Elevating the safety issues around lifts and lifting equipment
Lifts, lifting equipment and lifting accessories are essential part of modern life. They remove the need to climb numerous flights of stairs in an office and make working in an industrial environment more tolerable.
Often, lifting equipment is used to make a job safer but when that equipment fails there are disastrous consequences for users and those around them.
Using unsafe lifting equipment can be fatal
A sheriff’s court in Scotland recently heard how the failings of both a plant hire operator and the contractor engaged to inspect the plant for safety led to the death of one person and severely injured another.
The investigation found that prior to the incident access equipment had been repaired in an unsafe manner and this hadn’t been picked up by lift inspectors.
Failing to ensure the safety of the equipment being used at the time resulted in a two-year prison sentence for the director of the plant hire company – the maximum allowed under the law – and a £61,000 fine for his business.
The company responsible for inspecting the equipment was fined £30,000 for failing to identify the equipment as unsafe.
Be clear on the law around the provision of work equipment
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Regulations, often abbreviated to PUWER, place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment.
PUWER also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.
PUWER requires that equipment provided for use at work is:
- suitable for the intended use;
- safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate;
- used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training;
- accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices;
- used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses.
Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER.
For example, pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations, personal protective equipment must meet the PPE Regulations, and lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
How does LOLER differ from PUWER?
These Regulations place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. This includes all businesses and organisations whose employees use lifting equipment, whether owned by them or not.
In most cases, lifting equipment is also work equipment so the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) will also apply (including inspection and maintenance). All lifting operations involving lifting equipment must be properly planned by a competent person, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner.
LOLER also requires that all equipment used for lifting is fit for purpose, appropriate for the task, suitably marked and, in many cases, subject to statutory periodic ‘thorough examination’.
Records must be kept of all ‘thorough examinations’, and any defects found must be reported to both the person responsible for the equipment and the relevant enforcing authority.
What can employers learn from the recent lifting equipment court case?
The LOLER regulations are clear that the duty to ensure the safety of the lifting equipment rests with the employer. In the case of this incident a repair had been completed, incorrectly carried out and the inspection company subsequently failed in their duty to carry out an adequate thorough examination of the platform.
This failure by the inspection company may have contributed to the higher sentencing for the employer and highlights how important it is for the employer to ensure that persons engaged to complete examinations of any safety critical equipment are competent and complete the inspections correctly.
To help ensure you are using a reputable company which employs competent persons visit the Safety Assessment Federation website.
Take the right steps to achieve compliance
The Moorepay HRHub has a wealth of information on lifts and lifting equipment to help employers adhere to the regulations. However, you can also find additional information on LOLER, particularly the requirements surrounding the ‘Report of Thorough Examination’ section, on Gov.uk.