Elevating Work Platforms – safety first!

As a “person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)”, it is your responsibility to ensure that you provide and maintain a work environment that is without risks to the physical and psychological health and safety for you and your workers.

Working with Elevating Work Platforms (EWP) when picking avocados can pose significant health and safety risks to the operator and those around them.

Safety must come first but what does safety look like?

  1. Do you have an EWP Standard Operating Procedure?
  2. Do you have a training and operations log for your EWP operators?
  3. Do you have the correct safety equipment to operate an EWP?
  4. Do you conduct a risk assessment prior to the use of the EWP?
  5. Do you need a licence to operate an EWP?
  6. Do you supervise the operation of the EWP?
  7. Do you have your EWP inspected annually?

Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

A standard operating procedure is a document specific to your operation and the equipment that you use. It is a necessary document that forms part of your training requirements for workers in the operation of equipment such as an EWP. A SOP should contain the following elements.

  • A title, author, document version, date and approved for use by.
  • The SOP should outline the purpose of the document eg “This SOP outlines the procedures to be followed by trained operators when operating elevated work platforms to harvest avocados”.
  • An application/scope should outline where and by who the document should be used by in dot points eg, “This SOP concentrates solely on the operation of EWP (model x). All operators must have significant and documented training before operating the EWP (model x). This SOP concentrates solely on the operation of EWP (model x) in Orchard x. All questions should be directed to person x before commencing operation etc”.
  • The resources/equipment should be outlined including the EWP model, location of manufactures operating and maintenance manuals, required safety equipment and storage location, first aid requirements and locations, EWP inspection logs etc.
  • A warnings section will highlight specific dangers that trained operators must consider when operating the EWP (model x).
  • A description of activities will outline again the purpose for use of the EWP and step by step instructions, including pre-system checks and use of use of safety equipment.
  • References can point the EWP operator to the use of other SOP and safety document that must be used in cooperation with this specific SOP. They can include SOPs for first aid, harness use, use of fuel stations, traffic plans and management as well as legal codes and guides or manufactures information.
  • Appendices can be attached including training documents, risk assessment documents, licence documents, maintenance inspection logs, supervision logs etc.
  • A compliance and review log should be attached to the back of the SOP. As part of the compliance log all who have been trained and operate the EWP should sign and date the log to show they have read and understood the instructions of SOP version x. The review log will detail when the SOP document has been reviewed and had a version update. These documents should remain with the SOP throughout its life and beyond as legal documents of compliance.

Training and operations logs

As a “person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)”, it is your responsibility to provide appropriate and sufficient training before allowing a worker to operate an EWP. If you are the owner and the operator of an EWP, you will require training from the manufacturer upon receival of the EWP and it may be worth while undertaking an “Operate an Elevated Work Platform” course with a registered training organisation (RTO) in your region.

When training a worker to operate an EWP, use your SOPs and manufactures manuals, pre-operating procedures, emergency controls, ensure that they understand what you are telling them, show them how to operate the EWP under different conditions, observe them operating the EWP, provide feedback and continue this cycle before making an assessment on whether they are competent of using the EWP independently or whether they need more training. Record this information in a training log that both you and your worker sign off on.

Safety equipment

Ensure that you have the correct safety equipment for operation of the EWP. The safety equipment must be stored correctly and be in a suitable condition. Did you know that best practice for an EWP operator involves the use of a ‘travel restraint system’? This is a short lanyard attached to the bucket and to a waist belt worn by the operator. This prevents the operator from getting their feet onto the mid-rail of the bucket and ensures the operator stands on the floor of the bucket only.

Risk assessments

Risk assessment should be conducted prior to the use of an EWP in consultation with your workers. This means every time not just once. The purpose of the risk assessment is to identify hazards. Common hazards related to EWP use include:

  • uneven or unstable ground
  • working around or beneath overhead structures, trees or electrical lines
  • traffic and pedestrians
  • weather hazards(strong winds, rain etc)
  • falling objects, and failure of the machine
  • Equipment maintenance.

Once the hazards are identified, the risks associated with these hazards are assessed, control measures are implemented to eliminate or minimise the risk. It is important to us that you and your workers return safely to your homes and families everyday after a day’s working in your avocado orchard.

EWP licence

A high risk work licence must be acquired and made available for the use of EWPs where the boom length is 11 metres or more.


An EWP is a high risk piece of equipment. While a risk assessment will help to identify and minimise the risk, supervision of the use of EWPs in avocado orchards will assist in monitoring hazards and keeping the operator and those around the EWP safe.

Annual EWP Inspections

In January 2021, Safe Work Australia released a new guide to inspecting and maintaining elevating work platforms (EWPs). Elevating work platforms need to be inspected at least annually.
EWPs are high-risk equipment that have caused nine worker fatalities in the past five years (2015-2019). An inspection, maintenance and testing program is crucial to assess their safe operation.
Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe and this includes ensuring that plant equipment is inspected and maintained.
Employers must also ensure that workers are given the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision to use elevating work platforms safely.
Download the guide here: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/guide-inspecting-and-maintaining-elevating-work-platforms.

More information

Check out the specific EWP page in the WHS module of the Best Practice Resource, and visit https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/topic/elevating-work-platforms

This article was prepared for the Autumn 2021 edition of Talking Avocados. Please check the current state and national requirements, and consult the necessary authorities with regard to your individual operational requirements.

Author: Liz Singh, Avocados Australia
Date Published: 05/05/2021