Examination and Testing of Load Handling Equipment
Lifting related accidents continue to represent one of the biggest causes of deaths, injuries and time off work. Imposing a more rigorous regime of testing and inspection on lifting and load handling equipment is designed to reduce the risk of mechanical failures that contribute to workplace accidents. The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) are a legal requirement covering cranes and tail lifts installed on commercial vehicles as well as goods lifts and hoists.
Good safety starts with specifying the right load handling equipment and making sure it is installed to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Incorrect installation can be dangerous and make the vehicle and load handling equipment unsafe.
With LOLER the main legal requirement is that all equipment be subjected to a regular Statutory Thorough Examination (STE). This is similar to an MOT and designed to ensure structural components and mechanical operation of the equipment meet acceptable standards. All equipment must be examined before first use. After that the frequency of an STE varies for different devices but all must be examined at least once a year. Lifting accessories (slings, chains, grabs etc) and equipment designed to carry people must be examined every six months. Mounting or fixing points are considered part of the equipment and should be inspected. BS7121 Part 2 complements LOLER and goes further in some respects, stipulating additional full tests four and eight years after first use and an annual “load plus 10%” test.
Thorough examinations must be carried out by someone who is competent and impartial. Load tests are no longer required but a competent tester will always consider whether one is needed after they have inspected the equipment. Original equipment manufacturers and their service organisations are likely to offer STEs as part of their overall service. Look for those that belong to relevant industry bodies, such as ALLMI or the SMMT for commercial vehicles.
Although the STE is a legal requirement responsible operators will carry out basic checks more frequently to maintain the equipment so it is always safe to use. Following the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions is a minimum requirement and daily checks need not be onerous. With hydraulic cranes, for example, this might include looking for oil leaks, damage to steel sections or frays on wire ropes. Other maintenance tasks should be part of a regular routine. These can include checking the level of hydraulic reservoirs, lubricating components in line with manufacturers’ recommendations and giving equipment a clean. It is surprising how many companies ignore the most basic tasks.
Load handling equipment operators are also responsible for ensuring proper records about a device’s test, inspection and maintenance history are kept for a minimum of two years. Good service providers will offer this as part of their overall contract.