The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recognised that in some cases thorough examinations undertaken in accordance with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) may lapse because of the COVID-19 pandemic and they will, therefore, take a pragmatic approach to enforcement in these cases.

This, however, depends on the duty holder (i.e. the business) demonstrating that the lapse is as a direct result of the pandemic. Furthermore, the duty holder should only use lapsed equipment if they can demonstrate it is critical for essential work and it can still be safely operated. Above all else, it’s very important to remember that thorough examination of equipment remains a legal requirement, but Southalls view based on the HSE response is as follows:

  • Service providers (i.e. testing companies) may not be able to visit promptly due to prioritising their visits.  As a minimum duty holders should contact the provider for an update on timescales. Records (e.g. notes, emails, etc.)  of this contact should be kept. 
  • Can the service provider offer you any further information or advice on the types of interim checks that you may be able to undertake?
  • Could the service provider accommodate a video call, providing a visual overview of the equipment? Whilst would not satisfy LOLER it could be seen as a reasonable attempt to get the service provider to look over any lapsed equipment.
  • Ask yourself if the use of the equipment is essential? Can alternative equipment, with a current report of thorough examination, be used instead? If possible, take out of use equipment that is beyond its LOLER and use other equipment e.g. pump trucks or sack trolleys.
  • 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?
  • Can operations or processes be restricted or changed to lessen the need for the use of lifting equipment?
  • If the thorough examination has lapsed, is the continued use of the equipment essential? You MUST be able to justify this, for example, you work in or supply to an essential industry sector?
  • You need to consider the immediate degree of harm that is likely, for example, what is the likelihood that lifting equipment or the goods being lifted, could fall on to people?  Also, consider matters such as if any failure could cause damage to a building.
  • 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. Look at your previous thorough examination reports, have all of the observations or listed category defects been rectified?
  • Is there an opportunity to use in-house maintenance personnel or your routine service provider to undertake some routine checks? Can the frequency of these be increased for the time being so, for example, can they be completed monthly?
  • 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.

If an engineer is able to visit, please remember that social distancing rules will apply and you will need to make arrangements to ensure that this remains the case. As part of Southalls response to the crisis, a social distancing guide has been produced to assist you in knowing what steps to take (learn more here).