Does your business involve the use of lifting equipment? If your operations employ the use of lifting equipment, whether you own it or not, it is your legal responsibility to comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). We have prepared this simple guide to help you understand the basic requirements of LOLER, what it covers, why it’s important and how to safely perform LOLER inspections. 

 

What is LOLER?

LOLER contains a set of health and safety regulations that govern the use of lifting equipment to ensure the safety of the machine operators and anyone else involved. Created under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974, it came into force in 1998, so it’s also often referred to as LOLER 98.  

Under LOLER, all operations that involve lifting equipment must be planned and supervised by a competent person to ensure they are performed safely. The lifting equipment itself should undergo regular thorough inspections conducted by a trained, qualified engineer to verify that it’s safe to use. Any defects found need to be logged, reported and addressed before the equipment can be used.

Both the planning for each operation and the LOLER inspection must be carried out minimum every 12 months. Each inspection must be detailed in a LOLER report and the inspected piece of lifting equipment must be marked with its Safe Working Load (SWL).

To sum up, the three main aims of LOLER are to ensure that: 

  • All lifting operations are planned and supervised properly  
  • All lifting equipment is used safely
  • All lifting equipment undergoes thorough LOLER inspections by a competent person at least once a year 

Any business owner who employs lifting equipment in their operations must follow the rules outlined under LOLER, even if they are only renting the equipment. 

 

Who is the ‘competent person’ under LOLER?

Under the LOLER Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (ACOP), for someone to be considered a competent person, they must have both adequate theoretical knowledge and practical experience with the lifting equipment they will be examining. For their knowledge to be sufficient and adequate, it must allow them to recognise defects and potential hazards related to the use of this equipment, as well as to assess the probability of harm being caused by the risks that they’ve uncovered. 

As impartiality is a factor of the validity of a LOLER inspection, it’s usually recommended that you hire a professional machine safety engineer to carry out the inspection for you. This way, in case of a workplace injury, there will be no doubt that you have complied with the industry regulations and that the competent person has been objective in their evaluation of the equipment. 

 

What equipment is covered by LOLER?

LOLER is designed to make the use of all lifting equipment safe. Any piece of machine that’s used to lift heavy loads, including people, falls under this category. Some examples of lifting equipment include cranes, lifts, hoists, moving lifting platforms and fork-lift trucks. 

The regulations also cover the so-called “accessories for lifting” and the equipment used to support the lifting equipment. This includes anchors, hooks, slings, runways and support equipment. You must be able to provide the annual LOLER report for these parts at any time, as well. 

LOLER DOES NOT cover escalators, moving walkways and pallet trucks that have very minimal lifting capabilities (only a few inches off the ground). 

 

Is LOLER a legal requirement and how is it enforced?

Yes, as we mentioned earlier, if your business uses lifting equipment, LOLER compliance is your legal duty. Not complying with the LOLER regulations is a criminal offence under UK law, so it can result in heavy penalties, including substantial fines and even imprisonment. This is why it’s extremely important to strictly follow the LOLER ACOP. 

It’s the job of health and safety inspectors to enforce LOLER. This can happen during an audit at any time. This means you must keep all documentation related to your thorough LOLER examinations properly filed, easily accessible and available for inspection if requested by the authorities. 

In addition to that, if a workplace accident involving lifting equipment occurs and a staff member gets injured, you will have to show your LOLER reports as evidence to prove that you have fulfilled your duty as an employer to ensure the health and safety of your employees. If you don’t you could be personally liable for the accident even if you had a health and safety executive in place to oversee the process (under Section 37). 

 

When is a LOLER inspection required?

LOLER inspections are thorough examinations done in addition to the regular maintenance and servicing of your lifting equipment. 

Here’s when you are required to organise an inspection by a competent person:

  • First Use: Before any lifting equipment is used for the first time
  • Annual Inspection: No longer than 12 months after the last inspection 
  • Exceptional circumstance: Every time an essential change (such as part replacement or refitting) has been made to the equipment
  • Accident: If a piece of lifting equipment has been involved in a workplace accident, it must be thoroughly examined to reassess the risks associated with it
  • Harsh working environment: In some cases, lifting equipment can be in danger of sustaining damage and be subject to failure more quickly due to being exposed to unfavourable working conditions. If that is the case, the competent person may advise you that LOLER inspections should be required earlier than every 12 months
  • Lifting accessories: Must be examined every 6 months 

Keeping your assets in a LOLER-compliant, safe working condition is not only your responsibility but can also save lives and extend the lifespan of your equipment, saving you money in the long run. 

