Lifiting and Handling - The LOLER lowdown01 October 2004
Wherever there is lifting equipment there will be safety issues. In December 1998 the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) came into force to help reduce the risk and occurrence of accidents through the continuing integrity of lifting equipment. LOLER covers essentially any plant that lifts, wherever the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 applies. The onus is on the user, manager or owner of the equipment to ensure compliance. Plant engineers should therefore be familiar with their full duties under the regulations and would be well advised to refer to the Regulations and accompanying Code of Practice. While a number of pamphlet guides have been published, including one by the Health and Safety Executive, the regulations are detailed: in the opinion of Robin Burden, an independent health, safety and quality advisor who has worked with lifting plant suppliers such as JLG, "LOLER does leave some room for manoeuvre."
A common area of confusion is whether plant is covered under either LOLER or the Provision of Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), according to Phil Moore, head of engineering at Zurich Risk Services. "For example," he says, "pallet trucks, which only lift the load just clear of the ground to allow it to be transported, are under PUWER. Conveyor belts are under PUWER, however, subject to a risk assessment they may be covered by LOLER."
It all depends upon the application; a risk assessment will establish whether or not the angle of inclination, taken together with other factors, will deem the conveyor comes under LOLER.
Winching is another area that might catch out the unwary, according to Robin Penny, production director, Penny Hydraulics. He says: "If there is a change in level in that operation, such as winching up a forklift truck to the back of a breakdown wagon, then that is a lifting operation."
Key items under LOLER for the plant engineer to consider include:
- Does the plant have sufficient strength and stability?
- Will it lift people?
- Can the plant be installed and positioned without risk of injury?
- Is the plant marked adequately?
- Are lifting operations properly planned?
- Perhaps the most significant regulation - how often should the plant be thoroughly examined?
Any item on an inventory of lift gear should be suitable for the purpose for which it is to be used, as required by regulation 4 of LOLER, which also states that the equipment should have adequate strength and stability. An unwary operator or engineer could misinterpret a situation, according to Graham Handy, operations director of Crane Care. "For example, a particular crane could have been designed for a safe working load (SWL) of 2 tonnes but only for occasional use," he says. "If an unwary operator believes that it is suitable for continuous use, there will inevitably be a major problem. The required maintenance will not be the same as it is for a similar 2-tonne crane intended for continuous use, and the operator has to be aware of the appropriate duty rating."
When it comes to vacuum handlers, a spokesman for manufacturer Tawi explains: "The lift has to be rated 25% greater than required. The deflection on the jib arm also has to be checked - it is rated at 25% more than what it should lift."
In the case of a goods lift, says John Patey, works director at Britannia Lift, "a unit designed to raise a 1- tonne load made up of numerous boxes would be very different to one designed to take a 1-tonne reel of steel, even though the total load is the same. It is also important to bear this in mind if a change of usage is ever considered."
It is important to determine - as defined by regulation 5 - whether the lifting gear will carry people so that the operator knows how often the plant should be thoroughly examined, under regulation 9. Sometimes it's a contentious issue whether an item is a 'man-riding' piece of equipment. Penny Hydraulics manufactures tail lifts as well as units such as goods lifts used for mezzanine floors in warehouses and to lower beer barrels into pub cellars. Robin Penny says these lifts can be designed to stop people using them but adds: "If there are no stairs nearby there might be a temptation to ride on that bit of kit, in which case you might need to be more forceful in not just putting notices up but actually precluding people from riding on it. You have to assess every job on its own merits; if you are carrying people then you need to look at increased safety factors for prevention of accidents, such as handrails."
According to regulation 9, thorough examinations should be carried out every six months for accessories and equipment used for lifting people and annually for all other equipment, or at intervals laid down in an examination scheme drawn up by a competent person. Some items, such as lift tables, will serve both purposes. "For standard lifting tables, lifting goods up and down, the LOLER regulation is that they are serviced once a year but in the case of units used as loading bay lift tables, where they carry goods and persons, we draw attention to the fact that they need to be serviced twice a year," advises George Scholes, director at Translyft.
