What are low-level access platforms?

What are low-level access platforms?

Many people in the construction industry think that soaring scissor lifts or boom lifts are the only options when it comes to working at height. Yet, if your working height is less than 8m, a low-level access platform could well be a better choice. With a focus on indoor maintenance, they’re a safer alternative to steel towers and ladders as they provide more surface to stand on as well as hold materials such as paint or tools.   In this article, we'll look at what low-level access platforms are and what types are available. We'll also cover situations where a low-level platform could be the best MEWP for the job.

What are low-level access platforms?

Low-level access platforms are a type of powered access equipment that can typically reach between 3-8m high. They make maintenance and construction tasks easier and quicker, reducing the amount of labour needed.   They can also provide enhanced safety and make jobs easier compared to MEWPs like cherry pickers and scissor lifts or complicated scaffold systems.

What are the different types of low-level access platforms?

Low-level access platforms are defined by the heights they can reach. This makes them a broad group that features a lot of different platforms, including:  
  • Battery-powered/self-propelled low-level access platforms
  • Push around low-level platforms with battery-powered elevation
  • Manual/push-around low-level access platforms
  The first big difference is whether the access platforms are powered or not. Self-propelled models run entirely on batteries or electricity. This is what fuels their movement across the ground as well as their elevation. They take the least effort of all low-level platforms to use.   Traditional push-around low-level access machines are pushed into position - hence their name. However, the process of lifting the platform to working height relies on electricity/battery power.   One type of low-level access platform that is growing in popularity is fully manual models. You still move this type of low-level access equipment into position by pushing it around yourself. But you also elevate it yourself by turning a handle.   These fully manual models are an eco-friendly choice as they use no energy. They are also convenient, removing the need to charge and the risk of the battery running out mid-job.  

When to use a low-level access platform

It is usually advisable to use a powered access platform wherever possible to maintain a safe and secure environment when working at height - even low ones. This equipment is a lot more stable than ladders, steps and stools, making it a much safer choice in almost all situations.   Using any type of powered access platform can also create an improved worksite environment. It lets you keep tools and materials close by when you are working at height, boosting productivity with less time spent fetching items.   It further maximises productivity over ladders because it lets you use both hands at once. Guidelines suggest that you should always keep one hand on a ladder for stability but this is not needed for a stable access platform. They also remove the need for a second person to steady the ladder, or to pass you any tools or items you need.   People working at height tend to think of cherry pickers and scissor lifts first, but there are plenty of situations where low-level access machines are better suited. In fact, any time you do not need the full working height of a standard scissor lift or cherry picker, then a low-level platform is probably a better choice.   Low-level access platforms are smaller and easier to manoeuvre. This makes them a great choice for narrow or confined spaces.   They are also lightweight and compact, which helps protect floor finishes when you're working indoors. Many low-level access machines will even come with non-marking tyres, allowing you to move them across wooden or polished floors.  

Low-level access lifts and platforms safety tips

  • Plan jobs first. This will give you a chance to spot any hazards or issues and address them before you start. Planning ahead will also make the job quicker and easier as you will have everything you need before you start.
  • Only use standard machines on stable ground. Most low-level lifts are made for use indoors, so they need to be set on stable ground. If this isn't possible, find a machine built for unstable ground (usually featuring specialist tyres and braces).
  • Get trained. One vital safety tip when it comes to using any powered access equipment is to undertake the relevant training first. This might not seem as important for lower working heights and platforms but it is still necessary. Falling from these heights could still cause a serious injury.
Training courses accredited by IPAF include everything you need to use any MEWP safely - from cherry pickers to low-level platforms. Completing one of these will help keep you and your work environment safe. When it comes to working at height, a low-level access platform is often the safest, most convenient way to work. If you’d like to know more about the options they open up, take a look at our range of low-level access platforms or contact us today to find out more.