Even though preventive maintenance can be the single most crucial factor in keeping an equipment fleet operating in peak condition while lowering a machine’s total cost of ownership, it is easy to have an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Especially in lean years, maximizing each piece of equipment’s utilization is critical to a company’s bottom line.
But as utilization goes up, the cost of downtime also goes up — from disrupting project schedules to reducing profitability. The best way to avoid the negative impacts of equipment downtime is to adopt a preventive maintenance program. Although the benefits of preventive maintenance apply to all types of equipment, it is especially true for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). This is because these machines are designed to put people up in the air — even if it’s just a few feet off the ground — to safely complete work at height.
For example, low-level access MEWPs are increasingly used in finish work applications as many construction sites do not allow drivable lifts into certain areas once a building’s floors are laid, the trim is up and the doors are installed. Also, these types of MEWPs are becoming more widely utilized as newer, stricter regulations on ladder and scaffolding usage are adopted in facilities’ maintenance applications.
Low-level access MEWPs are incredibly simple machines to own and operate, requiring less maintenance than other types of MEWPs. Following these five preventive maintenance tips will make sure that a low-level access MEWP is running efficiently and improving a jobsite’s productivity.
Tip 1: Do Daily Inspections
Daily inspections done by the operator are the best way to catch issues before they become problems. Refer to the machine’s operation and safety manual for information regarding the walk-around inspection.
During the walk-around, complete all of the machine’s pre-start inspection tasks, including checking for any visible leaks (oil, fuel or battery fluid) or foreign objects. Always use a piece of cardboard or paper to search for leaks. Keep an eye out for dents, cracks or other damage to the machine. Check to make sure all of the machine’s decals and placards are clean and readable. Replace any that are missing or are not legible.
On powered units, make sure the battery cables are securely connected and look for any damage or corrosion. If the batteries appear to be in good condition, check if the batteries are charged, and if they need to be plugged in. Only charge the batteries in a well-ventilated area. Also, check the batteries’ fluid levels. If the levels are low, first fully charge the battery and add distilled water to reach the appropriate level.
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It is also necessary to check that the hydraulic system’s fluid levels are at the FULL mark. Add hydraulic oil, if needed, and ensure that all of the hydraulic connections are tight, undamaged and not leaking. Inspect the wheel and castors on low-level access MEWPs for any wear, distortion or damage. These components must be in good working condition at all times as they are crucial to the machine’s stability. Also, make sure the machine’s bearings are properly adjusted. Bearings that are too tight can make the machine difficult to maneuver.
Finally, verify the machine’s platform gate closes properly and is not bent or damaged. Also, inspect the lanyard attachment points for damage or significant wear.
Tip 2: Perform Function Tests
The next step is for an operator to perform function checks of all the machine’s systems. These tasks should be completed in an area free of overhead and ground-level obstructions. Refer to section 2 of the operation and safety manual for info regarding the Function Check.
First, set up the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions for properly positioning and leveling. Check to make sure the MEWP’s castor wheels lock when set and fully engage to keep the machine from rolling. On non-powered units, get in the platform and check to make sure the operating handle works correctly. Test it per the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines.
While the operator is still in the platform, raise and lower the mast 2 to 3 ft several times to check for smooth elevation and lowering of the platform. Also, check the rear wheel auto-locking brake mechanism’s operation. Ensure the pins fully engage the rear wheel brake discs when the platform is elevated and release when the platform is fully lowered.
On powered units, power up the machine. Test to make sure that the emergency stop button on the ground controls shuts off power when pressed. From the ground controls, raise and lower the mast 2 to 3 ft several times to check for the platform’s smooth elevation and descent.
If the machine is running properly, operators should enter the platform and operate the machine from the platform controls, ensuring that all platform movement stops immediately when the enable, up or down buttons are released. Also, make sure the emergency stop switch stops all platform movement when pressed. Finally, check the rear wheel auto-locking brake mechanism’s operation and verify the proper operation of the emergency lowering valve.
Tip 3: Complete All Prescribed Service Tasks
The life and longevity of low-level access MEWPs greatly benefit from regular care and attention. This includes personnel keeping up on all of the machine’s service intervals, including greasing all pivot points monthly. To do this, consult the machine’s lubrication chart to know which components and assemblies require lubrication and servicing.
It is also essential for trained maintenance personnel to perform frequent inspections on the machine every three months or 150 hours, whichever comes first. These inspections involve checking the condition of the machine’s structure and assemblies, including the mast sections, floor, guard rails, welds, fasteners, pins, shields and covers.
Annual inspections (no later than 13 months from the prior inspection dates) by qualified maintenance personnel are important. At this time, the hydraulic oil must be replaced. Also, check for any contamination in the hydraulic system.
Tip 4: Take Care of the Batteries
Batteries dying shortly into the start of the machine’s workday is a common challenge on jobsites with a relatively simple solution: Check the battery system’s condition at any stage of the machine’s operation.
Plugging in your machine overnight will ensure the machine’s batteries are fully charged before work the next day begins. But when it does not happen, operators may end up relying on opportunity charging — only recharging the machine after it has discharged completely, and then only enough to move it for the immediate job at hand — to get through the workday. This can cause substantial efficiency problems in terms of battery life and maintenance, as well as productivity. One of the simplest ways to keep batteries performing for an extended period of time is to keep their state-of-charge (SoC) over 80 percent.
Tip 5: Operate Efficiently
Because these machines are used in all types of environments, including wet, humid, hot, dry, cold and everything in-between, how the machine is used and cared for every day will go a long way in making sure it continues to work efficiently over time.
For example, operators should reduce the amount of machine repositioning they do throughout a work shift. This means eliminating as much of the extra up and down as possible. To do this, operators should utilize the machine’s tool trays to bring the materials and tools needed to complete the work up to height with them.
Also, the machine should always be stored indoors when it is not in use. This will prevent damage, as well as keep dirt and foreign contaminants out of the machine’s vital components between work shifts.
And finally, keeping the machine clean is the most important single item in preserving the long service life of a low-level access MEWP. Operators and machine personnel should work together to clear any obstructed passages, openings or fittings to prevent blockages, as well as to remove any foreign matter. When washing down the machine, it is important to use only approved, non-flammable cleaning solvents.April 2021 Print Issue, Talking Shop