Work Access Platforms and Their Major Applications by Industry

Whether a contemporary fashion statement or serving a practical purpose in history, Platform shoes raise individuals above the ground or floor level.

In Ancient Greece, platform shoes elevated the stature of public speakers and actors in the theatre. Five centuries ago, they became all the rage in Venice because they helped wearers avoid wet feet. Platform shoes lifted pedestrians above the muck of unpaved streets throughout the ages. On the downside, they add weight to the shoe and can be unstable, causing weariness that may result in slips and falls.

Work access platforms are just the opposite. They provide stability and fall protection, enabling workers to perform critical tasks at hazardous heights.

Easy to install, work-at-height platforms are constructed of aluminum or galvanized steel for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. They feature anti-slip steps and platform space. Modular in design, they can be expanded or modified on-site. Compliant guardrails complete a work platform with fall protection measures, the way shoes complete a wardrobe.

Types of work access platforms:

  • Static Access Platforms: Often designed as a permanent work platform, static access platforms are ideal for frequent tasks in a particular area or for a specific machine or transportation equipment.
  • Mobile Access Platforms: Have all the features and utility of a static work platform but are fitted with heavy-duty casters to move from station to station. They offer superior safety and worker flexibility compared to ladders. Total-lock brakes on the casters provide stability.
  • Crossover or Stepover Platforms: Feature steps on two sides to access a workspace from either direction. Crossover platforms are ideal for rooftops to reach a change in roof level or step over obstacles such as ductwork, piping, and cables.
  • Bespoke Work Platforms: These are static, mobile/portable, or crossover platforms customized with services such as shop air and electricity and added safety features such as bumpers to protect equipment and self-closing gates.

Applications for machinery and equipment at height:

Work access platforms are used extensively in factories, processing plants, and other facilities with large or difficult-to-access machinery and equipment that require maintenance, inspection, cleaning, and repairs.

They accommodate workers for assembly line operations, material handling, welding, painting and coating, packaging and shipping, equipment installation and replacement, and inventory management. Work platforms can also provide emergency access to elevated areas in case of equipment failures or other incidents.

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Applications for fleet and vehicle maintenance:

Work platforms can be used for routine maintenance, inspection, diagnosis, and repair on trucks and other large vehicles and fleet operations. This includes oil changes, tire rotation and replacement, and service on brake, electrical, exhaust, suspension, and other systems. Work platforms are also ideal for bodywork, including cleaning, detailing, repairs, and painting.

Applications for aviation and aircraft maintenance.

Work access platforms are essential in the aviation and aircraft industry. Workers must perform frequent inspections, maintenance tasks, troubleshooting, and repairs on virtually every plane component: engines, avionics, fuel systems, wings and tails, emergency exits, cabins, and the exterior body.

Work access platforms also make aircraft de-icing, weight and balance checks, emergency repairs, and upgrades (e.g., sensors, Wi-Fi, and satellite communications systems) safer and more efficient.

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Applications for railway maintenance.

As in road and air transportation, rail transportation requires regular inspections, maintenance, cleaning, and repairs. Work access platforms facilitate these tasks on wheels, brakes, gears, bearings, electrical systems, interior refurbishment, and emergency repairs.

Platforms provide safe access to rail car roofs to attend to roof-mounted services equipment and for painting, coating, and other exterior bodywork. Access platforms are also used to facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo for freight trains, refueling, and fuel system maintenance.

Applications for warehouse and storage functions.

Work access platforms are ideal for inventory management tasks, including loading and unloading goods, picking and packing, and organizing, checking, and labeling goods on shelves and storage racks. They can be used in staging and fulfillment areas for distribution centers and the installation, maintenance, and reconfiguration of pallet racks, cantilever racks, and conveyors.

Platforms also allow workers to perform service tasks on material handling systems, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, lighting, and other building services equipment. They facilitate cleaning services, fire inspections, and safety compliance checks.

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Platforms rise to the occasion.

Work access platforms may not be a fashion statement like platform shoes, but they are just as elegant. They give workers easy, safe access to machinery, inventory, and transportation equipment for frequent and essential tasks. They improve efficiency, productivity, and worker morale in several industries for a wide range of applications.

What are Fall Protection Systems, and Why are they Required?

The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada reported that in 2022, there were 20,625 accepted lost claim times due to workplace falls in the Midwest to Western Provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. This resulted in an unfortunate 26 fatalities. While 72% of the claims were for falls on the same level, 85% (22 of 26) of the fatalities were from falls to a lower level.

Clearly, preventing workplace falls on all levels is a major concern, but protection against falls to a lower level, especially from a rooftop, is critical to reducing the fatality rate. That is why these provinces have specific regulations and guidelines for employers to follow regarding fall protection. Fortunately, engineered fall protection systems enable employers to follow the regulations and protect their workers.

 

Collective (passive) and Personal (active) Fall Protection

A collective fall protection system—such as a guardrail—protects multiple workers at once without special equipment or training. Since a collective system provides fall protection with no extraordinary measures, it is also called “passive” fall protection.

A personal fall arrest system—such as a lifeline and roof anchor—protects an individual worker throughout a rooftop. It involves qualified training and requires equipment inspections before and after each use. This hands-on aspect of protecting a worker makes it an “active” fall protection system.

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Safer Roof Access

Rooftop safety begins with safe access to the roof. Roof hatches are a common means to access commercial, institutional, and industrial roofs. A modular roof hatch railing system will fit all standard hatches and configurations, has no “snag points,” and features a grab rail to aid workers climbing onto the roof.

The railings can be constructed of galvanized steel or aluminum for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance. They are fitted with a self-closing gate to prevent workers from falling back into the hatch.

