A Brief Guide to Access Solutions on UK Construction Sites
Access equipment encompasses a wide array of tools and machinery specifically designed to facilitate safe work at height. From traditional ladders and steps to advanced powered access equipment and towers, the term ‘access equipment’ encompasses a vast range of products tailored to various construction needs. By choosing the appropriate access equipment for the job, construction teams can enhance safety protocols and optimise productivity, fostering a secure working environment for all involved. This guide explores the diverse range of access equipment available to specialist contractors, and the best practices and utilisation methods for ensuring that workers can navigate heights safely and efficiently.
Ladders remain a fundamental tool for accessing various heights in construction projects, providing a simple yet effective way means of reaching various heights. As ladders are versatile, they can be used for a wide range of tasks at different working heights, as well as also being lightweight, portable, and easy to use. Ladders are commonly found on construction sites due to the minimal set up required to use them, as well as being able to be used without any extensive training necessary. In most industrial settings, the use of fibreglass ladders is often preferred for their non-conductive properties, increasing safety when working near electrical components.
However, whilst ladders are commonly found on-site, there have been some questions raised over their safety. When using ladders on-site, workers should receive proper training on ladder usage, including how to inspect for damage, set up securely, and maintain stability when ascending or descending. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offer detailed guidance on the safe use of ladders and stepladders on sites, outlining simple, sensible precautions you should take to stay safe.
Podiums, also known as step or work platforms, are another valuable access solution for providing a stable and secure platform for workers to perform tasks at height. Unlike ladders, podiums offer a more spacious workspace with additional safety features, making them particularly suitable for large projects. Podiums are often preferred to ladders as they enable workers to perform tasks at height for more prolonged periods of time, with integrated guard and handrails for workers to lean against or hold onto for balance. As with ladders, podiums also come in adjustable heights allowing workers to alter the platform to suit their specific job requirements.
Podiums are much larger than ladders, requiring adequate space for setup and operation, with the set-up and dismantling process potentially becoming quite time-consuming. Whilst being more stable, podiums often have a limited height reach making them suitable for lower-level access tasks, where alternative access solutions (such as push-around-verticals) may be better suited for tasks requiring more height.
For some construction projects, such as high-rise residential and commercial buildings, specialised access solutions may be required to navigate challenging structures or work environments. This specialist access equipment can range from Stairway Towers and custom scaffolding, to gantries and bridging systems. These can all be tailored specifically to your project needs, including factors such as site layout, structural complexity, and access constraints.
Incorporating relevant safety features, specialist access equipment is versatile and adaptable, improving productivity for your workers allowing them to focus on their tasks without the need to navigate challenging terrain or obstacles unsafely. These specialist access solutions may involve some more complex, time-consuming installations, requiring teams to allocate or schedule additional time and resource to assemble and disassemble, impacting project schedules and timelines. Due to their more complex nature, their may also be some cost considerations as it can be more expensive than standard non-mechanical access.
Push-around vertical (PAV) platforms are compact and versatile access solutions designed for tasks requiring precise positioning at height. Thanks to their compact and lightweight designs, PAVs are particularly valuable in confined areas and easy to manoeuvre around site, navigating through doorways, corridors, and narrow aisles with ease. These lifts typically feature a telescoping mast or scissor mechanism that raises and lowers the platform, enabling precise positioning for tasks such as painting, plastering, or electrical work. PAVs offer a great balance between the flexibility of ladders and the stability of larger access equipment, allowing workers to reach heights of up to several meters.
PAV’s do however have limited reach compared to other aerial work platforms such as boom lifts or scissor lifts. They may not be suitable for tasks that require access to very high or hard-to-reach areas. As they are also designed for use on flat and level surfaces, they also may not be suitable for rough terrain or outdoor construction sites with uneven ground conditions.
Scissor lifts are versatile aerial work platforms that provide safe and efficient access to elevated areas on-site. These hydraulic powered lifts feature a scissor mechanism that raises and lowers the platform vertically. Larger platforms accommodate multiple workers, tools, and materials – increasing productivity as workers can perform tasks simultaneously without the need for constant repositioning. Despite their size, scissor lifts are designed for easy maneuverability around the construction site. Most models are equipped with steering wheels or joystick controls that allow operators to navigate through tight spaces and around obstacles with precision.
It is crucial when operating scissor lifts to adhere to all safety information, including weight and capacity limits, as well as proper usage procedures. Exceeding the weight capacity of a scissor lift can compromise its stability and increase the risk of accidents, potentially endangering both workers and bystanders. A further alternative to scissor lifts are boom lifts. These are slightly less restrictive and are more suited for tasks that require reaching over obstacles or accessing areas that require horizontal outreach.
Access equipment is a term that spans a large range of products, therefore it is critical to hire the correct working at height equipment for your project, to achieve maximum safety, and productivity. It is also important that operators are well trained and know how to carry out their tasks involving access equipment safely and following the relevant health and safety guidelines. Here at THX, we stock a comprehensive range of Access Equipment for all of your working at height needs. Our hire fleet includes a variety of options from non-mechanical low-level access, including ladders, podiums, and specialist access to push-around-verticals and scissor lifts. Visit our website and get in touch with a member of our team to discuss your specific requirements and experience stress free tool hire, with next day delivery and guaranteed two-hour delivery slots.