Lifting operations within the workplace can be extremely dangerous - whether it's the positioning of steel beams on a construction site, the shifting of heavy pallets in a warehouse or the hoisting of personnel up the side of a tower-block.
If you run a business which operates lifting equipment in any capacity then you are responsible for ensuring its inspection and maintenance.
In the UK this means adhering to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
1. What is LOLER?
LOLER is the set of regulations that ensures lifting operations and the use of lifting equipment is as safe as it can possibly be.
It requires businesses to carefully manage how they use their equipment, to forsee any risks, to keep stringent safety records and to notify their relevant enforcing authority of any defects.
Whenever any form of lifting equipment is used on your premises for work purposes, and regardless of whether you own that equipment or are renting it, it must undergo regular and thorough examination.
2. What equipment is covered by LOLER?
LOLER defines 'lifting equipment' as any device that used for the raising or lowering of loads for work purposes. Examples of lifting equipment include telehandlers, forklifts, overhead cranes, goods lifts, suspension equipment and motor vehicle lifts.
Any accessories or attachments that are used for the anchoring, supporting or fixing of the lifting equipment are also subject to LOLER. These include chains, hooks, eye-bolts, spreader beams, magnetic or vacuum devices and fibre rope or slings.
3. What equipment ISN'T covered by LOLER?
Equipment NOT covered by LOLER includes: escalators, roller doors, tipper trucks, pallet trucks, fall arrest ropes and dentist chairs.
However, where these items are used in the workplace, they will need to be inspected for safety under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER.)
4. How often should LOLER inspections take place?
The LOLER regulations state that equipment must be thoroughly examined before it is first used, immediately following the repair or replacement of any essential component, whenever the equipment is moved from its chassis or fitted to a new chassis, and within twelve months of its last examination.
Any safety-critical lifting accessories, such as chains or slings, are required to be examined every six months.
5. Who is qualified to examine?
The LOLER Accepted Code of Practice (ACOP) defines a 'competent person' as someone with "appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the equipment to be thoroughly examined."
In order to ensure a sufficiently objective assessment, the person carrying out the examination should also be impartial, so it is often recommended to employ the services of an external contractor.
6. What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Failure to comply with LOLER regulations can have tragic consequences, as was seen in the example of the collapsed crane tower in Battersea London in 2006 in which two people lost their lives.
In this case the cause of the accident was found to be the failure of twenty-four bolts which caused sections of the tower crane to separate.
When ruling on the case, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stated that the crane company had "inadequate systems for managing the inspections and maintenance of its crane fleet." The company was fined £750,000 plus court costs of £100,000.
7. How can I find out more?
The LOLER Approved Code of Practice and guidance is available to download from the HSE website.
The newest edition includes the latest regulatory changes and provides clarification on ACOP guidance related to high lift pallet trucks.
It also gives further clarification on which equipment is subject to the regulations and the role of the 'competent person'
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