The fatal injury rate for mobile elevating work platforms declined in 2016, despite the fact that the total MEWP rental fleet and number of rental days worldwide increased significantly during the same period, according to a report issued by the International Powered Access Federation.

The data, exclusively collated and interpreted by IPAF, indicates that in 2016 there were 66 reported fatalities involving MEWPs worldwide, compared to 68 deaths reported in 2015. However, during that period, the size of the global MEWP rental fleet rose from an estimated 1.17 million units at the end of 2015 to 1.25 million estimated at the end of 2016.

In 2015, the number of on-hire rental days was 192.2 million according to IPAF’s research and the number of fatalities was 68, for a fatal injury rate of 0.35 per 100,000 operating days. In 2016, on-hire rental days increased to 206.1 million, with 66 reported deaths, for a fatal injury rate of 0.32 per 100,000 operating days, decreasing the rate to one fatal incident every 3.2 million operating days.

Of the 66 reported MEWP fatalities in 2016, the main causes were falls from height, electrocution, entrapment and overturn of machinery.

“While it is heartening to see the effective fatal injury rate fall at the same time as the size of the rental market and number of machine operating days have increased significantly, we must not be complacent,” said Chris Wraith, IPAF’s safety and technical executive. “It is disappointing to see the same main causes of fatalities being repeated year on year, which suggests that the industry as a whole is not learning from previous incidents. In 2016, fall from height accounted for 38 percent of the reported fatalities and electrocution 23 percent. There were fewer fatal overturns (12 percent of total fatal incidents, as opposed to 27 percent in 2015), but entrapments accounted for a higher proportion of the reported deaths (18 percent) than the year before. In 2015, electrocution and entrapment both accounted for around 15 percent of the total reported fatalities.”

Wraith added that investigations show that accidents are most often caused by management failings or operator error, which can usually be anticipated and avoided.

“This is why in 2017 IPAF is pursuing its ‘back to basics’ safety agenda, reminding operators and managers of the need for good risk assessment, choosing the right equipment for the job, proper training for users and supervisors, sound technical and safety guidance and a robust incident reporting regime, under which lessons are learned and shared across the business and the wider industry,” added Wraith.

“It is worth pointing out that MEWPs are still by far the safest way to work at height, and overall it is encouraging that the fatal injury rate declined last year even as the global MEWP rental market increased in terms of size and total operating hours,” said Tim Whiteman, CEO of IPAF. “By focusing on good practice, employee training and by reporting on near misses as well as accidents and fatalities, companies can help ensure fewer people are injured or killed when operating MEWPs, and hopefully we will see that fatal injury rate decline again in 2017.”

IPAF’s accident reporting project, launched in 2012, is compiling a comprehensive record of known accidents. The accident data gathered enables IPAF to improve the content of training programs, develop technical guidance, target specific high-risk professions or activities, and provide research findings to bodies developing and drafting new industry standards. All manufacturers, rental companies, contractors and users are encouraged to report any known accidents – not only those involving fatalities – involving MEWPs and mast climbing work platforms worldwide at www.ipaf.org/accident