 

What LOLER records should you keep and for how long? 

After every LOLER inspection, the equipment must be labelled with the appropriate Safe Working Load (SWL) and if it will be used to lift people, the number of people it can carry should also be marked clearly. You must also keep a detailed LOLER record, listing every inspection, any defects found along with evidence that they have been reported to the right authorities and the responsible people. 

The competent person employed to do the inspection is responsible for recording all tests performed and their results. They then need to be presented to the responsible person – you,  the business owner. If any defects are identified, it is your responsibility to address them, rectify them and keep proof of the actions you’ve taken to manage the risks.  

How long you should keep your LOLER records depends on the type of inspection that has been done and goes as follows:

  • Inspection before first use: Keep the records until you stop using the equipment in question. For lifting accessories, you only need to keep them for two years
  • Inspection in special working conditions: When the environment is a factor, keep the records as long as the equipment is used in the same location
  • Annual thorough examination: Keep your records for two years 
  • Periodic maintenance checks: Keep the records until the next test/check is performed

If you are not sure about how long you should keep a certain record to ensure LOLER compliance, ask your competent person for advice. They should be aware of all the relevant regulatory requirements. 

 

How to plan a lifting operation under LOLER?

To plan a safe lifting operation, you need to set out a list of steps needed to perform the lift, identify the resources needed and the people responsible for each one and assign them with their tasks, all while taking into account foreseeable health and safety risks involved in the operation. 

Generally speaking, this can be broken down into four main steps: 

  • You must assess all the potential risks involved and identify who could be harmed by them
  • Identify the equipment, people and assets needed for the safe completion of the operation
  • Allocate clear task and responsibilities to everyone involved in the process
  • Repat the points above for every stage of the operation 

How much detail is included in the planning depends on how severe the potential risks are and how complex the lifting operation is. Therefore, to be compliant with LOLER, an individual plan must be made for each situation to fit the circumstances. 

Some of the factors that can influence the risk assessment part of the process could include the location where the operation takes place, pre-use check, other hazards nearby, limited visibility, how loads are attached/detached, whether people will be lifted and the potential for overloading. 

 

LOLER and PUWER: Which one do you need to comply with? 

When it comes to health and safety regulatory compliance in industries that use heavy machinery, LOLER and PUWER are the two main regulations to consider (check out our PUWER guide for more details). As both of these look at conducting thorough inspections to ensure the safe use of equipment, you may wonder when each of them is required or if you need to worry about both of them. 

The main difference between LOLER and PUWER is that PUWER inspections cover all equipment while LOLER covers only lifting equipment and accessories. This doesn’t mean, however, that PUWER negates the need for LOLER. LOLER looks at specific health and safety considerations related to lifting operations, so any lifting equipment you use must comply with both. 

 

How can RiskMach help?

RiskMach is a compliance software that provides an all-in-one digital platform where you can manage all your occupational health and safety activities, including LOLER compliance. With the help of RiskMach, you can ensure that the LOLER inspections are carried out when they should, in a format compliant with the latest regulatory standards; oversee the management of any risks that have been identified and keep your LOLER records safely stored in The RiskMach Vault – a secure Cloud storage. 

RiskMach also has powerful asset management capabilities, which allow you to keep track of all your lifting equipment, where it is used and by whom. As the system is designed to reflect the real-life asset structure of your business, you will have visibility of any movement of assets and other significant changes that may require a LOLER inspection to be carried out earlier. 

In addition to that, RiskMach keeps you informed of all the relevant changes to the regulatory requirements in your industry and ensures that all people within the organisation are instantly notified about any risks that are relevant to them. 

Acting as a competent person performing LOLER inspections? RiskMach is the easy way to offer uniform data output for all your clients, ensure nothing is missed in the inspection or the record-keeping process and allow for seamless, instantaneous communication between you, your clients and any third parties involved. It’s the all-in-one tool that allows you to scale your business quickly without compromising on the quality of service or customer relations.