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HSE Response to Coronavirus, Examinations & LOLERs

By Ian Hatherly

Southalls have contacted the HSE and asked the following question:

What advice would the HSE give businesses concerned with lapsing thorough examinations (LOLERs), given that due to the current crisis the likelihood of these matters being delivered when they are due is unlikely?

Southalls view based on the the HSE response is as follows (the HSE response follows the bullet points Southalls have put together and is listed in italics):

  • It is not surprising that there are no exemptions yet. 
  • The HSE focus appears to be on ensuring six monthly LOLERs are done, with the focus being on care / medical establishments. They seem quite firm that anything (in these circumstances at least) shouldn’t be used. It is likely companies undertaking the LOLERs will focus on these establishments first.
  • If possible, take out of use equipment that is beyond its LOLER and use other equipment. Southalls are not convinced how realistic that is as the majority of LOLERs in a premises would be done at the same time?
  • Ask yourself if the use of the equipment is essential? Can alternative equipment with a current report of thorough examination be used instead?
  • In the case of passenger lifts, can staircases be used instead?
  • Where a lifting aid is in use to lift people such as a scissor lift is this essential for use? For example if a bulb in a warehouse has failed, now the days are lighter can the replacement of the bulb be delayed?
  • Is the condition of the equipment deemed acceptable from operational history and visual pre-use checks? Nobody is expecting the person carrying out these checks to have full engineering understanding, but additional items such as the visual condition of chains and forks on lift trucks could be implemented for example.
  • Ensure you are following your other key controls around for example lift truck use such as remaining 2m clear of the trucks as this gives you an extra level of protection in the event of there being a failure of lifting equipment.
  • Service providers may not be able to visit promptly due to prioritising their visits, but as a minimum the provider should be contacted for an update on timescales and details of this contact should be kept. This helps show a business is doing everything that is reasonably practicable during these unprecedented times.

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NB The above is Southalls providing ideas and advice based on the HSEs response to assist businesses to be doing what is reasonably practicable. Southalls would like to remind all businesses that as the duty holder they are responsible for the upkeep of their equipment and complying with relevant health and safety legislation. 

HSE response to Southalls question is below in italics:

Thank you for contacting the Health and Safety Executive with your enquiry regarding statutory inspections during the COVID-19 outbreak period. 

HSE is aware of concerns relating to the examination of equipment that is subject to statutory inspection time limits. The Health and Safety Executive enforces several pieces of legislation that contain requirements for time-bound statutory inspections, including the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations (PSSR) 2000 and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998. 

Duty-holders have a legal responsibility to maintain work equipment and carry out thorough examinations, written schemes and Statutory Inspections.  These legal duties exist to help manage the significant hazard that the failure of such equipment can pose. Not complying with these duties can significantly increase the risk of harm to workers and members of the public. 

Under certain circumstances with the agreement of a suitable competent person, PSSR legislation does allow thorough examinations/statutory inspections to be postponed to a later date. Even if such options are taken, it remains the duty-holders responsibility to ensure that the equipment is safe to use.   

 At the current time, HSE is not considering issuing exemptions or relaxation of these requirements, but this position will be kept under review in recognition of the changing situation in relation to Covid-19. 

 If engineering companies are suffering shortages in their own resources, they should consider focusing this resource/expertise on equipment in premises where the most vulnerable are located such as hospitals, care homes and infrastructure which is essential to the running of the country. 

 Engineers who are working on sites where there are restrictions arising from the risk of COVID-19 infection should comply with site rules and take into account the wider Public Health England advice regarding good hygiene practices and separation distances. Consideration needs to be given to protecting the engineers but also, where relevant, any vulnerable persons who may be affected by their work.   

LOLER and Passenger Lifts 

Q: Should LOLER Inspections Take Place During the Covid-19 Outbreak? 

Following the Government’s recent announcement that the UK is now in the ‘delay’ phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, HSE is advising owners of lifting equipment and in particular engineering companies who carry out the thorough examinations and testing of lifting equipment to note the following: 

Lifting equipment for the lifting of persons is carried out every six months with a dated report issued to the lift owner.  The next six-month examination should take place on or before this date, but not after. 

If no thorough examination has taken place prior to the date on the report, the lifting equipment should not be used until it has been examined by a competent person.  

However, if engineering companies are suffering shortages in their own resources, they should consider focusing their thorough examination of lifts on premises where the most vulnerable are located such as hospitals and care homes where people may not be as able to use stairs, as opposed to shops and offices where staff maybe more able to do so. 

Most premises have more than one lift so some redundancy is already built in should a lift have to be taken out of use, having gone beyond its examination date, until an engineer is available to visit. 

There is a higher risk of lifting equipment failure should it not be examined as per the six month schedule and duty holders are expected to take all reasonably practicable steps to make sure their equipment complies with the law.  HSE will keep the situation under review and does not have any plans to issue any exemptions to LOLER requirements. 

southalls_coronavirus_advice for employers

COVID-19 is a public health issue and the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC), working closely with Public Health England (PHE) and the devolved administrations, is the lead Government department for the UK response.

Under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. HSE considers that if an employer is following the relevant PHE guidance for their sector in terms of controlling the public health risks, they will be taking reasonably practicable precautions to control workplace risks.

HSE is only able to provide generic information on health and safety issues and cannot give specific advice on individual cases, as the circumstances of each individual situation will be different.  Our role requires us to ensure that duty holders comply with legislation, however we do not prescribe in detail how that is achieved. Because every undertaking is unique and diverse, the onus is on the duty holder to ensure that they comply with current legislation. Our website contains comprehensive health and safety information and guidance, which, if followed by those in industry, will ensure that such duty holders achieve compliance with the relevant legislation.

Please note that whilst we are willing to give any help and advice we can, HSE is not permitted to offer a health and safety consultancy service, any views given by us on the interpretation of the Regulations represent our best judgement at the time, based on the information available. Such views are not meant to be a definitive statement of law, which may only be given by the Courts. Accordingly we would always advise you to seek the views of your own professional advisors.

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