What are Mobile Elevating Work Platforms?

If you work in the powered access industry, you’ll be familiar with the variety of phrases and acronyms that are thrown around. You’re likely familiar with the term “mobile elevating work platform” or MEWP- or some variation of it. If you’re still stuck wondering what it means then keep reading.

A mobile elevating work platform, also referred to as a MEWP, is an umbrella term that encompasses all powered access machines. Cherry pickers, scissor lifts, and other aerial work platforms are all a form of MEWP.

MEWPs come in many shapes and sizes to suit all kinds of jobs. If you need an ‘up and over’ reach, a cherry picker will do the job. Need access to high shelving in a warehouse? A low-access scissor lift will be your best bet.

While “mobile elevating work platform” is our phrase of choice, MEWPs can go by many names. Just a few of the synonyms are:

  • Powered access machines
  • Powered access equipment
  • Vertical lifts
  • Aerial access platforms
  • Aerial work platform

Not only are there all kinds of ways to refer to a MEWP, but, as we mentioned above, there are also different types of MEWPs. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses. When choosing the MEWP that you’d like to use, you’ll have to take into consideration the job that’s being done, the obstacles that will be in the way, the type of ground you want to operate the machine on, and whether you’re working inside or outside.

Today we’ll be discussing what exactly a mobile elevating work platform is, what the different types are, what the safety considerations are, and diving into a few FAQs. Take a look below for a quick overview of various types of work platform models.

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms: Machine Types

Scissor lifts

Scissor lifts are categorised by the way the machine lifts the platform. These MEWPs use a criss-cross shape mechanism to lift the platform into the air.

What they’re great for:

Working in areas with level ground and reaching exceptionally high vertical heights. They’re quite handy to reach high spaces in warehouses and are great for working on concrete. Because they lift straight up, they’re great for working on the outside of buildings (i.e. for painting, duct work, and general building maintenance). They hold more weight than a boom lift and are often larger than cherry pickers, allowing them to carry more machinery and workers.

What they’re not great for:

  • Reaching ‘up and over’ obstacles.
  • Working on power lines.
  • Working in areas with rough terrain (unless labelled as a rough terrain scissor lift).
  • Working in areas where extra stabilisation is needed.

Articulating Boom lifts ( Articulating Cherry Pickers)

Articulating boom lifts, also called cherry pickers, are categorised by their ‘up and over’ reach. They’re designed so that the work platform can articulate horizontally, as well as vertically due to its hydraulic arm which can articulate at the joints.

What they’re good for:

The various joins and articulating arms make this MEWP great for precise movements.

  • Working on power lines.
  • Outdoor work on tall trees.
  • Adding signage to buildings.
  • Indoor work on sports halls.
  • Indoor work at arts and galleries.
  • Working on outdoor lighting, including street lights.
  • Working outdoors or in areas that are cramped or difficult to manoeuvre.

What they’re not good for:

Simpler jobs that require only vertical movement.

While cherry pickers can do these jobs, they may be too large or expensive if a scissor lift can be a suitable option.

Telescopic Boom Lifts (Telescopic Cherry Pickers)

These aerial work platforms are similar to articulating boom lifts in the sense that their arms reach using a ‘boom’ mechanism. The difference between articulating booms and telescopic booms is that rather than reaching ‘up and over’ using articulating joints, a telescopic boom reaches up and out. This can be both completely vertical and at a diagonal angle.

What they’re good for:

Reaching exceptionally high working heights.

Boom lifts, especially telescopic boom lifts, will typically reach higher than a scissor lift. Because they have the ability to reach diagonally, they are great for working in an environment with slight obstacles, such as construction on large buildings.

What they’re not good for:

Reaching up and over obstacles.

Because they’re telescopic, they don’t have the precise range that an articulating boom has. The platform isn’t as large, and can’t carry as much weight as a scissor lift and so if extra equipment is required, or other workers are needed on the platform, a MEWP with a larger platform will be necessary.

They typically can’t carry as much weight as a scissor lift.

Push Around Vertical (Mobile Vertical Machines)

This access equipment is, as the name suggests, manually moved rather than powered with an engine or battery. While still considered a mobile elevating work platform, these are used to safely elevate workers during small jobs. Usually used indoors, these machines only reach vertically and can have a smaller platform than most other MEWPs.

What they’re good for:

  • Simple jobs that don’t require much time or space.
  • Working indoors.
  • Smaller, tighter spaces where they can be pushed into position.
  • Some push arounds can also be transported in lifts.

What they’re not good for:

  • Jobs that require exceptional reach.
  • Jobs that require constant movement of the platform.

Safety Considerations When Using a Mobile Elevating Work Platform

It’s incredibly important to ensure that the proper safety precautions are taken when using powered access. A slight misstep could be the cause of serious workplace injury. There are a few steps and procedures that you can take when working with powered access to avoid this.

Initially, there should be pre-delivery inspections. Our powered access machines are routinely inspected and maintained to a high standard at our facilities. Before being sent off, a pre-delivery inspection will take place by us to ensure that it’s in perfect working order. Once delivered, a visual inspection should take place, and a risk assessment should be completed by anyone who will be working with or around the MEWPs.

Working indoors comes with additional safety precautions. It’s important to make sure that any indoor work is done with an electric machine. This is because diesel engines release toxic fumes that can build up indoors.

When working outdoors, it’s important for your machine to be able to manoeuvre across the ground it’s working on. While indoor machines typically use hard non-marking tyres, outdoor machines will use air-filled pneumatic tyres – these will help to create more grip and allow the machine to travel across uneven ground. When working at height, using a safety harness may come is essential by law.

Enrolling in an IPAF training course is required by law then using MEWPs. Anyone who works with MEWPs or manages MEWP operators will need to take one of these safety courses. During this training course, the MEWP operator will learn how to safely operate powered access machinery.

Does a Mobile Elevating Work Platform Need an MOT?

The answer to this is “it depends”. The reason for this is that some MEWPs are made to use on the road, while some are not. We’ve written an article on whether cherry pickers need an MOT – the information in this article can be attributed to most MEWPs.

Do you need a driving Licence to drive Mobile Elevating Work Platforms?

You don’t need a driving licence to safely operate a MEWP, though you will need a PAL (Powered access licence) card. These cards can be awarded once you complete an IPAF training course related to your MEWP of choice.

IPAF training is a fantastic way to learn how to operate a MEWP safely and efficiently. During this course, you will learn how to inspect and maintain machines, how to operate the controls, which environment to use your MEWP in, and gain general knowledge that helps you safely operate MEWPs.

IPAF training will be in-person, with parts of the course available online. Star Platforms offers IPAF training at each of our seven depots.

Thinking of getting your powered access licence? Take a look at the training we offer and get in touch!

Back to all news