The Alimak Hek MS ProMax mast climbing work platform (www.alimakhek.com) can reach 200 meters in height when anchored, according to the company.

Mast Climbing Industry Foresees Safety Gains

Several initiatives will make a positive impact this year, the co-chair of the Scaffold Industry Association's Mast Climbing Council has said. They include a revised design standard, training courses, materials from the SIA/OSHA alliance, and a CPWR white paper's recommendations.

A meeting of the Scaffold Industry Association's Mast Climbing Council and a "State of the SIA" luncheon speech are among the Feb. 23 highlights as the association ends its three-day Committee Week 2011 in San Diego, Calif. Kevin O'Shea of Mastclimbers LLC in Atlanta, co-chair of the Mast Climbing Council and chairman of the International Powered Access Federation's International Mast Climber Committee, has said 2011 is an important year for safety in the mast climber industry because several initiatives to strengthen training and raise awareness have been completed. Another one, a revised ANSI A92.9 design standard for mast climbers, is expected to be issued early this year.

O'Shea gave a presentation in December 2010 to OSHA's Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health about the progress made since 2007. He said the industry "stepped up to the plate in 2007, and a tremendous amount of hard work over three years has created an impressive body of work which will begin to positively impact our industry in 2011." IPAF's training courses and Powered Access License are now offered in IPAF training centers and by SIA's Accredited Training Institutes; in addition, the IPAF American Safe Use Guidelines for MCWPs have been endorsed by SIA.

CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training presented a white paper at the same ACCSH meeting that summarized its recommendations for safe use of these elevated work platforms. O'Shea praised the document, which was developed by the CPWR Work Group on Mast Climbing Platforms and is titled "Reaching Higher -- Recommendations for the Safe Use of Mast Climbing Work Platforms." The white paper recommends new training programs and qualifications for training providers and says OSHA's current standard for construction scaffolds does not address potential safety hazards faced by mast climbers, although it does reference the A92.9 standard.

The white paper says on average, about 16,800 people work on some 5,600 mast climbers each day in the United States, and workers spend an additional 3.3 million work hours erecting and dismantling mast climbers each year. Their use will increase, it predicts, because mast climbers are quicker to erect and dismantle than other types of scaffolding and can reduce shoulder and lower back injuries because they can adjust to optimal working height. But because they can reach hundreds of feet in the air, a failure can cause multiple deaths, the white paper cautions. The authors' NIOSH-funded research found documentation on 12 mast climber incidents from 1990 to 2010 that killed 18 people and injured eight others.

The authors reported mast climbers are becoming more and more common on U.S. construction sites. They are as safe as other scaffold types when installed and used correctly, the white paper states.

O'Shea told the committee that SIA's alliance with OSHA is vital to making the industry aware of these resources. The alliance has produced Mast Climbing Work Platform Safety Tips in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as other tools. Taking all of the resources as a whole, he said, the industry "now has comprehensive design standards, best practice advice and quality training courses."

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