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Who is responsible for safety?

03 July 2019

Denis Hogan, performance and special projects manager at the Lifting equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), runs through the roles and responsibilities for ensuring the continued safety of in-service lifting equipment.

LEEA has raised concerns at the lack of understanding of legal obligations with regards to lifting equipment in several areas, namely: pre-use checks, routine inspection, maintenance and Thorough Examination. It is vital to raise awareness of this issue and to educate end users to ensure the safest possible practice.

The education begins with two very important pieces of legislation: PUWER 1998 and LOLER 1998. According to PUWER, lifting equipment must, when first put into service, be suitable for the intended use and meet the essential health and safety requirements of Directive 2006/42/EC. It further stipulates that during service it must be maintained and inspected at regular intervals to ensure it is kept in a safe condition. And the equipment must be used by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training.

Meanwhile, LOLER requires that Lifting Equipment is Thoroughly Examined:

  • before it enters service, unless supplied with an EC Declaration of Conformity issued not more than 12 months before the equipment is put into service, or
  • every 6 months for people carrying equipment and lifting accessories or
  • every 12 months for lifting machines, or
  • after exceptional circumstances, or
  • in accordance with a written examination scheme.

There are three levels of checking. The first is pre-use checking, which is to be carried out by the operator of the equipment before each use. This involves looking for signs of damage or other features such as dents, cuts, tears, permanent deformations, abnormal noises and changes in function. Any such findings, should be reported to the inspection / maintenance personnel and, if necessary, the equipment should be removed from service.

The second level of checking is routine inspection and maintenance. This task is often completed at the same time, usually by the inspection and maintenance personnel. The periods between planned inspection and maintenance will depend upon a risk assessment based on the use of the equipment, environmental conditions, hazards and cyclic rate of use. Inspections can be limited to critical components identified in the risk assessment. Where defects are reported, corrective action must be carried out.

The final level of checking is Thorough Examination, which must only be carried out by a Competent Person, who must have sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge of the equipment that they are examining to enable them to identify defects and assess their importance in terms of the continued safety of the equipment. Of course, if pre-use checks and routine inspection/maintenance are carried out properly, then Thorough Examinations should not find any defects.

If defects are found, it may highlight several factors. These may include possible issues with the inspection/maintenance regime, the competency of the inspectors or maintainers (a lack of product knowledge and its limitations), and the product’s fitness for purpose.

Thorough Examinations can be used as a safety net used to identify potential problems within your inspection/maintenance regime. They can also provide a means of improvement and prevention of recurrence.

The Duty Holder
The Duty Holder Is the person who is responsible for the lifting equipment in service within their plant or site – usually an employer or self-employed person, building owner, person in charge of the equipment or a hire company.

The Duty Holder must comply with LOLER and PUWER. If they do not possess the necessary skills or knowledge required, they may delegate to qualified personnel or organisations. This does not absolve them of responsibility; it simply changes the nature of their accountability.

The Duty Holder must ensure that those undertaking the tasks are suitably qualified, experienced, trained and equipped – in short, competent for their task. The Duty Holder must, therefore, ensure that employees undertaking the task are assessed, properly trained and provided with the necessary equipment for their role.

In terms of external organisations, the Duty Holder must have procedures in place for vetting their competency. This can be achieved by making enquiries about the competence of the contractor (including their employees and subcontractors). It can also be attained by ensuring contractors have the right combination of skills, experience and knowledge to carry out the work required. Similarly, the level of enquiries made should be determined by the level of risk and the complexity of the job.

Procurement personnel
Responsible for selecting equipment that is best suited to the intended application, procurement personnel will have a full understanding of the equipment, the environmental conditions of use, the required duty and the applicable legislation and relevant standards. They will also be aware of changes, such as remote control systems for cranes and hoists. It is also important to consider who is going to use the equipment and if any additional training is required, according to The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Procurement personnel must be able to order equipment accurately and the equipment must be fit for purpose in terms of minimum performance requirements, environment of use and frequency of use. It should reference the correct product standard and have the correct supporting documentation. If in doubt the procurement personnel must know whom to contact for relevant advice – and not just the salesman. Equipment should be selected by suitability and not just the price.

Under Regulation 10 of PUWER, those responsible for taking on new equipment, must ensure that it meets all applicable essential health and safety requirements. This means ensuring that the correct paperwork is received and the equipment is marked with required information by the appropriate standards and legislation. This includes the year of manufacture. For further guidance, refer to the LEEA-059 series of guides to documentation and marking.

Lifting equipment examiner
A Lifting Equipment Examiner must be deemed as competent by their employer or have supporting evidence if self employed. They must be able to show practical and theoretical knowledge as well as experience of the lifting equipment that is to be thoroughly examined.
This will enable them to detect defects or weaknesses in the equipment.

They are responsible for ensuring that any defects found are properly reported to the Duty Holder with recommendations as to the required corrective actions.
Where the examiner identifies a defect, which could, within a specified period of time, become a danger to persons and therefore requires repair or remedial action by the owner, they also have a duty under LOLER to report their findings to an enforcing authority (usually the HSE) within 28 days from the date of the thorough examination
The Duty Holder is responsible for ensuring that appropriate action is taken to remedy the defect as instructed by the Lifting Equipment Examiner. The examiner is also required to investigate the root cause of the problem and implement corrective measures to prevent reoccurrence.

The inspector
The Inspector is responsible for the interim inspections between Thorough Examinations, as determined by the risk assessment, which must take into account factors such as: the manufacturer’s details, what the equipment is to be used for and the environmental conditions of use. This will enable the identification of critical components and assemblies to be inspected and the intervals between their inspections.

Inspectors are also responsible for identifying critical components, monitoring them and ensuring replacement before they become a danger to persons. The Duty Holder is responsible for ensuring that appropriate corrective action is taken. They must have a detailed knowledge of the equipment and its application. They must also ensure that records of each inspection are maintained; any findings, recommendations or urgent actions are reported to the duty holder; and Information is made available to the Lifting Equipment Examiner.

Maintenance personnel
Maintenance Personnel are responsible for repairing faults as and when they occur, as requested by the inspector or duty holder, as required by the manufacturer’s literature, or in accordance with a planned maintenance regime defined by the risk assessment. They must have a thorough understanding of the equipment and its components, and an ability to select and use appropriate tools.
Maintenance Personnel must ensure repairs are done effectively using suitable components keep records in the form of a maintenance log that can be made available to the inspector and competent person; ensure repairs are done effectively using suitable components; and keep records of repairs in the form of a maintenance log, which can be made available to the inspector and competent person.

Operators have a responsibility to only use lifting equipment for which they have received training. It must be operated in accordance with this training and the manufacturer’s literature after pre-use checking. Damage or changes in the operation of the equipment that may indicate a defect must be reported to the inspection/maintenance personnel.

Finally, it is always worth remembering with these issues the importance of seeking out a LEEA member. Members are fully audited and trained to ensure they offer excellence and compliance to standards and legislation. The LEEA Audit process furnishes members with a recognised guarantee of excellence. More importantly, the Audit provides reassurance to the many tens of thousands of Duty Holders who bear responsibility for the safe design, maintenance and operation of the lifting equipment their firm buys, hires or contracts in, often with little personal knowledge of the subject. Through using an audited LEEA member, end users of lifting equipment across all industry sectors gain a guarantee that those aspects of their responsibilities have been faithfully and professionally discharged.