Boosting access equipment safety in the Gulf

Alexis Potter, Sales & Marketing Director at Rapid Access, explains how the company actively participates in the industry's drive for improvement.

When it comes to scope and vision, developers in the Middle East have never allowed themselves to be bound by practical considerations. By the same token, regional contractors have had to become adept at identifying novel ways to surmount increasingly complex construction-related obstacles.

Securing safe passage to hard-to-reach areas represents one of the most common, but significant, challenges that Gulf contractors have to overcome. Doing so would be all but impossible without the assistance of access equipment experts.

The variants of access equipment employed by construction professionals are numerous, but broadly speaking, the products used can be divided into two categories: mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and scaffolding systems. Regardless of the product in question, safety is paramount.

The technology employed by scaffolding producers may be simpler than that used by MEWP suppliers, but there’s no dearth of innovation within the field.

Demand for safe and reliable equipment is equally high when it comes to powered access, a field in which safety-related innovations continue to minimise the risks associated with working at height.

According to data released by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), the fatal injury rate of MEWPs remained stable in 2015, despite year-on-year increases in the global fleet size and number of rental days.

The number of days a rented machine was operated during the course of last year was 192.2 million, and the number of reported MEWP fatalities was 68, resulting in a fatal injury rate of just 0.035. In comparison, the number of days a rented machine was operated in 2014 was 182.4 million, and the number of reported MEWP fatalities was 64, resulting in the same fatal injury rate.

As Middle East and international sales and marketing director at MEWP rental outfit, Rapid Access, Alexis Potter is an active participant in this drive for improvement. He explains: “We have a specialist department within our parent company, Lavendon Group, called BlueSky Systems. Its remit is to develop new accessories that can be used in conjunction with MEWPs to further improve their safe operation and efficiency.

“We are continuing to see increased demand for systems such as the BlueSky MHAs, which assist with the safe handling of materials at height; and SkySiren, which is an award-winning secondary guarding device that increases operator safety in the event of entrapment.”

In addition to the safety-related innovation taking place among access equipment manufacturers and suppliers, specialist outfits are working to develop additional systems that protect individuals operating at ground level.

Rapid Access’s Potter agrees with this summation, adding: “The construction industry remains the largest sector in which we operate by a considerable margin. This is the trend across the GCC, and it also represents the largest sector within our European business.

“As the use of MEWPs becomes more popular across the Gulf, we are seeing increased adoption in other industries, particularly the FM sector. To support this, we employ sector-focused business development managers and invest in equipment more suitable to the segments in question.”

Potter is confident that this upward trend will persist in the Gulf. He concludes: “Demand for MEWPs is increasing across the GCC. Changes within local economies will affect the rates of industry growth, but as more and more people realise that these units represent the safest and most effective way of working at height, the industry will continue to grow.

“When you compare the penetration of MEWPs in the GCC to markets like the UK and the US, you can see that the industry still has a lot of room for growth.”

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