According to the LEEA, some companies are being tempted to cut costs by avoiding thorough examinations as frequently as required by LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations).

Geoff Holden, chief executive of LEEA, explained: "All UK employers are subject to LOLER, which clearly states that, once in service, lifting equipment for lifting persons or accessories for lifting must be thoroughly examined by a competent person every six months.

"Lifting accessories include commonly used items such as shackles, steels, hooks and round slings. Only for lifting equipment that does not fall into one of these two categories is the period extended to every 12 months."

The association says that some lifting equipment users are being incorrectly advised that money can be saved by extending all the intervals between thorough examinations to 12 months.

Holden explains that the responsibility for compliance with LOLER lies with the owner of the equipment and not suppliers of examination and inspection services.

He said: "In the event of a prosecution, the fact that incorrect guidance had been given by an inspection company would not provide a means of defence for the employer.

"If an employer wants to implement an examination scheme it must be formally drawn up by a competent person. Any extension to intervals must be based on a rigorous risk assessment."