Informing the industry: A Q&A with SAIA’s new MEWP Chair
27 October 2023
With new Chair Tony Groat leading the way, the SAIA’s Mobile Elevating Work Platform Council quickly established a new set of goals and objectives. Lindsey Anderson reports.
In late 2022, Tony Groat, North America regional manager for the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF), was named as the Chair of the Scaffold & Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) Council, replacing Forrest Hester.
Groat, who has been in the construction equipment industry for more than four decades, including 31 years in the equipment rental industry and more than 15 years with IPAF, is a recognized industry expert, and has been directly involved in the development of MEWP industry standards, including ANSI/SAIA A92 and CSA B354. He is also a technical expert for the U.S. on ISO TC214 standards.
Groat recently spoke with SA Editor Lindsey Anderson about the direction the Council will be taking, its updated goals and objectives, and what to expect in the coming year.
SA: What are the MEWP Council’s current, main goals and objectives?
Groat: As the new Chair of the Council, the first action was to establish a clear mission – “To promote Safety Awareness in compliance with ANSI/SAIA A92 standards through a more informed access industry.”
As chair, one of the first actions required was to assemble a team of members to work together to make of mission a reality. Our committee now consists of Temo Ochoa (vice-chair,) David Donkin, Don Satterfield, Liliana Calderon and Scot Christiano.
Council members established that our goals must address users of the equipment – both contractors and operators.
- Goal 1: Utilize SAIA Committee Week as a forum to openly discuss issues that impact the MEWP industry, then define initiatives to bring about resolution.
- Goal 2: Take a leadership role regarding issues facing the industry that will ultimately benefit the entire industry by elevating discussion and awareness.
- Goal 3: Increase and strengthen participation within the MEWP Council by actively soliciting participation from all stakeholders, with a focus on contractor users of MEWP equipment.
- Goal 4: Support any initiatives that enhance the SAIA-OSHA Alliance.
SA: Over the past 12 months, what has the MEWP Council been actively working on?
Groat: The reality is that this council has a new Chair and all new members. Realistic expectations from the council must be met with realistic time frames. The council members are volunteers who have full-time jobs. At the same time, the Chair and members have many years of industry experience to apply to our goals.
One agreed activity of the council is to update the Industry Best Practice documents created back in 2010 – 2012 that address training and familiarization, personal fall protection for MEWPs, and workplace risk assessments for MEWPs.
In combination of our goals 1 and 2, this council will take a leadership role and begin a new draft that will incorporate the responsibilities added with the new ANSI/SAIA A92 suite of standards. We will invite additional associations (ARA, IPAF, AEM and others) to make these truly ‘industry’ best practice.
Our plan is to develop drafts and begin group reviews during SAIA Committee Week meetings in March 2024. Industry best practice documents can raise awareness for MEWP users and offer more specific, detailed best practices that a standard cannot provide (e.g., how long should training take?) The changes can be somewhat significant to mirror the significant changes made in the suite of A92 standards.
The council also plans on identifying needed topics and develop new MEWP OSHA tip sheets that can be offered within the SAIA/OSHA Alliance. There is no doubt that awareness is the first step to prevention and there are many areas of concern that can provide opportunities to raise awareness and offer control measures for accident prevention.
It is important to have representation from all industry stakeholders to have an understanding of both needs and solutions to industry issues. The SAIA, and specifically this Council, will be reaching out to manufacturers, rental companies, contractors, unions and other stakeholders and invite their participation in this council. This will be an ongoing goal. If you are reading this and have an interest, please contact me!
SA: Are there any upcoming changes to standards/regulations that will impact the Council? If so, what? And how?
Groat: Industry standards are required to be reviewed every 5 years. The ANSI/SAIA A92 suite of standards was published in 2018. They are due for updates, and I would expect that to occur in 2024. At the same time, ISO MEWP standards are also in the works for periodic review and republishing. While the changes will unlikely be as significant as the last revisions, there will no doubt be changes that will require raising awareness and training. There is always work to be done.
SA: What would the Council like to relay to readers of SA Magazine?
Groat: From this council, our message is simple – if you are interested in our mission and goals, raise your hand and join our efforts. While you may sit back and the council WILL move forward without you, YOUR voice is important, and many hands lighten the load. I add that my experience is that I typically get more out of the effort than what I put in through the networking, relationships and learning I gain. This is truly an investment in your industry, company and YOURSELF.
SA: How do you expect the MEWP and related markets to fair for the remainder of 2023? (Globally, but with the first focus being on North America.) Where are the opportunities?
Groat: While there are certain things that are clear, there are always things that are a guessing game. With certainty, the MEWP industry will continue to grow and improve both the efficiency and safety of users of the equipment. Available equipment will continue to expand with non-U.S. manufacturers with all of the challenges and opportunities that brings to the market. But a MEWP is a MEWP regardless of who and where is made. How to use it safely and productively is globally the same. The users and operator will change, and we need to be there to support their needs and continue to focus on safety for work at height.