IPAF welcomes new international standard on MEWP operator controls
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The International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) welcomes the introduction of a new international standard on mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) operator controls - the ISO 21455:2020. Published in April 2020, it culminates a decade of work from IPAF, its members and the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to standardise the actuation, displacement, location and method of operation of MEWP control.

The new standard is the result of work that commenced in 2010 when the UK HSE began to look into MEWP entrapment and control design. It also builds on research first undertaken by IPAF into which, if any, methods of operation and orientation of MEWP controls might be standardised across different brands and models to further improve safety. The UK HSE research resulted in the reports RR960 and RR961 being published in 2013.

Following the publication of the reports, the UK HSE and MEWP manufacturers began discussions through IPAF's Manufacturers' Technical Committee (MTC) and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), which led to the creation of the Manufacturers of Elevating Work Platforms Council (MEWPC), later penned as the MEWP Industry Manufacturers Group (MIMG). Human factors and ergonomics research work done by the UK's Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) also played an important role.

The outcome of this collaboration was a proposal in 2015 to develop an international standard for MEWP control performance, location, marking and method of operation, which eventually brought about the release of the new ISO standard.

 As part of the standard development process, a research project led by IPAF and EWPA (Elevating Work Platform Association) in Australia, a simulated MEWP platform with a multi-position control panel was taken to construction sites and industry events. Operators of varying experience took part in a research exercise using the control panel. The resulting data proved invaluable to the members of the standard’s development committee, ISO TC 214 Working Group 1, as they determined joystick controller orientation relative to the work platform floor.

Peter Douglas, CEO and MD of IPAF said, “This unprecedented co-operation between global MEWP manufacturers, trade associations and the UK HSE resulted in the new MEWP control standard. It shows how important IPAF's committees are in driving forward standards globally and it is gratifying to see this project moving to fruition and improving the safety of MEWPs by standardising the controls.”

Chris Wraith from IPAF member Access Safety Management Ltd and former IPAF technical & safety executive, who also worked to introduce the new standards commented, “IPAF and its members were heavily involved throughout this 10-year journey and should be proud of their involvement in producing this landmark standard, which now sets a new international benchmark for MEWP control design.”

IPAF North American manager Tony Groat, who is a member of ISO TC 214 added, “I believe this standard provides new language that can impact control designs to improve the operator's intuitive direction of motion based on the position of the control panel- tilted towards or away from the operator. I am optimistic that this standard will immediately influence MEWP manufacturer’s and country design standards in their next revisions.”