Suspended working platforms also referred to as Gondolas are popularly used in a lot of countries especially Hong Kong. The Suspended Working platform is used to carry on-site personnel, workers, technicians or engineers whose skill is required in an area that cannot be reached with ladders. They are mostly used for installation of windows on skyscrapers and other tall buildings, for cleans widows of buildings that cannot be reached with the normal ladders, for the installation of special types of walls, for the external renovation of bridges, for the external decoration of tall buildings, for painting, for building chimneys; silos and other structures, and some other uses.
Owning a suspended working platform subjects you to some code and regulation which has to be adhered to and strictly followed every time the suspended working platform is to be used. The code also contains important advice as well as safety precautions that have to be followed.
The suspended working platform can be divided into two different types. They are:
- The permanently suspended working platform
- The Temporary suspended working platform
The two of them have special and unique advantages and when they can be used. They both serve the same functions although in different ways.
- The Permanent suspended working platform
The permanent suspended working platform is a type of suspended working platform that as its name implies is designed to permanently be installed on a single building so that the inspection, maintenance, and cleaning of the building it is attached to is easier to carry out. the permanent suspended working platform is also referred to as a building maintenance unit
The permanent suspended working platform is made up of a working platform where work is done. This platform is suspended with wire ropes which are from a rig that has been attached to the roof when the suspended working platform was being built. The roof rig allows the suspended working platform the ability to be rotated and moved horizontally to the left or right. it can also be lowered or lifted depending on where the work is to be done with the suspended working platform. There are some suspended working platform that has roof trolleys. The roof trolleys allow these platform to operate on rails and other suitable or appropriate surface.
Permanent suspended working platform can either be operated by hand or by power. Also, the hoisting mechanism of the permanent suspended working platform can either be mounted on the working platform or on the rig that was attached to the roof.
- Temporary suspended working platform
The temporary suspended working platform, on the other hand, are suspended working platforms that are set up and assembled for temporary work on a structure or building. This implies that as soon as the work it was assembled for has been completed, it would be dismantled.
The temporary suspended working platform is mostly used for painting jobs on buildings, insulating works on buildings and structures, repairs of damaged sections of some buildings, cladding, refurbishments of old buildings, repairs on bridges or chimneys or other related structures.
Just like the Permanent suspended working platform, the temporary suspended working platform is also suspended from a sturdy and structurally sound roof rig which carries the weight of all the workers using the platform. Of course, the platform also has winches that are mounted on the platform and are used to lift or lower the platform.
Safe and Proper Use of Suspended Working Platforms
Below are important things you should know how to use suspended working platforms safely.
- The erection and dismantling of a suspended working platform should be done under the close supervision of a qualified and competent person
Note: Competent Person refers to someone who has a lot of experience and training about something
- Should there be the need for the alteration of any component of the platform which alters it from the original design of the manufacturer, it should be done under the supervision of a professional engineer by workers who have the skill.
Note: The Professional Engineer needed is not just any kind of engineer. It has to be one who has technical expertise in the area the component to be modified works
- Unless the manufacturer of the platforms indicate that a platform can support it, it is not wise to attach or bolt together two or more temporary suspended working platforms to create a larger and bigger working space.
- When erecting or suspending platforms, especially temporary suspended working platform, it is very important that the parapet clamps, as well as the clamps used for back ties, are not anchored or attached to brick or materials related to it. It is a very dangerous move that can easily cause accidents to happen.
- In case a temporary suspended working platform has to be moved from its original location to another location, someone competent enough with the skills to do it should be instructed to move the platform. It is advisable to allow the person or worker who originally erected the platform to perform this task
- When dismantling a temporary suspended working platform, lots of care should be taken in the disposal of the components of the platform. Also, components should not be haphazardly left on the ground. Instead, they should be lowered in an orderly fashion by hand, with the use of a gin wheel or any other safe method.
- Every individual on the suspended working platform when it is not on the ground should have his or her safety belt, his or her anchorage, and fittings for the independent lifeline he or she is allocated.
The lifeline, safety belt, and the fittings and anchorage have to be designed in a way that they can properly be maintained and used so that in the event of a fall, serious injuries and possible loss of life would be avoided.
