Solution Summary: Mast Climbing Work Platform
A mast climbing work platform, or mast climber, is an engineering control that can reduce musculoskeletal disorders from overhead work, stooped postures and manual material handling by allowing workers to perform tasks between their knee and shoulder height.
The mast climbing work platform consists of a modular work platform system that climbs a vertical truss structure using either a gas-powered hydraulic power system or an electric motor power system. The vertical truss structure can be configured as either a single or twin mast. The platform typically includes a lower level of scaffold planking that projects toward the building's facade as well as a higher materials platform.
(Photo courtesy of ELCOSH)
Heavy lifting and carrying can cause low back disorders, such as muscle strain or a disc herniation (“slipped disc”), which is bulging of disc material possibly pressing on the spinal cord or nerves that go into the leg. The mast climbing work platform can help reduce heavy lifting and carrying by minimizing the number of times materials need to be moved from platform to platform.
Overhead work can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as shoulder muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons; or rotator cuff tears, which is a rupture of a shoulder tendon. The mast climbing work platform can help reduce overhead work by allowing workers to work at an appropriate height between the knee and shoulder.
How Risks are Reduced:
Compared to traditional scaffolding or manual crank tower scaffolding, the mast-climbing scaffold allows the work platform to be easily raised or lowered, keeping work between knee and shoulder height. A materials platform can be established to allow easy handling of materials. The platform may be moved vertically with the work. Unlike with traditional scaffolding, the work materials do not need to be moved each time the work platform is raised. This reduces the risk of developing work-related low back pain by decreasing heavy lifting and manual material handling at work.
Effects on Productivity:
Mast climbers may effect productivity due to: reduced injuries, shortened production time, reduced labor costs, and a reduced need for heavy equipment.
It is important to follow the manufacturer guidelines and standard safety procedures when using mast climbing work platforms. Here are some specific points to consider:
- User modifications of platforms to fit structures should be evaluated by a professional engineer. Several of the reported fatalities associated with mast scaffolds involved modifications performed on site.
- The platform must be properly loaded to maintain balance and must not exceed the length allowed by the manufacturer.
- Guard rails must be removed to load the platform therefore safety harnesses are required at those times.
- The mast must be tied to the structure at intervals established by the manufacturer (typically at 20 foot intervals).
- The anchor point must be sufficiently strong in tension and compression to meet requirements (usually 3,000 pounds).
- Tie-in requirements may increase if heavy wind loads are anticipated.
- Workers must be trained on the erection and use of the scaffold and a competent person designated
Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC and Alysha Meyers, PhD – University of Iowa
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