Selecting the Right MEWP for the Job

Mobile elevating work platforms (or MEWPs) provide a safe method of working at height, allowing workers to reach a task quickly, easily and safely – with guard rails and toe boards to prevent falls.

There are many different types of MEWPs available including cherry pickers, self-propelled booms, scissor lifts and vehicle-mounted booms. Each has different strengths, capacities, working heights, outreaches and other criteria. Before selecting a MEWP for the job, think about the following elements of the project.

  • Who is operating the MEWP?
  • When is the MEWP needed and what will the ground conditions be like at that time?
  • How is access to the site?
  • How much base area is available at the work position?
  • What gradient and terrain will the MEWP cross to get to the work position?
  • What is the ground-bearing capacity at the work area and its route to the work area?
  • How many people will be using the equipment at one time?
  • What height/reach is required?
  • Does the MEWP need to move in its elevated position?
  • Are there any overhead power lines on site, or any overhead structures which could pose a problem?
  • Do any materials need to be lifted? If so, how large and heavy are these materials
  • What fuel type is allowed on site and where can the MEWP re-fuel?

Thinking about these elements should help you to choose a suitable MEWP for the job. There are several different types of available, and you need to check out the specs of each individual machine to ensure that it’s correctly suited for the job.

Truck or van-mounted MEWPs

Some MEWPs are mounted on a vehicle, usually a truck, or otherwise a flat-back pick up van. The vehicles provide mobility for the MEWP, and also help to stabilise the unit, although outrigger stabilisers are often still included to add additional stability.

Vehicle-mounted mobile elevating work platforms are some of the most versatile and easiest-to-use MEWPs available. Some of these pieces of equipment are self-drive and can be driven with a standard driving licence, up to 7.5 tonne with a pre-1997 licence and up to 3.5 tonnes with a licence issued after 1997.

Van-mounted MEWPs are relatively easy to set up and operate, offering a working height of between 30-60 metres.

Scissor Lifts

A scissor lift is a type of access platform that usually only moves vertically. To achieve this function, the machine uses linked, folding supports in a criss-cross pattern. Pressure is applied to the lowest set of supports, which stretches the pattern and propels the platform upwards.

Scissor lifts are great for use in crowded or tight spots where other MEWPs might have troubles. Diesel scissor lifts have working heights of 10m-17m, with 4×4 drive for improved access and auto-levelling outriggers for stability. Scissor lifts are available for indoor and outdoor use, perfect for busy offices, retail environments, hotels and industrial environments. Battery-powered fume-free scissor lifts are available for indoor use.

Scissor lifts come with large platform sizes capable of holding multiple workers on a platform with heavy duty tools. Reach is an important issue with scissor lifts due to their vertical nature, so many come with bridges to allow better reach for operators.

Self-propelled booms

Self-propelled booms can drive themselves around a construction site, although they may need to be transported to a site for safety and to reduce costs. They can be divided into three types; straight stick, articulated and mast booms. Straight stick booms have an operating height of between 10 and 38 metres with good outreach.

Articulated booms have a working height of 12m-47m, ideal for getting up and over obstacles. Mast booms have a working height of around 10m and are particularly narrow, perfect for those hard to reach spots. They can also be battery-powered for indoor use, perfect for warehouses and supermarkets.

Trailer-mounted platforms

Trailer-mounted access platforms have a lightweight and compact

design, which makes them ideal for use in space and weight-restricted areas. They can be towed behind a van or 4×4 on public highways, and are ideal for use by painting contractors and CCTB installers.

They offer a working height of between 9 and 28 metres, and can be positioned by an individual, making them a viable alternative to scaffolding and ladders. Telescopic and articulating trailer-mounted access platforms are available with hydraulic outriggers to add stability and reduce set-up time.

Narrow Access Platforms

With working heights of up to 38metres, narrow access lifts offer the best manoeuvrability and performance in tight spaces, nooks and crannies. Most of these lifts can fit through a standard double door 0.8m wide and 2m high, making them ideal for work in confined spaces like shopping centres, offices etc. Their light weight design also makes them perfect for working on historical building and buildings with low load-bearing surfaces.

Rough Terrain

Sometimes special access platforms are required for challenging environments and rough terrain. Rough terrain MEWPs operate at between 12 and 17 metres, with high penetration jacks which help it jack on steep slopes.


Working under bridges requires specialist machinery. Bridge inspections on motorways and dual carriageways require access platforms with an under reach of between 15 and 25 metres. Bridge work on two lane roads can benefit from an access platform narrow enough to allow traffic to pass while the work is being carried, minimising traffic disruption.

The right MEWP for the job depends ultimately on a number of factors around the work being carried out and the environment in which it is situated. You can use Universal Platform’s ‘5 steps to choose your platform’ tool to help identify the most appropriate MEWP for a particular job.

This post was contributed by Alan Cairns.

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