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Safety at the perimeter

The roof edge is the most apparent hazard on a rooftop. A compliant perimeter guardrail system protects workers from falling over the edge and can be counterbalanced, attached to parapets, or fitted to metal roofs. They are modular systems that adapt to the roof layout and are installed easily without penetrating the roof. Like roof hatch railings, they are constructed of galvanized steel or aluminum for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance.

Safety Demarcation Zones

Workers that access the rooftop to perform uncomplicated, infrequent tasks (no more than monthly) and temporary (less than two hours) can be protected by a compliant warning or demarcation line. Depending on the circumstances (Is a perimeter guardrail in place? Is the worker wearing a personal fall arrest system?), a warning line can be used within 1.8 meters (6 feet) of the roof edge). In other situations, the warning line must be at least 4.6 meters (15 feet) from the roof edge.

An ideal warning line system features heavy-duty bases that do not penetrate the roof, galvanized steel uprights, and stainless steel cables with high-visibility warning flags every 1.8 meters (6 feet). It can be set up and moved for each task at hand.

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Safe Travels on the Roof

Rooftops are slippery in wet weather and are typically filled with obstacles, trip hazards, and hard-to-reach areas. Anti-slip roof walkways and crossover platforms enable roofers to avoid trip hazards as they traverse the roof. They also protect the roof’s surface from worker traffic.

Lifelines Anchored in Safety

Lifeline systems—vertical, horizontal, overhead—are often used to protect individual workers on the rooftop. They provide fall restraint, but in the case of a fall, they also provide fall arrest. Lifelines give workers the range and flexibility to perform tasks on virtually every type of roof. A variety of harnesses, lanyards/ropes, and connectors are available for a worker’s lifeline system; however, it must be completed with a compliant roof anchor system.

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Safety Regulations Summary

 

Provinces issue standards and regulations for fall protection compliance that have more in common than they do differences. In general, they call for building owners and employers to have a fall protection plan and safe work procedures that apply to heights of 3 meters (10 feet) or more.

The regulations cover many specifics, including roof access, guardrails, lifelines and anchors, travel restraints, fall arrest, rescue plans, and proper training. Details can be found as follows:

Top 5 Considerations When Choosing An Overhead Fall Arrest System

There are a variety of ways to address safety at height. The key to choosing the right form of fall protection requires a clear understanding of two main factors (1) the risks & hazards associated with the work at height and (2) the dynamic and technical differences between solutions that exist to address those risks & hazards most effectively.

Once an overhead fall arrest system has been determined to be the best method to protect your work at height needs, there are two system types…Rigid Rail and Horizontal Lifeline (HLL).

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When properly designed, engineered, installed, and maintained, Rigid Rail and Horizontal Lifeline systems are both capable of providing reliable and compliant fall protection. But which one is better? Which one is right for you?

These are the Top 5 considerations that you should consider when selecting the right type of overhead fall protection for your application.

#1 Cost

The biggest driving factor when selecting a system is typically its cost as you may only have a certain budget to work within. Cost is naturally the first factor that goes into the decision-making process. While it is often true that HLL systems have a lower cost of entry than Rigid Rail systems, there are multiple additional factors that determine initial system cost and that ultimately influence the cost of ownership over the lifecycle of the system. However, some budgets and facilities are ideal for a HLL system.

# 2 Facility Layout

What most don’t consider is their facility layout, which plays a huge part in how the system will be installed, the working height, how the system performs, and the cost of the system. The roof of a typical facility is made up of frame rafters and purlins, and this is the structure that the fall arrest system will be installed onto.

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Rigid Rails are versatile and can be installed onto either the purlins or the frame rafters, in any 360 degree direction. HLLs on the other hand, are usually only installed onto the frame rafters, unless additional structure is installed between two sets of frame rafters to allow for installing perpendicular to the purlins. This additional steel may end up making the fall arrest system more costly than just a standard Rigid Rail!

# 3 Working Height

One big disadvantage of HLLs is the larger fall clearance distance required, due to what is known as sag, as HLLs are not rigid like their counter part Rigid Rails. There are two types of Sag, Initial and Dynamic. Initial Sag comes from the weight of the system trolley, Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL), and the weight of the wire rope. You can see initial sag in the figure below. When you add the weight of a falling person, you get the dynamic sag as seen in the figure below. Rigid rails by design do not have these sags and as such can be used in lower clearance areas.

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#4 Worker Falling Safety

Both rigid rails and HLLs act as a fall arrest system, which means a worker can still fall but the fall protection system will stop the worker from hitting the ground. However, falling when using a HLL system comes with its own complications. Firstly, if a worker were to fall, the dynamic sag in a wire rope system will cause the trolley to roll into the middle of the HLL span, which in turn means the worker is exposed to a swing fall and potentially additional injuries. Lastly, if you have multiple workers using the HLL at the same time and one were to fall, all the slack in the system is removed and a sudden pull on the wire rope occurs resulting in the other workers being put at risk.

# 5 Rescue Plans

Rigid Rail and HLL systems should be regularly inspected, maintained, and repaired by a competent person to ensure the system is in good working order. This inspection is typically carried out annually, with a full engineering design review conducted every five years to ensure that the systems meet or exceed local and federal regulations. Should a fall occur both types of systems will require an inspection by a competent person to check for damages. Rigid Rail Systems typically will withstand a fall with minimal, if any, damages. However, Horizontal Lifeline Systems will often need part replacements (energy absorber, tensioner, wire rope, etc.) and in some cases you could end up having to replace the entire system!

About Us

The High Engineering team has a firm grasp of OSHA, CSA, ANSI standards and has decades of experience designing and installing fall protection systems for a range of applications including Rigid Rail and Horizontal Systems. Contact us with your questions and get help with choosing the perfect system!