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Any business or organisation that undertakes lifting operations or is involved in providing lifting equipment for others to use, must manage and control the risks to avoid any injury or damage.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) 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 the case of lifting operations the LOLER regs are also supported by an approved code of practice (ACOP) Safe use of lifting equipment: Approved Code of Practice. While the ACOP is not law, an ACOP does have special status. If you are prosecuted for breach of health and safety law, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the Code, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way or a court will find you at fault.

All lifting operations involving lifting equipment must be

  • Properly planned by a competent person and appropriately supervised when in progress.
  • Involve equipment that is fit for purpose, appropriate for the task, that is suitably marked and which has been subject to a 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.

Other more specific legislation may also apply, for example the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations when safety harnesses are being used for rope access work during activities such as window cleaning.

Lifting and Load

Lifting is defined as '… an operation concerned with the lifting or lowering of a load'. A 'load' is the item or items being lifted, which includes a person or people.

Lifting equipment

Lifting equipment means work equipment for lifting and lowering loads and includes lifting accessories and attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting the equipment (ie anchors, fibre or rope slings, chains, hooks, eyebolts, magnetic and vacuum devices).

Whilst LOLER is wide in its scope it only applies to lifting equipment which is used at work. Furthermore some equipment which might appear to be 'lifting' and therefore thought to be covered by LOLER are excepted. Notable exceptions that are not covered by LOLER, include:

  • pallet trucks, where the consequence of the load falling off is very low
  • fall arrest ropes (covered under Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992)

Selecting the right equipment

LOLER requires that lifting equipment must be of adequate strength and stability. Lifting equipment should be positioned or installed in such a way as to reduce the risk of the equipment or load striking a person, or of the load drifting, falling freely or being unintentionally released.

Where people are being lifted, there are additional requirements to prevent people from being injured in / by the carrier, including more frequent thorough examinations.

Planning, organising and carrying out lifting operations

All lifting operations involving lifting equipment must be:

  • properly planned by a competent person
  • appropriately supervised, and
  • carried out in a safe manner

Lifting operations may range from the very simple and commonplace, (where minimal on-the-job planning by trained, competent people may be all that is needed to manage risk); to very complex operations, which require sophisticated and detailed planning / records, with very high levels of expert input, monitoring and supervision - undertaken by specially trained personnel. The complexity of the plan and the extent of the resources used to manage risk must reflect the complexity and difficulty of the lifting operation.

Marking of lifting equipment

All lifting equipment, including accessories, must be clearly marked to indicate their 'safe working loads' (SWL) - the maximum load the equipment can safely lift.

Where the SWL of any equipment or accessory depends on its configuration, the information provided on the SWL must reflect all potential configurations (for example, where the hook of an engine hoist can be moved to different positions, the SWL should be shown for each position). In some cases, the information should be kept with the lifting machinery, eg the rated capacity indicator fitted to a crane, showing the operator the SWL for any of the crane's permitted lifting configurations.

Accessories must also be marked to show any characteristics that might affect their safe use. This may include the weight of the parts, where their weight is significant.

Where equipment is to be used to lift people, it should be marked to indicate the number of people that can be lifted in addition to the SWL of the equipment. Lifting equipment which is not designed for lifting people - but which might be used this way in error - must be clearly marked to indicate it should not be used to lift people.

Most lifting equipment and lifting accessories will also fall within the scope of the Machinery Directive, as implemented by the UK Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations. Such equipment must have been subject to conformity assessmentand be appropriately CE marked and accompanied by a Declaration of Conformity (DoC) before being placed on the market or brought into use. This includes lifting equipment whose only source of power is directly applied human effort (eg manually operated chain blocks and car jacks). The DoC, which must accompany the new product, is an important document, which should be retained by the user.

Thorough examinations and inspections of lifting equipment

There is always the responsibility on the user to undertake simple pre-use on site checks, and/or make checks on a regular basis, to ensure that the equipment is safe to use as identified by any risk assessment. Such inspections need to be undertaken by suitably trained and competent people, which can often be the lifting equipment operator.

In addition the Loler regs require that all lifting equipment must be thoroughly examined at periodic intervals.

What is a 'thorough examination'.

