Work Platforms Adjust to Standards, Technology Requirements

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) adjust to new safety regulations by updating design standards and operator training requirements.


By Construction Equipment Magazine



Key Insights for Buyers

  • In an effort to bring global uniformity to the design and use of MEWPs, new standards will no longer address MEWPs by specific machine types—such as telescopic-boom, articulating-boom, or scissors models—but will, instead, categorize the models by Group (A or B) and Type (1, 2, or 3).

  • New standards address specific MEWP design aspects, including platform-weight sensing, control activation, function speeds, tires, and access guarding.

  • Operators will be required to perform a “workplace risk assessment,” which includes requirements for properly selecting the MEWP for the task to be performed, identifying potential hazards at the work site, defining methods for removing or mitigating these risks, and for developing a written rescue plan when a fall from height is identified.

  • More stringent training will be required for all operators.


Overview of the work platform market


The market includes telescopic-boom, articulating-boom, scissor, vertical-mast, and trailer-mounted models, all of which will soon be subject to new regulations. “The coming years will mean big changes for customers purchasing aerial products in North America as manufacturers and job sites will need to adhere to the updated ANSI and CSA standards,” says Marie Engstrom, Genie product manager, Terex AWP.


New standards that Engstrom notes will address the design, safe use, and training requirements for MEWPs. The new regulations, formulated by U.S. and Canadian standards-writing organizations, are expected to take effect December 2019.


In the United States, the Scaffold & Access Industry Association (SAIA) is one of more than 220 standards-developing entities accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and serves as secretariat for the ANSI A92 series of MEWP regulations, which have been revised. In Canada, the CSA Group (formerly the Canadian Standards Association) has revised its B354 suite of MEWP standards.

In drafting the new standards, these organizations referenced similar standards, such as those of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in an effort to bring global uniformity to the design and use of MEWPs. The new standards will no longer address MEWPs by specific machine types—such as telescopic-boom, articulating-boom, or scissors models—but will, instead, categorize the models by Group (A or B) and Type (1, 2, or 3).


Group A machines are those having platforms that are always over the chassis, such as scissor lifts; Group B models are those with platforms that do not always remain over the chassis, such as telescopic- and articulating-boom models. Type 1 machines can only move when in a stowed position; Type 2 machines can be moved when elevated, but controls are located on the chassis; and Type 3 machines can be moved when elevated and have controls on the platform.


“As a result of the recently published ANSI A92.20 and CSA B354.7 design standards, expect to see changes to all manufacturers’ [MEWPs] in the coming months,” says Corey Connolly, product manager, Skyjack. “In general, the approach will be fairly similar: design updates to address the changes from the previous standards—including active load-sensing systems, foam- filled tires, and secondary guarding as standard—while also making additional updates to support these standard-driven changes.”

Genie’s Engstrom provides a few details.


“While a lot will change,” says Engstrom, “a few notable items stand out: First, machines will be required to weigh the load in the platform. Booms often lift multiple users, equipment, and supplies, and in the future, if the combined weight exceeds the rated load of the machine, some functions will be disabled until the appropriate amount of weight is removed.


“Expect to see manufacturers of both articulated and telescopic booms enhance machines to allow additional rated load to minimize the frequency [of machines being disabled] and disrupting productivity. Similarly, when the machine has exceeded an allowable slope, some functions will be disabled under the new requirements. Only functions that return the machine to a slope within the allowable range will be allowed.”


In addition to changes mandated by revisions to the ANSI/CSA standards, Skyjack’s Connolly notes another factor that might have a significant influence on MEWP design.

“Stage 5 emission changes in Europe will also be driving further changes in 2019,” says Connolly. “Changes to the emission standards for all diesel engines [with more than] 25 horsepower will see the addition of further aftertreatment systems and subsequent maintenance requirements. Equipment owners and operators will need to familiarize themselves with how this will impact not only their operational costs, but also their day-to-day operation of the equipment.”


Design changes/safe use


As both Connolly and Engstrom have noted, the new standards will address specific design aspects of MEWP design, including platform-weight sensing, control activation, function speeds, tires, and access guarding. Control activation, for example, will require designs that protect against “inadvertent and sustained involuntary operation,” requiring in some instances the use of physical guards, interlocks, additional enabling devices, or time-out systems. Standards also address access guarding, prohibiting the use of “flexible” materials, such as chains and ropes, and perhaps requiring use of access gates.


The new standards also address how manufacturers test for stability, including, for instance, accounting for wind-loading forces. Testing also requires manufacturers to assess the effect of a tire failure when the machine is working, unless the machine uses a low-pressure-warning system.


