Picking the right words

7 March 2012

Derrick Bailes warns that understanding how to properly document lifting equipment is vital to ensuring that it is safe, and that employers meet their legal and moral responsibilities

Most people know new lifting equipment should be accompanied by some sort of certificate and during its life should be regularly inspected and results documented. The documents required and the information they contain are usually specified by legislation and the relevant standards.

Frequently we see documents that are not what they purport to be. They often contain incomplete, wrong, out of date or misleading information. The people who issue them probably think the documents meet the requirements.

I saw one recently which stated every item had been proof load tested. If true, the load applied would have rendered every item unserviceable.

As employers providing lifting equipment for their employees, they have a legal duty as well as a moral responsibility to ensure that the lifting equipment meets the requirements and is safe to use. In particular Regulation 10 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires employers to, in effect, ensure that the lifting equipment is designed and constructed in accordance with the Essential Health and Safety Requirements of the Machinery Directive.

The documents the buyer receives are usually the main, if not only, evidence they will have that the equipment complies and is safe to use. Whilst incorrect documentation does not necessarily mean that the lifting equipment is unsafe, it does raise questions about the competence of the people issuing it. If they have a cavalier attitude to getting that right, does the same apply to the quality of the product or the inspection they are supplying?

It may be unreasonable to expect the buyer to have a high level of technical knowledge about the product or service being purchased. Someone in the purchasing organisation should be able tocheck documents received against the legal requirements and the standards specified.

European and UK regulations and standards provide a good example of modern approaches to certification, and are widely used around the world.

More often than not, in everyday language the document that accompanies new lifting equipment is referred to as a ‘Test Certificate’. This has its origins in an era when new items of lifting equipment were individually proof load tested with an overload to demonstrate that they could carry the rated safe working load.

That has changed. Modern practice places greater emphasis on quality control during manufacturing, sampling, nondestructive testing and other techniques. Many products are no longer individually load tested with a proof load, so the term ‘Test Certificate’ has been superseded.

Ironically when buyers do check documents, often the only thing they look for is the heading ‘Test Certificate’.

The standards usually require a ‘Manufacturer’s Certificate’. The information to be contained in the manufacturer’s certificate is listed and is a compulsory part of the standard, so any manufacturer claiming to comply with the standard must issue that document. The information this should include is detailed in Box 1:Manufacturer's Certificate.

The manufacturer must also issue the document required by legislation. In Europe, the requirements are contained in the Machinery Directive. The original Directive dates back to 1992 and there were various amendments until it was replaced completely in 2006. The new Machinery Directive is 2006/42/EC and came into force on 29 December 2009.

National legislation throughout Europe to implement the Directive was also updated. In the UK it is ‘The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, Statutory Instrument 2008 No. 1597’.

The information required in that document is slightly different from that of the previous Directive, which is one reason why some manufacturers and suppliers are out of date.

The requirements for a declaration of conformity are specified in Box 2: Declaration. of Conformity. The ‘responsible person’ is whoever is responsible for placing the item on the market in the EEA. If the item is made in the EEA, that is the manufacturer. If it is manufactured outside of the EEA then it is the manufacturer’s authorised representative, or the importer.

The declaration must be typewritten or written by hand in block capitals and in the official community language, or languages of the country where it is supplied.

The Declaration or a copy of it must accompany the item. There is inevitably some overlap of information between the manufacturer’s certificate and the EC Declaration of Conformity. The manufacturer may issue them as separate documents or may combine them. Either is acceptable provided the information is clear. For example, where a name and address is shown, it should be clear whether that is the manufacturer, the manufacturer’s authorised representative, the importer or the person authorised to compile the technical file.

So far I have dealt with the documents associated with manufacture and supply. The UK legislation on thorough examination is in Regulation 9 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Statutory Instrument 1998 No. 2307.

The term ‘thorough examination’ is used in the UK for the high level periodic inspection to distinguish it from the more frequent in-service inspections usually made by the equipment user. It includes any tests deemed necessary as part of the examination.

In this context, ‘test’ is meant in the broadest sense and includes, for example, functional tests, electrical tests and nondestructive tests as well as load tests.

LOLER Regulation 10 requires a report of the thorough examination, which must contain the information specified in Schedule 1 of LOLER. A major change introduced by LOLER is that a report must be issued following every thorough examination, including those where the equipment is found to be unsafe. Once again, this document is often confused with those required under previous legislation.

