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April/May 2018
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Executive Hire News › Archives › April/May 2018 › Market Report: Low-Level Access : Positive steps

Market Report: Low-Level Access : Positive steps

The recent introduction of a new standard for a specific type of low-level access equipment has raised awareness of the solutions available for this market.

Many tasks involved in construction and maintenance activities involve work at low level, creating steady demand for appropriate products for work in diverse industries, for use in environments such as schools, shops, factories, warehouses and offices. Back in 2005 when the wide-ranging Work at Height Regulations came into force, they introduced a specific focus on low-level work, as well as at greater heights, and this generated a demand for new solutions.

PASMA (the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association) says that this led, in turn, to the development of specific low-level products with side protection, or guard rails, to prevent falls, intended for individual use as alternatives to stepladders. These products quickly became known as podiums or pulpit steps, and many manufacturers introduced new solutions. Inevitably, some products also came to market that were of questionable quality, often originating from the Far East.

Overturning or falling

The Association began receiving reports of certain products overturning or falling in operation, and it saw a need for a design standard to address the new category of equipment. It initially co-ordinated the development of PAS 250, a Publicly Available Specification covering such
low-level work platforms, technically described as having a single platform and side protection, for use by one person and offering a maximum working height of less than 2.5m. The draft was developed with input from organisations such as the Health & Safety Executive, HAE, Ladder Association and the UK Contractors Group.

The PAS 250 standard was published in 2012 and gave a benchmark of quality. After a period of two years, a PAS can be withdrawn, continued or converted to a full British Standard, and PASMA decided to follow this last-mentioned route. It recognised the opportunity to develop PAS 250 in the light of subsequent findings and further designing the design criteria. This new standard, BS 8620, was introduced in October 2016. Modifications included a dimensional alteration to side protection and changes to two specific tests.

PASMA points out that the introduction of BS 8620 does not mean that existing PAS 250 compliant products are obsolete. They can continue to be used until the time comes for replacement, and the Association has encouraged users to update their procurement policies accordingly. It has produced a factsheet on the Standard which can be seen at www.pasma.co.uk/bs8620.

Several manufacturers have been introducing new or modified products in response to the new standard over the past year or so, and hirers have been responding accordingly. Matt Browne, Director at Lakeside-Hire, which is based in Maldon, Essex, and specialises in access equipment, told EHN, “From a hire company perspective we have seen how Health & Safety considerations continue to drive innovation among manufacturers, and how it has improved the standards of low-level access equipment. This has led to a change in the lines we now offer end-users, with some now becoming redundant in the face of new equipment, whilst other lines continue to show signs of strong growth.

“Although many companies are producing stock that is compliant with the new BS 8620 standard, in our conversations with suppliers, many haven't had their certification process completed yet. Here at Lakeside-Hire, we haven't been asked by customers for certified stock that meets the BS 8620 standard. Perhaps this is because the industry isn't quite ready yet to communicate this for use on sites.

“Customers do recognise the forerunner PAS 250 standard, and this continues to be equipment that is requested by end users, having a much higher demand than ever before. As a company we're in the fortunate position to have been stocking podiums in recent years that are PAS250 compliant, but will also pass BS 8620 when the line is certified.

Steady demand

“We have also noticed a steady demand for one-man low level MEWPs (mobile elevated work platforms) and large podiums between 1.5 and 2m. The star of the low-level platform range has been the Pecolift, from Power Towers, with some construction projects insisting exclusively on it for their sites.”

Another business that has been actively considering the implications of the new standard is Hire Station. As we reported in our March issue, the hirer placed an order for a significant quantity of low-level access equipment from Lyte Ladders & Towers at the Executive Hire Show. This included 300 podiums with a 1.2m platform height and a further 200 models with 1.5m-high platforms. “They conform to the new BS 8620 standard,” said Brian Sherlock, MD of Hire Station and Brandon Hire (which parent company, Vp, acquired last November). “They can go through standard doorways and they do not require any ballast to be added at the bottom for stability. They are also very lightweight. We are replacing older podiums in our fleet and are keeping up with industry changes and innovations.”

As always, Health & Safety regulations should be seen as an opportunity rather than a burden, as they enable hirers to meet demand from customers seeking new products that enable them to comply. This also means that they, and end-users, can benefit from the latest technical advances and enhancements. •

     
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