“Changing requirements for stability testing will require what is effectively a ‘flat-tire test’ for machines with air-filled tires,” says Engstrom. “This can be a challenging test to pass for certain machines, so expect to see some manufacturers moving to solid tires when machine parameters cannot continue to accommodate air-filled tires. This will vary across the range of booms.”


Along with physical design changes and new test procedures that manufacturers must address, the new standards place increased obligations for safe operation on those parties downstream of the manufacturer, including the equipment dealer or rental firm, the user/employer, maintenance technicians, and operators.


Design goals for MEWPs included increased versatility and reduced maintenance concerns. The Genie GTH-844, for example, uses a 74-horsepower, Tier 4-Final engine that minimizes the need for exhaust aftertreatment, and features a standard “Quick-Attach” system.

Among the most demanding requirements might be that for performing a “workplace risk assessment,” which is to be completed prior to MEWP use. The risk assessment includes requirements for properly selecting the MEWP for the task to be performed, identifying potential hazards at the work site, defining methods for removing or mitigating these risks, and for developing a written rescue plan when a fall from height is identified. That latter requirement, developing a written rescue plan, would, it seems, demand thoughtful planning from MEWP users.


More stringent regulations for training might also impinge on those involved with MEWP use.

Current standards require that an operator provide proof of training upon request, including the entity or instructor providing training, as well as models the training covered. Training must be provided in a language the operator can understand.


Based on available information, training requirements under the new standards might be expanded to address the following concerns:

  • Supervisor Training (ANSI only) requires MEWP supervisors to be fully trained

  • Safe-Use Programs, specific to MEWP use, must be developed and documented by the user

  • Occupant/Emergency Training requires that all platform occupants have a basic level of knowledge to work safely on the MEWP, including how to operate controls in an emergency

  • Maintenance/Repair Training (new for CSA) requires that a competent person inspect and maintain the MEWP in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and applicable standards

See Addressing the Challenges of the Upcoming Changes to the ANSI A92 Standards, by Scott Owyen, training manager, Genie.



Other design trends


As the new standards place more emphasis on MEWP stability, some telescopic- and articulating-boom models might add weight to the base machine. And, as Genie’s Engstrom noted, these machines also are being designed for higher production, allowing for more weight on the platform, which can mean more supplies lifted per trip to reduce the number of required cycles. Production of new models also gets a boost from more height, added up-and-over capability of articulated models, faster lift speed, and the ability to position the working platform independent of the main boom.


Examples of designing for greater productivity are the Genie XC (Xtra Capacity) models and the Skyjack SJ85 AJ. The Genie telescopic-boom XC models offer a dual lift capacity of 660 pounds unrestricted and 1,000 pounds restricted, and are designed to accommodate up to three people. The Skyjack SJ85 AJ, the largest articulating-boom model in the Skyjack range, has a platform height of 85 feet and an up-and-over clearance of 34 feet. The machine has a dual-capacity rating (500/750 pounds) and features an “open-knuckle” riser design that, according to the company, allows the machine to attain full lift in about 60 seconds.


Along with added reach and capacity, manufacturers also are responding to user requests by designing for easier serviceability, easier transport, more-efficient engine-mounted generators for high-power applications, such as welding, and proportional throttle control for reduced noise and reduced fuel consumption.


Energy systems for MEWPs also are evolving to keep pace with market demands.


Historically, diesel-powered units were used outdoors and battery-powered model were used indoors. Today, advanced battery technology, more-efficient diesel engines, and dual-fuel engines, along with new “bi-energy” and hybrid systems (available for select models), are included among today’s power-system choices.


Bi-energy systems might use an on-board generator for automatic, stand-alone charging of the batteries, or they might use a diesel-powered motor-generator to charge batteries during operation—or, in some instances, to assist in driving the hydraulic pumps. Some bi-energy systems allow the diesel to be used independent of battery power, giving the machine the capability to use either system depending on the operating situation. Some systems also employ regenerative braking to assist in keeping the batteries charged.


As users of all types of construction equipment look for machines that are more fuel efficient and kinder to the environment (which are requirements that might be mandated in some instance by bid specifications) expect the MEWP industry to respond with an increased number of models that satisfy those criteria. In the meantime, the market for MEWPs looks healthy, but might be affected to some degree in the near term by changing design standards.


“The market for booms remains strong in both North America and Europe,” says Skyjack’s Connolly. “The changes to the aforementioned standards, however, will likely have an impact on the 2019 buying season in North America, with a firm implementation date now following publication [of the standards]. Depending on when manufacturers plan to introduce these new machines—that will likely influence a number of buying decisions for customers, both big and small.”


A general design trend for MEWPs aims for increased capacity and reach, which assist in boosting capacity. The Skyjack SJ85 AJ, for instance, has a platform height of 85 feet, an up-and-over clearance of 34 feet, and a dual-capacity rating of 500/750 pounds.

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