- In the case of safety belts, it is best if full-body harness that meets national standards like the British standards or other standards from reputable bodies are used. This is because they offer more protection than ordinary or regular safety belts.
- The independent lifeline of each worker working on a permanent suspended working platform should securely be anchored to a part of the root rig. It should not be attached to the suspension system of the platform itself.
Safety precautions you should take when operating on a suspended working platform
Here are some of the things you should do whenever you want to work on a suspended platform for any task or operation whatsoever.
- Check all the equipment that would be used to erect the suspended platform for damage or defect
- Inspect the suspended platform itself before starting work for the day and also at the start of each shift
- Ensure that the platform, if it is a Permanent suspended working platform, is well maintained throughout the period it is still being used.
- Check the fall arrest system and make sure it is the right and appropriate one.
Note: Fall Arrest system is anything that is attached to an independent rigid structure which acts as a safety harness for anyone using a suspended platform in case of a fall. It breaks the fall of a worker and thus protects the life of the worker or person using the platform.
Not all suspended working platform requires fall arrest systems. However, if it is necessary for the suspended working platform, the workers to operate on the platform needs to be properly trained on how to use the system.
- Check the roof beams and all the suspended working platform attachments are very secure
- Inspect the ropes that suspend the platform for damage or kinks
- Inspect the roof or parapet wall from which the platform is to be suspended. Make sure it is strong enough to support the cornice hooks of the platform.
Note: Some suspended working platforms use outriggers instead of cornice hooks.
- All the ropes used to suspend the platform must be secured at their respective anchor ends
- Check that the brakes, safety equipment, and override switches are in good working conditions.
- Secure all the necessary hand tools to the suspended platform
- Ensure that the power source is grounded and properly secured.
- Ensure that toe-boards, as well as guardrails, are installed on the platform.
- Test the fully assembled suspended working platform for any issue by raising it a few feet above the ground and walking on it. Once you are satisfied with the platform, it is now suitable for use.
Safety tips when using suspended working platform
- Only people or workers trained and instructed on how to operate on a suspended working platform should operate it. These operatives should ensure that they use the right means of access to enter or exit the platform
- Make sure you carry loads or materials that stay within the maximum load capacity the platform can support
- Ensure all electric connections or cables are not left in areas where water can collect on them
- Make sure you do not leave or enter the suspended working platform except at ground level. If there are other safe access or exit points on the structure, you can take advantage of it. However, the safest way to go is to avoid entering or leaving the meter when it is already high up in the air.
- Inspect the work area for exposed electric connections or circuit. Do not work in areas that have an exposed electric connection
- in cases where electric arc welding or cutting has to be done on the suspended working platform, special precautions for a situation like this has to be taken. These precautions must be taken to prevent accidents which can develop from a damaged rope.
- There are situations where flammable substances might need to be used on a suspended working platform. In cases like that, the flammable substance has to be contained in a container that it cannot react with. Also, a fire extinguisher suitable for the flammable substance being used has to be available on the platform when the flammable substance is being used.
- Do not smoke on the working platform. It is very dangerous and under no circumstances must it be done.
- Avoid joining suspended working platforms together because it can be very risky. However, you are allowed to do it if both platforms have been designed for that kind of reason.
- Drop all defective or damaged equipment and do not try to manage it.
- Unless you are the only worker on a suspended working platform, do not move it without first informing all the other workers that the platform is about to move. Also, in such a case, the right fall arrest system should be used by all the concerned workers.
- for temporary suspended working platform, during breaks or when not in use, the platform should be secured at both ends by tying the ends into the structure or building to prevent unnecessary movement of the platform.
- The platform has to be clean at all times. Any material that can cause a worker to slip or generate slipping hazards should be removed from the platform.
- No other kind of accessory equipment should be erected on the suspended working platform unless it is included as necessary on the manufacturer’s guide.
- all the parts and component of the suspended working platform including its outriggers, the suspension gear, the fully electric apparatus are to properly be maintained and repaired when needed. Also, broken parts of any part of the suspended working platform should be replaced if it would interfere with the safety of the workers working on the platform
- No form or type of repair should be carried out on the platform whilst the platform is still suspended and in use.
So there you have it. Itemized above are the safety precautions and tips you should take note of when using suspended working platform.