All lifts are required to be planned in advance. Legislation requires that lifting operations are planned by a competent person who has the correct training, knowledge and experience for the task in hand. This does not mean, however, that a competent lift planner is also competent to carry out a ‘thorough inspection’ of the lifting equipment being used, because they must have a knowledge of how that particular piece of equipment is to be used safely. A competent lifting equipment examiner/inspector will have the required attributes, but they too will need to know how a piece of lifting equipment should be used safely.

This will enable them to identify the signs that clearly show incorrect use, which can damage the piece of equipment.

The users of the equipment are required to be competent to use it too. However, although it goes against legislation, many of these individuals will have had little or no training on how to use the particular piece of lifting equipment they are expected to use day in, day out.

As with lifting operation planners and the equipment examiners, any individuals using the equipment must have the correct training and skills to ensure the equipment is used safely. Where these individuals are not trained, then, in theory, it is only a matter of time before something goes wrong.

Equipment damage usually occurs when the working load limit or safe working load has been ignored or deliberately exceeded, when additional forces have been applied to the load being lifted, or if the centres of gravity have been misjudged or not even been considered.

Modern lifting equipment is far more reliable today than was the case 20 or more years ago. Yet should an incident occur, in many cases it is the equipment that is the first thing to be blamed; in reality, most cases are down to human error and the causes may be traced back as far as the lift plan – or lack of one.

This is usually the case where inappropriate lifting equipment is used simply because it is close to hand and convenient or when obtaining the correct equipment for the job is both timeconsuming and expensive, and increases cost while reducing profit margins. In such cases, many will try to perform the lift with what they have available.

Should the equipment be found to be the cause of an incident, it is often the case that it has been in use for a period of time. This is where legislation covering the use and inspection of the equipment must be followed. One of the key points is that the equipment must be used as the manufacturer intended, and they are required by law to provide instructions for use with it.

Use of equipment legislation, such as Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (Puwer) in the UK or the EU’s Directive 2009/104/EC (the EU Work Equipment Directive), requires equipment to be regularly maintained. It also requires frequent and on-time examinations or inspections, in particular on areas of the equipment known to wear out. These inspections may be in the form of preuse checks, interim inspections or more intense ‘thorough inspections’.

Provided this maintenance and checking system is put in place by those responsible for the equipment then, when thorough inspections are due, it should result in no faults being found that require repair, replacement or withdrawal due to being in an unsafe condition.

In the UK, Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (Loler) is a piece of legislation for the use and examination of lifting equipment. It sets out what is required to be put in place when planning lifting operations as well as placing stricter time frame requirements on when lifting equipment must be thoroughly examined. It also outlines what the examiner must do if they determine that a piece of equipment is no longer safe.

As with the use legislation, if maintenance and checking of the equipment has been carried out, then by the time a thorough examination is due, there should not be any issues found and the equipment may remain in use.