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MARKET REPORT LOW-LEVEL ACCESS


Positive steps


The recent introduction of a new standard for a specific type of low-level access equipment has raised awareness of the solutions available for this market.


Many tasks involved in construction and maintenance activities involve work at low level, creating steady demand for appropriate products for work in diverse industries, for use in environments such as schools, shops, factories, warehouses and offices. Back in 2005 when the wide-ranging Work at Height Regulations came into force, they introduced a specific focus on low-level work, as well as at greater heights, and this generated a demand for new solutions.


PASMA (the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association) says that this led, in turn, to the development of specific low-level products with side protection, or guard rails, to prevent falls, intended for individual use as alternatives to stepladders. These products quickly became known as podiums or pulpit steps, and many manufacturers introduced new solutions. Inevitably, some products also came to market that were of questionable quality, often originating from the Far East.


Overturning or falling


The Association began receiving reports of certain products overturning or falling in operation, and it saw a need for a design standard to address the new category of equipment. It initially co-ordinated the development of PAS 250, a Publicly Available Specification covering such low-level work platforms, technically described as having a single platform and side protection, for use by one person and offering a maximum working height of less than 2.5m. The draft was developed with input from organisations such as the Health & Safety Executive, HAE, Ladder Association and the UK Contractors Group.


The PAS 250 standard was published in 2012 and gave a benchmark of quality. After a period of two years, a PAS can be


withdrawn, continued or converted to a full British Standard, and PASMA decided to follow this last-mentioned route. It recognised the opportunity to develop PAS 250 in the light of subsequent findings and further designing the design criteria. This new standard, BS 8620, was introduced in October 2016. Modifications included a dimensional alteration to side protection and changes to two specific tests.


Information on the BS 8620 standard is available on PASMA’s website.


PASMA points out that the introduction of BS 8620 does not mean that existing PAS 250 compliant products are obsolete. They can continue to be used until the time comes for replacement, and the Association has encouraged users to update their procurement policies accordingly. It has produced a factsheet on the Standard which can be seen at www.pasma.co.uk/bs8620.


Several manufacturers have been introducing new or modified products in response to the new standard over the past year or so, and hirers have been responding accordingly. Matt Browne, Director at Lakeside-Hire, which is based in Maldon, Essex, and specialises in access equipment, told EHN, “From a hire company perspective we have seen how Health & Safety considerations continue to drive innovation among manufacturers, and how it has improved the standards of low-level access equipment. This has led to a change in the lines we now offer end-users, with some now becoming redundant in the face of new equipment, whilst other lines continue to show signs of strong growth.


Lakeside-Hire says that the Pecolift has proved popular with customers.


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“Although many companies are producing stock that is compliant with the new BS 8620 standard, in our conversations with suppliers, many haven't had their certification process completed yet. Here at Lakeside-Hire, we haven't been asked by


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