The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) has long resulted in safer lifting practices in the workplace and has undoubtedly saved many lives.
Despite this, accidents and fatalities involving lifting equipment do still happen, often because companies aren’t fully aware of their legal obligations under LOLER. Unless you ensure your lifting equipment is appropriate for the tasks it is used for, that it is properly maintained and your lifting operations are properly planned by a competent, experienced and qualified person, you are taking major risks with lives, your company’s finances and reputation. If disaster strikes, you can easily end up in court and be fined tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of pounds.
In this post, we look at the three most common types of accidents that happen with lifting equipment, along with practical steps to help you avoid them in your workplace. The three accidents involve:
- Fork lift trucks and lift trucks
- Cranes; and
If your workers use any of these types of equipment, the insight this post offers could help you both save lives and prevent you from being on the wrong side of the law.
Accidents involving fork lift trucks and lift trucks
Accidents with fork lift and lift trucks still happen regularly. Things commonly go wrong when:
- Trucks run into people
Example: Firm failed to segregate workers from trucks
- Non-compliant or non-integrated cages are used
Example: Man falls from unsecured cage
- Integrated fork lift cages are not properly used
Example: Fork lift and man-riding cage overturns
- Workers are not properly trained
Example: Fatally injured worker had not received training
- A load is displaced
Example: Death caused by tiles falling off a fork lift
- Trucks are incorrectly used to lift people.
Example: Man falls 7m from box lifted by fork lift
In essence, you need to ensure that fork lifts are properly segregated from other workers, who could be hit and to make sure equipment is fit for purpose, properly maintained and that staff are properly trained. The LOLER regulations can guide you as you do this, but you also need to aim for a culture of safety within the workplace and quick response to stop unsafe practices taking root.
Also, if you use lift trucks – those equipped with another lifting accessory instead of forks – you must make sure that those accessories are suitably designed for the lift truck you’re using, properly installed and not used for the wrong purpose (e.g. lifting people instead of goods). An example of these are non-integrated work platforms. For more information, have a look at the following HSE document on the topic, namely ‘HSE PM28’.
Accidents involving cranes
The most common crane accidents happen because lifting operations have been poorly planned. LOLER and the British Standard BS7121 Safe use of Cranes provide specific information on how to control the risks of planning a lifting operation, with the latter giving detail on basic lifts, standard lifts and complex lifts. Factors that you might need to take into account include correct selection of the crane, appropriate lifting accessories, full briefing of all involved in the lifting operation and assessing the wind area of the load and wind speed limit. Part two of the Standard covers the equally important topic of ensuring all equipment remains safe to use through adequate maintenance, the adoption of an effective inspection and examination regime.
As with fork lift accidents, poorly planned crane lifts can result in injuries, death and litigation. Some examples of serious accidents that have happened in the past include:
- A crane collapsing at a dockyard
- A construction site crane that collapsed and killed two people
- Fatal collapse of a crane being dismantled by untrained worker
- Tower crane collapse that left operators paralysed; and
- Maintenance failure that caused fatal crane collapse.
Again, adherence to safe lifting practices & planning, appropriate worker training and an effective maintenance regime are essential to preventing tragedies like these.
Accidents involving lifts
Lift safety is governed by the Lifts Regulations and a number of supporting standards within the BS EN 81 series. Part of the problem is that many older lifts are still in operation and these design standards are not retrospective. However, the BS81/80 standard considers the risks of older equipment and suggests ways you can work to update your installations.
It’s a worthwhile undertaking, not least because a number of accidents have occurred due to older lifts not meeting modern design standards. Some examples include:
- A worker crushed by paint tins in a lift with an uneven floor
- Brain injuries caused by fall down unprotected lift shaft; and
- Worker loses five toes by trapping them in faulty lift.
In many cases, problems with outdated lifts occur because the gap between the lift and the shaft is too wide, or the gap between the exterior and interior doors is too big.
If your lifts don’t meet modern standards, now is the time to upgrade or replace them.
Needless to say, lifts must be properly maintained in good order. It’s wise to make simple checks of lift installations daily, ensure the car stops level at each floor, lighting and ventilation is adequate, doors work smoothly, reversing correctly if obstructed and emergency alarms/intercoms are functional.
If you use fork lift or lift trucks, cranes or lifts as part of your operations, then it’s essential to make sure that equipment is safe, appropriate to its function and that staff are properly trained. With complex procedures such as crane lifts, proper planning is essential.
Avoiding accidents is often a case of thinking ahead and using common sense, but LOLER is an essential element in helping you to ensure that safety procedures are not overlooked. Adhering to it will minimise the chances of injuries and/or fatalities, as well as the risk of large fines due to non-compliance.
The insight this post provides you with some of the most common types of accidents and should help you look at your safety procedures afresh, but to give you complete peace of mind we recommend you undertake an independent LOLER inspection – this risk based expert service will ensure your equipment is safe to use in the first instance and thereafter remain safe for continued use.