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The world of the Lifting Inspector

11 October 2023

ROSS MOLONEY, CEO of Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), looks at what makes being a Lifting Inspector a heroic occupation to which the Lifting Equipment Technician apprenticeship opens the door.

Being a Lifting Inspector is a globally recognised occupation, in demand wherever lifting equipment is used. In industrial terms, that could be anything from manufacturing, logistics, ports and maritime, construction, mining, quarrying and renewables.

Add these to a plethora of non-industrial sectors, such as entertainment, medical, aeronautical, agricultural and the military, and Lifting Inspectors can find themselves working in all kinds of environments. Throughout these sectors there will be a variety of cranes, hoists, platforms, cradles and their associated chains, ropes, slings and other tackle that will require pre-use checks, inspection, maintenance and Thorough Examination. Lifting Inspectors and service engineers will ensure the safety and suitability of the equipment used for lifting loads in order to meet regulatory requirements. A fulfilling role certainly, made more so by a variety of challenges set by many of these sectors.

Challenging environments

Offshore oil and gas platforms are the very definition of a hazardous environment, and the risks inherent in lifting operations are well known. Put the two together and the risk potential is clear, so it is no surprise that the operation, maintenance and inspection of lifting equipment offshore is particularly well regulated. There is a real need for inspectors, and those who manage them, to have a clear understanding of the environment they are working in as well as the costs and impacts of inspection activities offshore: it’s not like stopping at a factory. 

With the drive to increase the number of wind farms to boost the proportion of renewable energy generation, many Lifting Inspectors will ply their trade several hundred feet up a swaying pole, above a bleak moorland or raging sea, in a location expressly chosen for its high winds. As the population of offshore wind turbines accelerates, so too will the requirement for Lifting Inspectors and service engineers of a particular type. It’s not just the technical element, they will also need to be physically fit and unafraid of heights or indeed of water. Training standards for offshore turbine work are set by the Global Wind Organisation. Mandatory training covers Sea Survival and Boat Transfer, Manual Handling, Fire Awareness, Working at Height, and First Aid. 

Across ports and maritime operations smooth loading and offloading of goods depends on being able to lift. Regular inspection on the structure of, for example, a port crane - its sheaves, the jib and the slew mechanism are just some of the areas of focus for maintenance programmes. Technology is increasingly becoming an essential aid, as can be seen in the routine monitoring of wire ropes in offshore applications, where Magnetic Rope Testing (MRT) provides a previously unavailable look into the condition of a rope’s core. 

In plants and factories manufacturing companies may be surprised to discover how much lifting equipment they actually own. In addition to production equipment there is likely to be material handling kit that is used to make work not only easier and more efficient but also to reduce musculo-skeletal and repetitive strain injuries.

In most sectors, there will often be rarely used equipment, perhaps to deal with such things as maintenance. Other operations may collect 'redundant' lifting gear, which of course ceases to be redundant the moment someone tries to use it. 

Lifting Inspectors can be heroes

All of the lifting equipment in each of these sectors needs to be inspected and maintained, not only to ensure reliability that will minimise downtime and boost efficiency but, more importantly, to make lifting tasks safe. In any lifting operation, ignorance can all too easily result in severe consequences, that can go far beyond simply impeding a company’s progress: it can result in an accident, a visit from health and safety inspectors and, ultimately, punishment. Failures are entirely avoidable provided everyone in the chain of responsibility performs their role and understands that lifting equipment has to be looked after. From this perspective, Lifting Inspectors really can be heroes.

In fact that world of the Lifting Inspector is full of interesting opportunity. It offers travel opportunities, challenging environments as we have seen, and satisfying work that makes a real difference to peoples’ lives. We would encourage anybody with an interest in such things to consider this occupation.

To provide an easier way in, the Lifting Equipment Technician apprenticeship, which is available now, is transforming the way in which young - as well as the not so young - people are brought into, and developed in, the profession. It is the outcome of several years' hard work by the Trailblazer team, chaired by the current LEEA Chair, Kat Moss, and incorporating LEEA members and other industry representatives, colleges and training providers. Although the detail of the scheme is specific to England, the apprenticeship is based around a Standard which is intended to be of global applicability.

Rated as a Level 3, which is ‘A’ level equivalent, the Apprenticeship is firmly based around the needs and expectations of the industry and those going into it. Developed by the industry itself rather than by Whitehall or college sales teams, it embraces not only task-specific skills, but broader knowledge of engineering, business and other fields, and the ‘softer’ employability skills around values, teamwork and communication.

Apprentices will come away with specific skills such as how to inspect and repair lifting equipment or assemble slings, but also broader engineering and IT knowledge, an understanding of Health and Safety, of the commercial implications of their activities, and they will acquire abilities in report writing, customer service and much more. The apprenticeship also provides a natural gateway for further Continuing Professional Development (CPD) options, such as advanced LEEA training.

Apprenticeships are a great first step towards not only creating expertise from the first day a career commences, but also for generating a new breed of experts that can keep pace with the changing world of lifting around them.

Advanced training

LEEA offers a range of courses to nurture expertise, starting with the beginner level Foundation Course, which covers common types of lifting equipment used across the industry and basic knowledge of key topics. This course is a pre-requisite for LEEA’s Advanced Programmes and does not qualify the person taking it to do inspection or examination of lifting equipment.

The Lifting Accessories Course (LAC) Diploma does qualify students to carry out inspection and thorough examination of lifting accessories. Manual Lifting Machines (MLM) Diploma is essential for anyone engaged in the testing, inspection, examination and repair/maintenance of manual lifting machines, while the Powered Lifting Machines (PLM) Diploma is essential for anyone engaged in the testing, inspection, examination and repair/maintenance of powered lifting machines. 

A series of advanced programmes includes Overhead Travelling Cranes, which focuses on the inspection and thorough examination of overhead travelling cranes; Offshore Container Examination, which focuses on the inspection and thorough examination of offshore containers; Runways and Crane Structures, which focuses on the inspection and thorough examination of runways and crane structures; and the Mobile Crane Examination [MCE] Advanced Programme, which focuses on the inspection and thorough examination of mobile cranes. 

As a safety organisation with zero accidents and injuries from working at height being our prime goal, LEEA wants to remind end users how important it is to use expert Lifting Inspectors with expertise and high-quality training, and who routinely develop innovative solutions. Always look for the LEEA logo, whether it is on the in-house Lifting Inspector’s qualifications or if bringing service provider to provide the service, because it gives assurance of safe and expert practice when it comes to lifting equipment and services such as maintenance and inspection. 

For more information on the Lifting Technician Apprenticeship, visit: tinyurl.com/yc4msv93.

Lifting Equipment Engineers Association

Tel: 01480 432801

Email: mail@leeaint.com

Web: leeaint.com