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Choosing a Lifting Equipment Supplier/Manufacturer

Hoist UK work with a variety of customers across the industrial and entertainment market sectors, and provide design, manufacture, installation and testing services for a variety of lifting equipment. We often find clients across the board have a very different understanding of the requirements of the law when it comes to lifting equipment and attitudes vary across the board when selecting the correct lifting equipment or lifting equipment suppliers to use in their own working environment.

If you need lifting equipment for your operation, whatever the application, you need to select a supplier/manufacturer that can provide the full set of documentation that will allow you to put the equipment into service for the first time, and can keep the equipment serviced and inspected in accordance with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER).

As the supplier / owner of the equipment you have a legal duty to ensure that you have done everything practically possible to ensure the safety of your employees and the users of lifting equipment that you are responsible for.

So, what are the common misconceptions and where do we stand when buying and using lifting equipment in the UK?

We asked our technical team some of the questions we have all been asked over the years and thought we would share this with our readers...

“I’ve put up a beam in my workshop, I just want you to sell me a hoist for it?”

Well, to our technical team that’s a red rag to a bull it’s like saying “anyone can design lifting equipment can’t they?” NO is the answer to this question, in the United Kingdom we have The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), which means each piece of equipment needs to be fit for purpose and have legal documentation with operation and maintenance manuals or safety data sheets available for it before it can enter service.

Modern CAD software like Inventor or Solidworks provides any user access to powerful structural analysis tools, allowing them to apply loads to a structure and analyse the results, but what’s most important is understanding the process, understanding the results and interpreting these results in relation to relevant standards. In most cases the results aren’t fully understood and the analysis isn’t finalised by checking the results against a relevant British/European Lifting Standard, to ensure what they intend to do will indeed meet the standard's requirements.

Sometimes even structural engineers don’t use the relevant British and European Lifting Standards and will design in accordance with say BS EN1993 for carbon steel and stainless steel structures and BS EN1999 for aluminium standards, but sometimes these standards can miss essential requirements for lifting equipment, which only full compliance with the relevant lifting equipment standard will satisfy, and the competent person carrying out the Report of Thorough Examination (ROTE) will be looking for, like deflection within a certain limit for instance.

The supporting structure is the starting point of a safe lifting operation, and the design of the structure is paramount. A steel overhead runway beam, is in essence a piece of structural steelwork, however once a hoist is mounted it becomes part of a lifting mechanism and falls under LOLER and the European Machinery Directive and as such needs to be designed properly.

“Can you come and test this lifting beam we have had made ourselves and installed and certify it’s safe for us to use”

Proof Load Testing (PLT) can still be done by a Competent Person (CP) either on site or done in a testing house, but a common practice is for the CP to only issue a report of a load test, which only explains the method of testing, loads applied and results / observations of the item under test. The reports are then issued back to the company who is responsible for the design of the product so that they can be included in the technical file as validation of theoretical design.

If Proof Load Testing is being carried out on behalf of the designer/manufacturer, the following information as a minimum should be made available, so the Competent Person can load test and inspect the item in question for sign off through a ROTE procedure:

  • Details of the manufacturer
  • Drawings and technical data to be checked and verified by the CP, these would include calculated deflections, standards, general arrangements, details of critical components, supports, etc.
  • Confirmation of the supporting structures suitability (i.e. building structure, foundation)

Without this information the CP cannot undertake the thorough examination and load test, as the CP needs to compare the predicted deflections with the actual deflections of the item under test, and needs to check for correct assembly.

It’s not possible to check stresses on site, only deflections, so this is normally a key indicator that something is wrong if the structure does not perform the way the manufacturer / designer says it should. Any deflections outside of +/- 10% from the predicted results need to be investigated further.

It’s also clear that any general steel or aluminium fabricator can manufacture a piece of lifting equipment, as they are essentially a fabricated metallic product. Sometimes items like this are just manufactured in the workshop and “look” right rather than being designed properly, so they don’t come with all the correct pieces of legal documentation to allow them to enter service.

The times of steel and aluminium fabricators just making a piece of lifting equipment then sending it into a lifting equipment test house for a proof load test are, or should be, long gone. Keeping a full and detailed lifting equipment technical file on the product is normally beyond most fabricating companies who aren’t in the lifting trade.

“We have just acquired a piece of lifting equipment from an auction can you give me a certificate for it?”

Any piece of lifting equipment needs to be fit for purpose and should have accompanying legal documentation with operation and maintenance manuals or safety data sheets available before it can enter service.

