Taking aerial work platform safety to new heights

The single greatest risk on a construction site is falling, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Skanska and other leading builders are striving to eliminate that risk, in part by reducing the use of ladders on our project sites. A safer and more flexible solution is aerial work platforms, but even with AWPs, the number of serious accidents is astonishing. So Skanska is pushing the industry for higher levels of AWP safety.

In 2013, the most recent year for which the International Powered Access Federation has compiled data, AWPs accounted for 53 fatalities worldwide, including 30 deaths in the U.S. Specific causes of those fatalities included AWPs overturning and operators being electrocuted, falling and being trapped while at the controls. Those numbers frustrate and sadden me, because those deaths were all preventable.  How can Skanska help drive the change needed in our industry to eliminate jobsite incidents?

Transbay 1 (1)

These crew members who are part of our project erecting 24,000 tons of superstructure steel for San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center work from an aerial work platform equipped with anti-entrapment technology.

An important step we’re taking is that by the end of this year, all AWPs on Skanska USA project sites – both owned, rented and through trade partners – must be equipped with active anti-entrapment technology. By this, I chiefly mean a pressure-sensitive strip that’s installed above or below the control panel, so that if the operator is pinned against an overhead object that pushes his or her chest down on that panel, the machine stops working and sounds an alarm, and might even retract slightly.

We’ve been able to get AWP manufacturers and major equipment rental companies to update their fleets with anti-entrapment technology by joining on this issue with 11 other major U.S. contractors. Now, with so much of the industry demanding anti-entrapment technology, it is on its way to becoming standard. That will both improve safety and lower the technology’s cost, and it will level the playing field for all of us. The AWPs on many Skanska project sites already meet this requirement.

Skanska is already looking to do more with AWP safety. For instance, we’re testing wearable sensors that would shut off an AWP if it comes in close proximity with a pinch point. I’m excited about these advances, but let me emphasize that technology alone will not end incidents. At the heart of an Injury-Free Environment® is a workforce that genuinely cares for their own safety and the safety of those around them. We as leaders – and we’re all leaders in some way – need to do everything we can to build that culture of caring.

Paul Haining

Paul Haining

Chief environment, health and safety officer

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