Prior to LOLER, the Factories Act and various regulations made under it each had their own requirements for records.

Often a different form was required if the equipment was used in, for example, a dock compared to a construction site. This led to a lot of confusion and combinations of forms.

LOLER has replaced all the previous legislation and is much simpler.

The report is the same for all sectors of industry and can be in any format provided it contains the necessary information. The information specified in Schedule 1 is detailed in Box 3, LOLER checklist.

Unfortunately we still see many incomplete reports. In particular many do not state the purpose of the thorough examination (see items 6 and 7), do not detail the tests made (see item 8(e)) nor clearly state whether the lifting equipment is safe to operate. Often such reports are adaptations of the forms used before LOLER and, confusingly, often still refer to the previous legislation. Sometimes forms claim to be both a LOLER report and an EC Declaration of Conformity but, for particular items of equipment, it is not clear which.

In summary, for complete items of general purpose lifting equipment, there are only three certification documents. Two are required by law: the EC Declaration of Conformity, issued by the person responsible for placing the item on the marke; and the LOLER report of thorough examination, issued by the person making the thorough examination. The third document is that specified by the standard the item is manufactured to.

The contents of each are clearly listed in the legislation and standards. It is simply a matter of checking documents issued or received against the lists. Some customers may specify additional documentation but that is a contractual matter.

1: Manufacturer's certificate
1. The name and address of the manufacturer or his authorised representative.

2. The date of issue of the certificate.

3. A signature or other authentication.

4. The number (and part if applicable) of the standard.

5. Description of the item(s).

6. Identification of the item(s).

2: Declaration of conformity
1. Business name and full address of the manufacturer and, where appropriate, the manufacturer’s authorised representative.

2. Name and address of the person authorised to compile the technical file, who must be established in an EEA state.

3. Description and identification of the machinery, including generic denomination, function, model, type, serial number and commercial name.

4. A sentence expressly declaring that the machinery fulfils all the relevant provisions of the Directive and where appropriate, a similar sentence declaring conformity with other Directives and/or relevant provisions with which the machinery complies. These references must be those of the texts published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

5. Where appropriate, a reference to the published harmonised standards used.

6. Where appropriate, the reference to other technical standards and specifications used.

7. The place and date of the declaration.

8. The identity and signature of the person empowered to draw up the declaration and behalf of the responsible person.

1. The name and address of the employer for whom the thorough examination was made.

2. The address of the premises at which the thorough examination was made.

3. Particulars sufficient to identify the equipment including where known its date of manufacture.

4. The date of the last thorough examination.

5. The safe working load of the lifting equipment or (where its safe working load depends on the configuration of the lifting equipment) its safe working load for the last configuration in which it was thoroughly examined.

6. In relation to the first thorough examination of lifting equipment after installation or after assembly at a new site or in a new location -
(a) that it is such thorough examination;
(b) (if such be the case) that it has been installed correctly and would be safe to operate.

7. In relation to a thorough examination of lifting equipment other than a thorough examination to which paragraph 6 relates -
(a) whether it is a thorough examination -
(i) within an interval of 6 months under regulation 9(3) (a) (i);
(ii) within an interval of 12 months under regulation 9(3) (a) (ii);
(iii) in accordance with an examination scheme under regulation 9(3) (a) (iii); or
(iv) after the occurrence of exceptional circumstances under regulation 9(3)(a)(iv);
(b) (if such be the case) that the lifting equipment would be safe to operate.

8. In relation to every thorough examination of lifting equipment - (a) identification of any part found to have a defect which is or could become a danger to persons, and a description of the defect;
(b) particulars of any repair, renewal or alteration required to remedy a defect found to be a danger to persons;
(c) in the case of a defect which is not yet but could become a danger to persons -
(i) the time by which it could become such a danger;
(ii) particulars of any repair, renewal or alteration required to remedy it;
(d) the latest date by which the next thorough examination must be carried out;
(e) where the thorough examination included testing, particulars of any test;
(f) the date of the thorough examination.

9. The name, address and qualifications of the person making the report; that he is self-employed or, if employed, the name and address of his employer.

10.The name and address of a person signing or authenticating the report on behalf of its author.

11.The date of the report.