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LOLER explained: What lifting equipment operators need to know

LOLER explained: What lifting equipment operators need to know

The abundance of rules and regulations that apply to lifting and manual handling equipment can confuse even those with decades of experience in the industry. One of the most frequently misunderstood of these regulations is LOLER, which leaves many warehouse and factory owners confused.

To help you get your head around LOLER and ensure your business is operating within the bounds of UK law, we’ve put together this handy guide. So read on to find out everything you need to know about LOLER.

What is LOLER?

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) are in place to ensure that all lifting equipment is used in a safe manner. Any business or organisation whose employees operate lifting equipment on the job are required to comply to these regulations, which come under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

In practice, LOLER regulations require all lifting operations to be properly planned and supervised by a ‘competent person'. LOLER also requires that all lifting equipment must undergo regular examinations by a qualified technician to ensure that it is fit for purpose — it is the responsibility of the business who own or rent the equipment to make sure these examinations take place. The piece of equipment must then be appropriately marked and records of each examination must be kept, with any defects being reported to the person responsible for the equipment and the relevant enforcing authority (the HSE for industrial workplaces and the local authority in most others).

It should be noted that a LOLER inspection, known officially as a ‘thorough examination’, is not the same as routine maintenance such as replacing worn or damaged parts, topping up fluid levels, or making minor adjustments. LOLER testing must be performed by what is known officially as a ‘competent person’: someone qualified to perform the thorough examination.

In short, LOLER is a health and safety regulation specific to lifting equipment. If your business owns or operates lifting equipment in any capacity, it must comply with these regulations. To do so, your equipment must regularly undergo a thorough examination performed by a competent person, and all lifting operations must be properly planned and supervised by an adequately trained employee.

Why was LOLER introduced?

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations were passed in 1998 (which is why you may see them referred to as ‘LOLER 1998’). They replaced the Construction and Use (Lifting) regulations of 1961, which required each piece of lifting equipment to undergo an overload test every four years.

These old regulations were replaced because certain types of lifting equipment are prone to damage during conventional overload tests. LOLER inspections, which involve a thorough examination each year, are much less intensive and therefore don’t affect the lifespan of this lifting equipment. As they are able to be performed more regularly, they also better ensure the performance of lifting equipment.

How is LOLER enforced?

Health and safety inspectors enforce LOLER. As they have the authority to request access to your thorough examination and lifting operation reports at any time, it is crucial that you maintain a thorough record of all of this information. Furthermore, if one of your employees suffers an accident while using a piece of lifting equipment, you will be prosecuted if the regulations weren’t properly followed.

It is therefore crucial that whenever lifting equipment is used on your business’s premises, the HSE’s LOLER Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (ACOP) is followed to a tee. This will not only ensure the safety of your employees, but also provide legal cover in the event of a lifting equipment-related accident. Moreover, LOLER inspections will catch any defects with your equipment before they have a chance to develop and therefore help prolong its lifespan.

Where does LOLER apply?

LOLER applies every time lifting equipment is used on your business premises, whether you are the owner of that equipment or not. To comply with LOLER, this equipment must have passed a thorough examination by a competent person in the last 12 months, and it must be marked with its Safe Working Load (SWL), as well as any characteristic that might affect its safe use.

LOLER also requires that any lifting equipment used to lift people, such as mobile elevated work platforms, must be clearly marked with the maximum number of people it can lift at one time. Lifting equipment that is not designed to lift people but could conceivably be used to do so in error must be clearly marked to indicate it should not be used for this purpose.

Each lifting operation — which LOLER defines as “an operation concerned with the lifting or lowering of a load” — must be performed on equipment which has passed a thorough examination in the past 12 months and also be planned and supervised by a competent person.

If you are a contractor using your own lifting accessory, such as a sling or chain, on another person’s business premises, then you should have evidence with you of its last LOLER report.

Lifting equipment that LOLER does not apply to includes escalators and moving walkways, and simple pallet trucks that only raise their load a few inches off the ground.

