Many construction professionals are afraid to use mast climbers. Why is this? Generally, it is based on misconceptions.
Some think of a glorified scissor lift. Or they think of a cradle (the type commonly used by window cleaners). The difference between these types of access and mast climbers is that mast climbers are secured to the building. This makes them much more secure. Data from The International Platform Access Federation shows that mast climbers are among the safest kinds of powered access.
After a tragic accident in May 2021 resulting in two fatalities, the safety of mast climbing work platforms faced more serious questions.
In response to the accident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a safety alert. Thankfully, this alert made suppliers and users of MCWPs pay more attention to safety, and take action to ensure it never happens again.
But the question lingers, are mast climbers safe?
This article discusses the safety alert and assesses the general safety of mast climbers by looking at the data, and addresses what needs to be done to guarantee the safe usage of MCWPs.
As a mast climber provider, safety is paramount. And we want you to have all the facts about mast climber safety.
The Health and Safety Executive Safety Alert regarding mast climbers can be found in full here.
The review found that the accident was caused by mechanical failure in drive units leading to uncontrolled falls. MCWP’s have two motors with centrifugal brakes which are supposed to protect against this. But what if the mechanical failure goes undetected or the brakes are damaged?
Here is the list of actions required by the HSE to guarantee safety:
- there is a means to identify a loss of mechanical integrity in each drive unit where this is the system to prevent falling with Overspeed
- each individual drive unit is fitted with a mechanical device, eg centrifugal brake, that automatically prevents the work platform from descending at excessive speed
- damage to drive units due to platforms being powered onto buffers/base frames is prevented
- platforms and associated equipment are not damaged by physical overloading
- thorough examinations, inspections and tests, and visual and functional checks are appropriately planned and carried out
The full alert should be reviewed and read on the HSE website.
These requirements do point to something interesting.
Much of the safety of the mast climber depends on its usage and maintenance. These must be inspected by trained professionals.
There are now requirements for the mechanical safety measure of units which all providers must have in place. But the supplier's safety check thoroughness is less easy to regulate.
Unit inspections rely on the protocols of the company supplying the mast climber. Besides the mechanical safety measures, the supplier must carry out robust risk assessments, inspections, routine maintenance and thorough examinations to ensure the full safety of the equipment. If these are in place, mast climbers can be operated very safely.
Conclusion: Choose a Safe Supplier
The data shows that mast climbers are among the safest forms of motorised access. However, tragic accidents have occurred. Sadly, these are preventable accidents. Prevention depends on the thorough safety protocols of mast climber providers.
If you want a safe access solution, then you need to find a supplier who requires their machines to have a CE certification and conform to BS EN1495 standards. Additionally, they must have robust safety checks and training measures. As with all equipment, it is dangerous if used improperly. But, if used properly, it is the safest form of motorised access.
For more information about the safety measures that BFT have put in place, view our recently published article.