Risky Business: Overview of best practices for AWPs
Risky Business: Overview of best practices for AWPs

Protecting your business and your customers

Accidents involving aerial work platforms (AWPs) often result in critical injuries. Workers get crushed, electrocuted and ejected. Many die and others are permanently disabled. Though operator error usually plays a part in such accidents, rental companies are often sued, alleging negligence for the condition of their equipment or failure to warn of hazards or provide instructions. Rental companies that offer AWPs can take steps to both prevent devastating accidents and protect themselves from liability when they do happen.

  • Rent the right equipment for the job. Not all AWPs are created equal and the wrong machine for the work site could have dire consequences. Ask renters questions to ensure they’re getting the best — and safest — lifts for their jobs and never rent equipment for lifting personnel unless it was designed for that purpose. Look for the newest statement of best practices for aerial work platform equipment that will address this subject, to be released at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas.
  • Provide safe, properly functioning machines. Rental companies have a legal duty to inspect, service and repair AWPs according to manufacturers’ instructions. It is important to keep good maintenance records, which is the first thing companies are asked to produce following an accident. For specific inspection and service information, including checklists, review the manuals for each machine. Many manufacturers offer operating and service manuals on their websites. For those who prefer to outsource AWP inspections and maintenance, look for ARA’s new online locator of general and associate members who offer those services to be launched this fall.
  • Provide operator training to employees. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require that, before assigning employees to operate AWPs, employers ensure those employees have received both general training on the type of AWP being assigned and familiarization on the specific model to be operated. Even if rental companies never use their own AWP equipment, employees who deliver lifts to customers or familiarize customers must be trained as operators. The Statement of Best Practices of General Training and Familiarization for Aerial Work Platform Equipment, produced by the American Rental Association (ARA) in cooperation with rental stores, manufacturers and other industry associations, is a comprehensive guide to AWP training and familiarization.
  • Offer operator training to rental customers. Consensus standards for AWPs require rental companies to offer operator training to customers renting lifts. This does not mean that rental companies must provide the training, though that is certainly an option. Rather, the requirement can be met by advising rental customers where to obtain operator training.
  • Familiarize customers on the model of AWP being rented. In addition to offering operator training, rental companies are responsible for reviewing with customers each AWP’s control functions and safety devices. They also must point out the compartment for manual storage and confirm that all required manuals are in the compartment. Familiarization also might be a good time to discuss personal fall protection equipment, if required on the AWP being rented, as well as pre-start inspections, which are to be done by the operator at the beginning of each shift. For more detailed information about familiarization, see the Statement of Best Practices of General Training and Familiarization for Aerial Work Platform Equipment. For a comprehensive guide to personal fall protection for AWPs, see the Statement of Best Practices of Personal Fall Protection Systems for Aerial Work Platform Equipment. Both documents are complimentary downloads for ARA members on the ARA website, ARArental.org, under “Risk Management.”
  • Have customers sign a rental contract. Even taking every precaution to prevent accidents won’t preclude them all and victims usually demand compensation from the rental company. A well-written, rental-specific contract can augment best practices by obtaining the renter’s acknowledgement that the AWP is appropriate for the intended use, is in acceptable condition and that he has received instructions. It also can provide broader protections, such as agreement to waive warranties and hold harmless, indemnify and defend the rental company against claims. The ARA’s premier resource for rental contracts is Business Management: Contracts and Legal Guidelines, which includes addenda specific to AWPs, such as the “fall restraint declination acknowledgement.” In addition, the book’s author, attorney James Waite, Esq., of Winters & Waite, offers contract services via his website equipmentrentalcontracts.com.

All of the above-referenced resources also are available through ARA Insurance’s ReSource website. A comprehensive approach to the safe rental of aerial work platforms will benefit everybody. Rental companies will be spared the time and expense associated with defending claims, and renters will go home in one piece.

Maura Paternoster is risk manager for ARA Insurance Services in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.