Europe’s International Powered Access Federation has called for a re-examination of harnesses used by female operators of boom-type work platforms and announced a competition to find the best new design.

“Research suggests that MEWPs are increasingly used by women, particularly in the non-construction sector, which now accounts for more than 40 percent of European MEWP rental activity,” said Tim Whiteman, IPAF managing director. “However, women operators regularly complain that the design of traditional harnesses make them uncomfortable and could cause serious pain and damage to breast tissue in the event of a catapulting incident.”

IPAF believes that operators of boom-type platforms should wear a full-body harness with an adjustable, short lanyard to prevent possible ejection from the basket in the case of an accident. For this reason, it is concerned by the complaints received from female MEWP operators and is determined to make the necessary personal protection equipment comfortable and appropriate for women.

“Harnesses should be designed to be as comfortable as possible for all users-MEWPs are the safest way to perform temporary work at height, but without appropriate harnesses, women expose themselves to unnecessary risk,” said Whiteman.

Despite the discomfort, female operators should never operate boom-type platforms without a full-body harness. Full details of industry recommendations are set out in “IPAF Technical Guidance Note H1,” available at the Publications section

IPAF is inviting harness manufacturers to work with the Federation to address the discomfort issues and to find a way to minimize the potential dangers of damage to female breast tissue caused by the placing of load-bearing straps vertically across the front of the chest area.

“Our position is that we believe that this is an international issue where and when women are using a full body harness,” said Tony Groat, the lead country representative in North America for IPAF and executive vice president for the federation’s wholly owned subsidiary Aerial Work Platform Training. “We emphasis the AWP safe use requirement to wear a full-body harness with a short lanyard when personnel occupy a boom type lifts, men and women alike. We have heard the complaints from women that the design of existing harnesses make them very uncomfortable and fear the risk of severe injury in the event of a fall resulting from the ‘catapult effect’ in a boom type lift.”

Contact IPAF for further information. IPAF will award an IPAF Design Prize to the best solution that will be featured at its Bauma press conference in 2010, in Munich, Germany. All entries must be received by March 15, 2010.