How to select the correct mobile elevating work platform  (MEWP) for the task

How to select the correct mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) for the task

  • Date: Wednesday 4th May 2022
  • PDF: Download

MEWPs fall into four main categories:

  • 1a - Vehicle-mounted scissor lifts
  • 2a - Self-propelled scissor lift
  • 1b - Vehicle-mounted boom (cherry picker)
  • 2b - Self-propelled boom (cherry picker)

When selecting the most appropriate MEWP, an assessment must be completed to determine which category of machine is most suitable and how the work will be accomplished safely. Such risk assessments should address the following:

Required elevation:

  • How high does the worker need to reach?
  • What is the task that needs to be performed?
  • How close does the worker need to be to the work being performed?

The height required will help in selecting the specific size range of the MEWP. The height of MEWPs can be stated in two ways:

  • Platform height - vertical distance from the surface upon which the MEWP is being supported to the floor of the platform
  • Working height - the reach of a worker (approximately 1.8m) added to the platform height

Required horizontal outreach:

  • How close can the worker get to the work needing to be performed?
  • What is the height of the object needing to be reached over to access the work?
  • What horizontal outreach and height is required to safely perform the work?
  • Are there any obstacles on the ground that will determine where to position the MEWP?

Please note manufacturers define the platform’s horizontal reach from the centre of rotation of the machine, not the side of the machine. Some also add 0.6m for personnel reach.

After the height and outreach are determined, the most appropriate MEWP can be specified.

If the worker is directly beneath or beside the task to be performed, a scissor lift may be most appropriate. Scissor lifts with an extension deck also may be an option if there are limited reach requirements.

If the worker must reach out to perform work, a boom lift is more suitable. Articulated boom lifts provide “up-and-over” reach which is useful when an elevated obstacle is in the way of the work, e.g., when the work is above a low roof or balcony. 

Required capacity:

  • How many people need to be lifted?
  • What other equipment will be required for the task? 

MEWPs are primarily used to raise personnel and tools to temporarily work at height, and so have a specifically designated carry capacity for “total loads”; as specified by the manufacturer. Only properly secured tools and materials, which are evenly distributed and safely handled by workers on the platform, are permitted.

Ground conditions:

  • Is the ground suitable (slope, level, uneven) and adequate i.e., capacity to support the machine?
  • When will the MEWP be required on site and what will the ground conditions be like i.e., loose fill; proximity to excavations; rough, prepared, paved, poured slab; finished surface?
  • What is the terrain in which the machine will be both travelling and elevating?
  • Is it level, sloped, uneven, rough, frozen, wet, etc.?
  • Are there obstacles, debris, drop-offs, holes, depressions?

Please note always refer to the manufacturer’s operator’s manual to identify the maximum ground pressure imposed by the MEWP as it varies based on the configuration of use.

Working indoors:

When using a MEWP indoors, the power source required must be considered. Are any emissions from an internal combustion engine a concern or are there any flammable materials?

Lighting should be reviewed to ensure it is adequate and that the operator can see overhead whilst stationary and whilst driving.

Also consider whether the floor will support the MEWP:

  • What is the acceptable floor load?
  • What does the MEWP (including personnel and equipment) weigh?
  • What is the maximum floor loading pressure of the MEWP?
  • What is the possibility of damaging the surface it is driving on?

Are there other activities taking place adjacent to the work area or are there other types of equipment working in the same area?

Work area:

When assessing the area where the MEWP will be operating you should consider:

  • What is the access from point of delivery to point of use around the work area?

Are there limitations to accessing the work area such as height, width and / or length? For instance:

  • Small scissors and vertical lifts fit through standard doors, and some are of a size and weight to allow access via elevators.
  • It is recommended that all MEWPs, including those designed for rough terrain, be in the lowered position when travelling and only elevated once the intended work area is reached.
  • Are there any obstacles needing to be manoeuvred around?
  • Are there any vehicle / personnel traffic considerations needing to be addressed?

Rescue plan:

It is essential that all work at height is properly planned and carried out in a safe and efficient manner, including being prepared for emergencies. Any planning for working at height in a MEWP should include a rescue plan – calling the emergency services is not an acceptable rescue plan. Factors to include:

  • Failure of upper control functions whilst elevated
  • Operator unable to operate controls from upper control station
  • Failure of auxiliary ground controls or of all normal and auxiliary controls

Operator competence:

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all MEWP operators have been adequately trained, via a recognised scheme. Additional courses are available if the operator is using the MEWP in higher risk areas and a competent person may be required to supervise the task on site. Always ensure that any MEWP operator or supervisor has in-date training.


It is generally accepted that a full body harness and restraint lanyard is required when operating a boom to prevent any falls from the basket. However, if operating near water where the machine could overturn it is recommended that a life jacket is worn rather than a harness in circumstances where the greatest risk of injury to the operator is from drowning rather than falling from the MEWP basket.

Site rules or company policy should also be considered when specifying the required PPE for the task.

Other factors:

The following additional questions may also help when selecting a MEWP:

  • Are there confined overhead areas in the workplace? What is the potential for a crushing hazard for MEWP occupants? Secondary guarding devices may be required.
  • Do the workplace conditions require outriggers or other levelling devices to safely elevate the MEWP?
  • What does the manufacturer specify as a maximum wind speed rating for the specific unit?
  • Are there high traffic areas that have the potential to interface with other vehicles (cranes, forklifts etc.), pedestrians and / or unusual events (rail, traffic, etc.)?
  • Can the MEWP be immobilised to stop use by unauthorised personnel?
  • Are there blind spots while operating or driving the MEWP?
  • What is the width, length, height and turning radius of the MEWP?
  • Where will refuelling take place?
  • Is there a need for lifting, welding, electrical and / or air-powered equipment? Can these be accommodated by accessories, or can the MEWP be modified to eliminate potential entanglements of cords, hoses, etc.?

Further information is available by clicking here.

Source: Andrew Naish

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