An example of the room for manoeuvre within LOLER would be when a risk assessment might determine a new frequency for examination. "For example," explains Phil Moore, "a heavily used passenger lift that suffers from vandalism might benefit from being examined every three months instead of every six months as stipulated under LOLER. Alternatively if a lift is rarely used, the risk assessment might suggest that the frequency is extended. A written scheme of examination is then produced. This is a joint exercise, developed between the customer [plant engineer], the inspection body and possibly the enforcing authority, for example the Health and Safety Executive, or Environmental Officer. An approved written scheme can replace the frequency guidelines in LOLER."
Thorough examinations can be carried out inhouse, by the manufacturer or by a specialist organisation. But it has to be done by a competent person who has the objective of detecting any defects, which are or might become dangerous, so that these can be formally brought to the attention of the 'dutyholder' for action.
"If you are a facilities manager, supervisor, plant engineer or similar with responsibility for the safe operation of a lift used to work under LOLER, then you are also a dutyholder, and as such have a legal obligation to ensure that the lift is thoroughly examined and is safe to use," points out John Patey.
Graham Handy suggests a colour-coding system to show when the equipment was last checked, whether it is currently being checked and when it is next due for inspection. "For example, in the first six months of use, a piece of equipment can be marked with a red sticker, in the next six months with a blue sticker and so on with different colours."
The forklift truck industry has been actively promoting the need for thorough examination, with recent initiatives such as the Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS) scheme designed to provide a common standard of thorough examination, similar to an MOT for a car.
"As far as the process is concerned, a thorough examination is very similar to a service," says Richard Baxter, general manager of Hamech Mitsubishi, the UK distributor for Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks. "It requires a detailed examination of the truck's brakes and steering, hydraulics, tyres, seat restraints (where they need to be fitted) and chains and forks. Going through the thorough examination process will ensure that trucks comply with LOLER."
St Clare Engineering manufactures and supplies attachments for fork trucks for handling drums. Says Andy Bow, St Clare's managing director: "All our equipment is issued with test certificates when new. We recommend to customers that the equipment is returned to us on an annual basis for inspection, service/repair, re-test and issue of test certificate. This will ensure that they comply with the LOLER regulations on lifting equipment that state that lifting equipment should be inspected annually. Some of our customers are happy to do this although some prefer to use their own internal inspection or maintenance facilities."
The thorough examination must, however, be carried out by a competent person. Robin Burden suggests a competent person should:
- Have adequate knowledge of what is required in the operation to be performed
- Demonstrate practical expertise in carrying out the required operation(s)
- Understand why things are done in a certain order and in a certain way.
He says: "There is a deeper level of underpinning knowledge and capability required as you move from level to level," he says. "In the case of an engineer inspecting and examining a lifting boom or jib, for example, he would know what components to look at and what to look for. He would carry out the operation with optimum efficiency and cover all the practical requirements; and, crucially, understand the significance of the findings."
The competent person should submit a detailed report, giving the employer sufficient time to take any necessary action within the required time.
"You must keep correct records as well, a lot of people don't," says George Scholes. "Part of our service is that we build up a service history - you get a 'MOT-style' tick list each time the engineer has been in for the lift table. If that's been kept on file at the factory then you know what's been done and when it was last carried out." Records should be readily available should inspectors from the enforcing authorities request to see them.
"I would prefer that the LOLER regulations stated each piece of lifting equipment MUST be inspected and issued with a test certificate on an annual basis with documented records kept either by the purchaser or the test house. This would eradicate any confusion and ensure the safety of the operators and the equipment," says Andy Bow.
Manufacturers have a high degree of responsibility to provide operating manuals, description of intended uses, service schedules and inspection regimes for operators as part of the CE marking process. Robin Penny says: "Sticking to these regimes will ensure that they meet their obligations as an operator. You have to be aware though that if there has been a significant change, accident or a major new component fitted to a lifting machine then a further thorough examination may be required."
Letting lifting equipment go beyond the examination period is, as Robin Burden puts it, "Russian roulette with a double-barrelled shotgun - for the user". Failure to comply with LOLER can result in firm enforcement action, potential prosecution and, if found guilty, fines and even imprisonment.
The full text of the Regulations can be found online at
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