Failure to comply with industry requirements can lead to criminal prosecution, crippling fines, highly damaging publicity and, worse still, injury or loss of life.


It is essential that all lifting equipment is kept in a good, ‘fit for purpose’ condition and is serviced correctly, but this is of little relevance if it is then used inappropriately or dangerously. It is quite common for companies to invest in state-of-the-art products but then fail to ensure that they are used and operated competently.

It is also obvious that people are still not clear of their legal obligations and, as a consequence, many companies are falling short of industry standards. Current legislation – LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) – puts a greater emphasis on equipment safety, placing the onus on the owner and user, as well as the supplier.

Reputable suppliers should provide their customers with information on how to use a particular piece of equipment safely and, wherever possible, they should also check that it is suitable for the specific application. But once it has been supplied, the responsibility then lies with the user to ensure that the equipment is properly maintained, complies with EU directives and that the operator is adequately trained.

As well as meeting its legal obligations and ensuring employee safety, a company can also save time and money by making certain that lifting equipment is used correctly, as misuse invariably leads to the equipment deteriorating faster than its predicted life expectancy.

Take a wire rope for instance. When it is no longer fit for service, has it reached the end of its working life by fair wear and tear or is it being replaced due to fatigue, mechanical damage or lack of lubrication? If, on inspection, it turns out that a rope has been damaged then, in the majority of cases, it is down to poor operating procedures and operator training. A good operator will ensure the wire rope is maintained in a good, ‘fit for purpose’ condition so that it will therefore last longer.

Complying with legislation

Under current legislation it is vital that all lifting equipment is installed, examined, serviced and repaired, by a ‘competent’ person. Anything that falls short of this leaves companies vulnerable and employees unprotected. But who actually carries out these tasks ultimately depends on the size of the company and the skills it has available.

Some organisations choose to hand over the full responsibility for looking after their equipment to third party specialists; although this in itself can be problematic. There have been cases when things have gone wrong and, on investigation, the work of these organisations or the advice they have given has been below the required standard of competency, resulting in the operator being culpable. Choosing the right service is therefore crucial.

At UK firm Certex, for example, someone tasked with conducting statutory LOLER SI 2307 installation surveys and adhoc lifting and testing activities will hold, as minimum, LEEA (Lifting Equipment Engineers Association) diplomas. For specific offshore/onshore work, staff will also have the Bridon Wire Rope Examiners’ qualification, the ASNT level 2 and the Offshore Pedestal Crane Examiners’ Diploma. And, when conducting offshore rigging activities, Certex engineers hold specialist OPITO (Oil Producers Institute Training Organisation) qualifications to enable competent lifting and slinging activities.

Some companies with more internal resources at their disposal may choose to handle a lot of the inspection and maintenance themselves but staff will still need the appropriate training to reach the required standard.

The right training

To back up the training available from external organisations and regulatory bodies, Certex provides its customers with a wide range of industry-standard courses, including LOLER and PUWER appreciation courses, and more detailed training on examination and safe use of lifting equipment.

The courses, which last anything from one to three days, can be tailor-made to individual client’s requirements. These are run at either the Certex centres or at the client’s own premises. In addition to the facilities at the regional centres, Certex has recently opened a specialist training centre in Harworth, for both staff and client use.

Two new courses have recently been added to the company’s standard training portfolio, the first aimed at offshore customers involved in the shipping of freight.

The calibre of courses available has given the UK a well-earned reputation for training provision that is recognised worldwide. Certex, for example, has recently promoted its practices as far afield as Qatar, Pakistan. Delegates from St Helena, Nigeria and Mexico have also benefited from Certex UK training packages.

In conclusion

Making sure that lifting equipment is installed, examined, serviced and repaired correctly is crucial for all organisations involved in lifting operations. Indeed, it is a legal requirement to do so and companies must either hand over this responsibility to a reputable and competent provider or ensure that their employees have received the training required to be able to carry this out themselves.

In all cases, employees should at least be trained to operate the equipment safely and carry out day-to-day maintenance and routine examination procedures correctly. Not all accidents are preventable, but if adequate training is in place then their likelihood is minimised, thereby avoiding costly legal proceedings, damage to equipment, or injury to employees.

About the author

George Coull, Certex UK training manager, is based at the company’s specialist training centre in Harworth. He has had a long and distinguished career in the mechanical handling industry and is a former chief examiner and ­

ex-director of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) and was chairman and committee member of the British Standards committee MHE 3/10 for onshore and offshore cranes, and was previously one of British Petroleum’s offshore crane specialists.