training, and incident reporting.

Tim Whiteman, chief executive officer of IPAF, said: “It is worth pointing out that MEWPs are still by far the safest way to work at height and, overall, it is encouraging that the [FIR] declined last year, even as the global MEWP rental market increased in terms of size and total operating hours.

“By focussing on good practice, employee training, and by reporting on near misses – as well as accidents and fatalities – companies can help ensure fewer people are injured or killed when operating MEWPs and, hopefully, we will see that fatal injury rate decline again in 2017,” he added.

The MEWP fatal injury rate as calculated by IPAF takes into account the following factors: estimated rental fleet size based on the IPAF Powered Access Rental Market Reports; estimated average utilisation rates per country and worldwide, defined as the share of the fleet out on rent at any time during a year; average days worked annually, calculated at five days per week for 50 weeks per year; and the number of fatalities involving MEWPs in a given year, based on the IPAF accident reporting project.

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

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