Upgrading Access Equipment: Knowing When and Why

operating access equipment


Owning and operating access equipment carries weighty responsibility for owners. Beyond the financial commitment of maintenance costs, ensuring that your machinery is in optimal working order is paramount for safety. This article aims to guide you on why you may need to consider upgrading your machinery, and when. Let’s delve into various scenarios that may prompt a decision to upgrade.

The Machine’s Design Life

A primary consideration in upgrading access equipment is the machine's design life. The design life is defined as a period during which the item is expected, by its design, to work within specified parameters. Manufacturers usually specify this designated lifespan, and the parameters are detailed in the equipment’s operator manual.

The life expectancy of equipment is not solely tied to calendar periods, but is a combination of time, cycles, and usage. For example, if you are running a machine for five hours every day, it will reach its design life sooner than a machine you run for an hour once a week.

Design life not only refers to the equipment as a whole, but also to individual components of the machine. Different components may have a different design life—some may remain in good working order, whilst others need to be repaired or replaced.

On the 10-year mark, a major inspection of your access equipment is required. This involves a comprehensive process of x-raying, inspecting, and potentially rebuilding the machine.

Prior to this, during the working life of your access equipment, it will require periodic inspections and maintenance.

Read on to find out about the different types of inspections required, and how often they should be performed.

How Often Are Machine Inspections Required?

Various types of inspections, including pre-operational, routine, periodic, and major inspections, serve specific purposes in ensuring the safety and functionality of an Elevated Work Platform (EWP). For detailed information on these periodic inspections, see Safe Work Australia’s Inspecting and maintaining Elevating Work Platforms guidance material.

In brief, the inspections required are as follows:

Pre-operational inspection: As per EWPA regulations and logbook, this visual inspection and functional verification is conducted at the beginning of each shift, by a competent person familiar with the operation of the machine. This inspection aims to:

  • detect obvious faults or anomalies
  • confirm the correct functioning of controls and travel limits
  • detect damage
  • check tyre pressures, fluid levels
  • detect leaks.

Refer to the yellow EWPA log book and machinery’s operational manual for the full pre-operational checks.

Routine inspection: Routine inspections are normally based on usage and must be undertaken in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. At a minimum, the inspection should occur at least every 90 days. If the EWP is being used for hire, a safety inspection between hires is completed.

Routine inspections includes items such as:

  • dismantling certain machine components to enable proper inspections
  • removing covers for certain items
  • reviewing logbook entries, for example, checking the logbooks are present, notes are being kept, and understanding issues identified during pre-operational inspections
  • checking the condition of signage and decals
  • adjusting lubrication
  • testing the function of the machine
  • checking torque (critical fasteners).

At the end of the routine inspection, a written inspection report is completed, and issues identified through an inspection must be rectified before the EWP is cleared for use. See the Safe Work Australia Guide (Appendix B – Routine inspections) for items in the Routine inspection checklist.

Periodic inspection: This inspection is based on intervals of usage (in hours) subject to a maximum time period, typically one year. Periodic inspections for the machine in its entirety should be undertaken at least annually, unless otherwise recommended by the manufacturer. Individual components within the machine may need inspection more frequently. To see the items to check in a periodic inspection, see the Safe Work Australia Guide (Appendix C – Periodic & major inspections).

In summary, a minimum of 4 inspections should occur annually for working machines—3 ‘routine’ inspections (every 90 days) that cover the items on the routine inspection checklist, plus 1 annual ‘periodic’ inspection that covers items on the periodic inspection checklist.

Major inspection: This inspection involves dismantling and examining critical components of the access equipment, and assessing and recording the serviceability of each component or assembly. Major inspections occur after 10 years of service, and every 5 years thereafter, however may be required earlier if:

  • the manufacturer recommends a major inspection at earlier intervals
  • modifications have been made to the EWP which could impact on the safety
  • the EWP has suffered damage that could compromise critical components or functions, or
  • a competent person recommends it due to issues identified during other inspections.

See the Safe Work Australia Guide (3.4. Major inspections) for other circumstances where a major inspection may be required.

(The checklists for these routine inspections included as part of the Safe Work Australia Guide are not exhaustive. Additional checks may be recommended by the manufacturer and/or the person assessing the equipment.)

When to consider upgrading your access equipment

Given that we have covered the topic of the machine’s design life, let’s now look at other reasons why you may need to upgrade your access equipment.

1. The Machine Has Been Used Incorrectly

The machine’s operator manual provides crucial guidelines on usage. Misuse, such as overloading beyond the rated capacity (even once), can lead to severe damage or premature failure. Routine inspections play a crucial role in identifying issues resulting from misuse, but if there is awareness of any misuse prior to a routine inspection, immediate inspection is essential, and a decision about whether to continue with this machine, or to upgrade, may be necessary.

2. Frequency and Type of Use

The frequency of machine use significantly impacts wear and tear, making routine inspections especially vital for daily-use equipment. Additionally, how the machine is transported and used can influence wear and tear. Factors such as road conditions and the distance travelled, especially for vehicle-mounted pieces of access equipment, contribute to accelerated wear and tear. Operating in harsh conditions, like corrosive, dusty, hot, or cold environments, may necessitate increased inspection frequency.

If the frequency and type of use of the equipment has accelerated wear and tear or caused damage, you will need to decide on whether or not to invest in repairing the equipment, or trading up for a newer version. Generally speaking, if only small components need replacing, it might be worthwhile keeping the equipment. If most components need to be replaced and the cost of repair is comparable to a new machine, you may consider an upgrade.

3. The Machine Can't Meet Your Requirements

As job requirements evolve and technological advancements occur, your existing piece of access equipment may no longer serve your needs. Newer machines may offer solutions that provide greater benefits to overall efficiency. Therefore, if the machine cannot meet current job demands, upgrading becomes a logical consideration.

4. Changes in Regulations and Compliance

Changes in regulations may impact the compliance of your current access equipment. While adjustments and repairs can often bring equipment up to standard, there are cases where upgrading is necessary to ensure full compliance with regulatory requirements.

In summary, the decision to upgrade access equipment is a multifaceted process involving considerations such as design life, correct usage, frequency of use, the machine meeting your requirements and regulatory compliance. Maintaining accurate usage records, following inspection schedules, and consistently upkeeping the machine are crucial steps to maximise equipment longevity. This proactive approach ensures not only prolonged machine operation but also provides early awareness of any potential issues that might necessitate replacement.

What to Do with a Used Machine?

When thinking about upgrading your access equipment, it’s a wise idea to speak with professionals, like the access equipment specialists at Auslift Equipment. We can provide insights into the best upgrading strategies, ensuring that your decision aligns with your operational requirements. If you are looking to upgrade we offer a wide range of new access hire equipment for sale, including scissor lifts, boom lifts, forklifts and cherry pickers, as well as a comprehensive range of access equipment for hire.