This is a systematic and detailed examination of the equipment and safety-critical parts, carried out at specified intervals by a competent person who must then complete a written report.

What is a 'competent person'?

The term 'competent person' is not defined in law but the ACOP states that “the person carrying out a thorough examination has such appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifting equipment to be thoroughly examined as will enable them to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the lifting equipment.'

Although the competent person may often be employed by another organisation, this is not necessary, provided they are sufficiently independent and impartial to ensure that in-house examinations are made without fear or favour. However, this should not be the same person who undertakes routine maintenance of the equipment - as they would then be responsible for assessing their own maintenance work.

When should thorough examinations be carried out?

In order to verify that lifting equipment and accessories remain safe for use, and to detect and remedy any deterioration in good time, thorough examinations are required throughout the lifetime of the equipmen as follows:

  1. before use for the first time - (unless the equipment has an EC Declaration of Conformity less than one year old and the equipment was not assembled on site). 
  2. after assembly and before use at each location where that equipment requires assembly or installation before use, eg tower cranes
  3. at regular periods while in service at either the earlier of, the periods set out in any examination scheme (where for example the equipment is exposed to conditions that cause exceptional deterioration) or, in accordance with the LOLER regs as follows.
    - 6 months, for lifting equipment and any associated accessories used to lift people
    - 6 months, for all lifting accessories
    - 12 months, for all other lifting equipment
  4. following exceptional circumstances ie after damage, failure, modifcations, repairs to critical parts or being out of use for long periods

What is covered by a thorough examination?

This will include all matters which affect the safety of the lifting equipment, including likely deterioration with time. These examinations will follow industry standard procedures and any other areas that the examiner considers appropriate.

Although examination schemes do not need to be preserved in the form of a document, it should be possible to produce a written copy when required (eg on request by the relevant enforcing authority). These should be secured from loss or unauthorised modification.

Testing of lifting equipment

Most lifting equipment does not need routine testing as part of the thorough examination - in fact some overload tests can cause damage to lifting equipment. Where testing is deemed necessary, it may not need to be undertaken at every thorough examination. The need for, and nature of, testing should be based on an assessment of risk - taking account of information from the manufacturer and other relevant information - as determined by the competent person.

Reports and defects

The contents required in a thorough examination report are specified by Schedule 1 of LOLER. Records should be kept of all thorough examinations and inspections, and of the EC Declarations of Conformity for all lifting equipment and lifting accessories. Examination and inspection records do not need to be kept in hard copy form but a written copy should be available when required.

Where serious defects are identified, the competent person carrying out the examination must immediately report this verbally to the dutyholder. This should then be followed by the written report, a copy of which must also be sent to the relevant enforcing authority.

Where, following a thorough examination or inspection of lifting equipment, a defect is identified - which in the opinion of the person undertaking the examination or inspection - is (or could become) a danger to people, the user (employer or self employed person) should be notified immediately. That equipment must not be used until the defect is remedied. Such defects must be confirmed in writing in the report, even if it is remedied immediately (eg by destruction of a sling). The person making the report must also notify the relevant enforcing authority with a copy of the report. Enforcing authorities may follow up such reports to check that risks are being adequately managed.

In some cases, a defect may be identified which does not require the immediate cessation of use of the lifting equipment. In these cases, the fault must be remedied, within the time period specified on the report.

It is the users responsibility to:

  • To plan, organise and supervise the lifting operations.
  • To select the appropriate equipment for the task
  • To check the equipment prior to use.
  • To report any defects found on upon inspection.

As the supplier of equipment covered by the Loler regs we will

  • Deliver equipment that has been inspected prior to hire, that has a current certificate of thorough examination and is safe to use.
  • Ensure that the equipment is properly marked.
  • Provide a copy of the latest relevant certificate of examination and instruction 
  • Monitor the dates due for thorough examination and exchange that equipment prior to those certificates expiring.
  • Use an appropriate independent competent person to carry out all thorough examinations.

HSE website links.

Want to know more?

Call us today on 020 8533 5222

At TOGA Hire Centres, we take Health and Safety matters very seriously and hope that these fact sheets are of help. However, we must stress that these guidelines are not intended to be fully comprehensive instructions and the customer should, of course, be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff at all times.

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