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Be Careful What You Lift For

Be Careful What You Lift For

Following Professor Ragnar Löfstedt’s independent review of health and safety legislation in 2012, the HSE is taking forward the recommendation to review its Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs).   A consultation on revising the ACoP relating to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) is currently in progress and remains open for responses until 14 October. 

ACoPs provide valuable and practical guidance on complying with health and safety legislation and regulations.  They are flexible instruments which can be updated quickly and easily, allowing them to lead the way in the interpretation of health and safety regulation and reflect any changes or modernisations in health and safety law. 

LOLER applies to those working with or examining lifting equipment provided at the workplace, and to those who employ people to do so.  The revised ACoP relating to LOLER aims to clarify the objectives of these regulations and eliminate any uncertainty about the responsibilities which are placed on employers and individuals, whilst bringing the information up to date without the need to modify the regulations themselves. 

In particular, the HSE is attempting to remove the ambiguity over exactly which equipment is covered by the regulations by including a decision tree in the revised ACoP, which asks three questions: 

  1. Is the equipment provided for work purposes or to people at work?
  2. Is the main purpose of the equipment to lift/lower a load between positions?
  3. Is a load lifted or lowered with the weight fully borne by the equipment?

Only if the answer to all three questions is yes does LOLER apply. 

This narrows the scope of the regulations and provides a coherent method of determining whether lifting equipment is subject to LOLER.  It is a valuable addition to the ACoP which will especially assist new users. 

Further revisions include clarifying the definition of the ‘competent person’ required to properly plan every LOLER lifting operation, namely that they must have the “skills, knowledge and experience to make the relevant assessment of the requirements of the lifting task”. Whilst this may seem self-evident, the ACoP now outlines in no uncertain terms that the individual in question must be fully capable of carrying out the assessment and appropriately qualified to do so. 

Thorough examination and inspection of equipment are key requirements of LOLER under Regulation 9 and must also be carried out by a ‘competent person’, albeit this is unlikely to be the same ‘competent person’ as that involved in the planning of lifting operations.  The revised ACoP makes clear that although this ‘competent person’ can sometimes be the same individual who carries out routine maintenance on the lifting equipment, there is a need for independent assessment of the work or the equipment.  An independent assessment is particularly significant when there is a high risk of injury in the event of equipment failure.  It is therefore important for the risk assessment to show that all options were considered in deciding whether the functions should be carried out by separate people.  This addition into the ACoP recognises the importance of an independent examination and inspection, so that risks can be adequately mitigated.  

The ACoP revisions also emphasise that a specific risk assessment is not essential simply because the employer has employed a young person, but that consideration should of course be taken of any specific risks to that young person. 

And what about when the regulations should not apply? The revised ACoP highlights that LOLER does not apply where an individual purchases equipment for use solely by that individual at home, or where equipment is loaned from a health care or community equipment provider for use solely by an individual, or their family or (unpaid) carer, as it does not constitute work equipment. 

Other provisions have been added or fine-tuned, such as those relating to moveable equipment and offshore cranes, but in general the methods of compliance with LOLER remain largely unchanged.  The carrying out and subsequent reporting of the examination of lifting equipment is likely to be the most financially burdensome element of complying with LOLER, but the prevention of accidents and injuries far outweighs the costs of compliance.  

The consultation seeks responses on whether the content of the revised ACoP can be easily understood and whether particular elements have been clarified, with the aim of publishing a finalised ACoP by the end of 2014.  We think the introduction of the decision tree and the explanations within the revised ACoP are clear improvements on the current version, and it should be a more effective tool for helping employers reduce risk of injury at work through lifting operations.

The consultation can be accessed here.

Sarah Reynolds
Trainee Solicitor