Once a piece of lifting equipment is either hung from a hoist or supports a hoist and helps provide a lifting operation, it falls under the Machinery Directive. An example of this again is a steel overhead runway beam, which is in essence a piece of structural steelwork, however once a hoist is mounted it becomes part of a lifting mechanism and falls under LOLER.

All lifting equipment should come with an EC Declaration of Conformity and will have clear markings stating the Safe Working Load (SWL) or Working Load Limit (WLL), with a serial number, manufacturers name, date of manufacture and a visible CE mark.

The EC Declaration of Conformity is a legal document telling you who the manufacturer of the equipment is and who is declaring it fit for purpose, as well as the British or European standards it was designed to.

This document is essentially the equipment’s birth certificate telling you who is legally responsible for the product and having this means the manufacturer is holding a technical file for the product to ensure they can back up their performance claims, if they are ever called into question legally. The technical file should contain items like design risk assessments, drawings, calculations, verification and validation of the product as well as their study of the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR) of the product. The technical file should also contain manufacturing records linked to a Factory Production Control (FBC) system to provide material and consumable traceability, as well as the manufacturing procedures, quality /production plans and training records for the competency of the people manufacturing the product in the factory.

The EC Declaration of Conformity is issued by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and stays valid for the whole of the equipment's serviceable lifetime, so long as it is maintained in accordance with the OEM’s guidelines, with their spare parts and it doesn’t undergo a structural modification that the OEM has not considered in their original technical file. Existing products in service can be reconfigured or repaired by others using OEM parts with the work being carried out by competent persons working with the OEM’s operation and maintenance documentation or by the OEM’s dealer network.

The equipment even when new should also be supplied with a Report of Through Examination (ROTE), which is a document like the MOT certificate of your car, and says that the equipment is safe to operate. The ROTE should be carried out by a competent person and is an ongoing process, again like your cars MOT, whereby equipment is thoroughly examined regularly on a six or twelve-month basis, dependent on the specific piece of equipment’s requirements under LOLER.

If you purchase an item that fixes down to your floor, building or other supporting structure that is used in a lifting operation, then this equipment normally needs to be proof load tested by a competent person, as part of the ROTE process before being put into service and being deemed safe to operate.

All lifting equipment should have a valid ROTE to be in service. You are putting yourself and others at risk if equipment is being used which hasn’t been inspected. If you have a notifiable incident and the equipment does not have up to date relevant documentation in place, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will prosecute on this basis alone (fees incurred during their investigation will also be payable under their Fee for Intervention (FFI) scheme), as well as any fines connected with their prosecution. Punishment for serious breaches of health and safety, normally resulting in a fatality, could also include imprisonment of a company director.

"You didn’t load test our lifting beam when you inspected the rest of our equipment?”

It’s also a common misconception that lifting equipment needs to be load tested each year. Most lifting equipment is only proof load tested once when it's installed for the first time. This test will not only validate the item itself but also validate the floor/wall or other supporting structure the lifting equipment is connected to.

The exception to the rule for periodic proof load testing is if the OEM calls for certain safety devices in their machines to be tested to check that they operate and that this test can only be carried out with the application of a load, which is done in a

controlled environment by a competent person. An example of this is where a chain hoist OEM says that you should check the operation of an overload protector.

Another exception is if an item is moved or structurally modified, whereby the proof load test can be used by a competent person to help validate its new mounting location or the modification that has been carried out, as data from the testing can be compared against the theoretical checks such as calculations to ensure it is performing correctly and as predicted.

Obviously, this list of questions isn’t exhaustive but they are a fair representation of commonly asked questions to the lifting equipment industry

Remember as the owner / user of lifting equipment you too have a responsibility to guarantee that you have done everything practically possible to ensure the equipment you provide / use was fit for purpose when purchased and remains fit for purpose for the whole of its serviceable life, through regular servicing, maintenance and inspections under LOLER.

It should now be clear to see that not everybody can design, manufacture, install or maintain lifting equipment correctly within the eyes of the law and you need to choose reputable companies that can provide all the documentation necessary to allow you to put the equipment into service for the first time, ` and can keep the equipment serviced and inspected in accordance with LOLER.

Companies that should be able provide equipment that is fit for purpose are full members of trade organisations such as The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) who are established across the globe as the leading representative body for all those involved in the lifting industry worldwide.

Remember: Safety Above All