Planning a LOLER lift

According to the HSE, lifting operations should be planned on a case-by-case basis. Routine lifting operations, such as the use of forklift trucks in a factory, only require minimal planning, whereas uncommon and complex operations should be planned more thoroughly in accordance to the LOLER ACOP by a competent person.

The purpose of a lifting operation plan is to address the foreseeable risks involved in the procedure, and detail the people and resources required for the safe completion of task. It should also clearly set out each step involved in the operation and assign each to a person with enough knowledge and expertise to perform the task safely and competently.

For complex operations, this plan should be enforced by a competent person and then kept on record. For commonplace operations, such as an experienced forklift truck operator performing a routine lift, a generic plan can be signed by the operator themselves.

If a lifting operation performed on your business premises was not properly planned by a competent person and results in the injury or fatality of anyone on-site, you will be liable to be prosecuted. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you carefully follow LOLER regulations to ensure the safety of your staff and protect yourself legally.

Who qualifies as a ‘competent person’ under LOLER?

The LOLER ACOP defines a competent person as someone who “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”. This person must also be impartial so they can be sufficiently objective in their review of the equipment, so it is recommended you hire an external contractor to perform your LOLER inspections. This will ensure there is no doubting the validity of your LOLER inspections should there be an accident on your site.

If you buy your lifting equipment from ourselves, you’ll be able to take advantage of our service agreement, which includes a LOLER thorough examination from one of our impartial competent persons during installation. It also includes the option of an additional examination every 12 months to ensure you meet LOLER regulations each year.

What does a LOLER ‘thorough examination’ involve?

Under LOLER, a thorough examination is defined as a detailed inspection of a piece of lifting equipment performed by a competent person. The thorough examination must be recorded in accordance with LOLER Schedule 1 and include all of the information required by the LOLER ACOP.

How often does lifting equipment need to undergo a thorough examination?

LOLER regulation requires lifting equipment is thoroughly examined by a competent person:

  • before it is first used,
  • immediately after the repair or replacement of an essential component,
  • whenever it is removed and re-fitted to the original chassis, or
  • within 12 months of its last examination.

Lifting accessories — any equipment used to attach a load to lifting machinery, such as slings and chains — need to be undergo a thorough examination every six months.

Whenever a piece of lifting equipment or accessory is inspected, it must be clearly marked with its SWL and the results of the testing must be recorded. If any defects are found, they must be reported to the owner of the equipment and the relevant governing authority.

How to reference LOLER

Section 11 of the LOLER ACOP details that records of thorough examinations should be readily available to inspectors from the relevant authority at all times. They should therefore be recorded electronically or as a hard copy until the next examination is performed, which should be no more than 12 months later. They should be referenced by referring the relevant authority to the completed LOLER report.

How do LOLER regulations apply to agriculture?

LOLER regulations apply to any lifting equipment used for agricultural purposes, just as they do in a factory or warehouse setting. This equipment therefore needs to receive a thorough examination at the same intervals, and its owners and operators need to abide by the guidelines in the LOLER ACOP.

When used in an agricultural setting, the use of lifting equipment also needs to abide by the British Standards Institute’s Code of Practice for Hand Signalling for Use in Agricultural Operations (BS 6736:1986).

How do LOLER regulations apply to forestry?

LOLER regulations also apply to all lifting equipment used for forestry purposes, and owners and operators should refer to the procedures in the LOLER ACOP.

Operators should take special care to ensure the mobile lifting equipment that is most commonly used in the forestry industry is being operated on ground which provides adequate stability. If multiple pieces of lifting equipment are being used, as is common during the moving and processing of trees in the forestry industry, care should also be taken to position the machinery where they are in no danger of coming into contact with one another.

How to LOLER regulations apply to arboriculture?

LOLER regulations apply to the ropes and accessories commonly used to climb trees in the arboriculture industry. This equipment therefore must be tested and used in accordance to the LOLER ACOP.

If you have any questions about LOLER that haven’t been answered in this guide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly experts today, who’ll be more than happy to help with your query.

Please bear in mind that the information presented in this short guide is not comprehensive, and if lifting equipment is operated on your business premises, you should make sure to refer to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (LOLER ACOP) for official guidance.

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