December 1, 2010 - In most parts of the world regulations require lifting equipment to be properly inspected at least once a year and often in more depth after longer intervals. Who though is competent to carry out such tests and inspections?
In most parts of Europe the actual legal requirement only requires that a six monthly or annual inspection is carried out by a ‘competent’ person, although many such countries, such as the Netherland, have a well-established habit of using tough third party inspection companies such as SGS or Aboma/keboma.
This habit has often been driven by commercial demands, with large customers demanding that any equipment working on their sites be certified by approved third party inspection companies.
In other markets such as Ireland and the UK such commercial pressure has not been present and so most companies still carry out their own inspections. In these markets insurance companies often insisted on carrying out their own inspections – possibly to verify that the equipment is not being totally neglected. They either have their own inspectors or more often use self-employed contractors, often individuals who only have a cursory knowledge of the particular equipment.
If this is an additional inspection then this is merely a nuisance as it has to be organised or scheduled. However there have been cases of inspectors being injured or even killed after having crawled into a dangerous area on a crane or done something silly sue to a lack of knowledge.
There are also some companies that assume that the insurance inspection is sufficient enough to qualify as the Thorough Examination, taking the view that if anything is missed then the insurance company is at fault and will have to pay out. However this almost as bad as not bothering to do the inspection, unless you are certain over the insurance inspector’s abilities and the depth of the inspection he has carried out.
But regardless of the inspector’s thoroughness should he not be independently certified as being competent to inspect the specific equipment? Or at least certified to inspect lifting equipment, which is after all deemed to be dangerous to bystanders when not properly maintained. If the inspection is only intended as a general check over for the insurer’s piece of mind then that is a different thing, however he still may be a danger to himself crawling over the equipment.
When it comes to a regulatory Thorough Examination, which after all is intended to protect members of the public and people on site, there is a strong argument for these inspections to be carried out only by certified staff with sufficient freedom to shut down a machine that does not pass, or by a third party- certified -inspection agency.
Most countries or states demand an annual inspection for road vehicles by a certified third party, they also require the same for passenger lifts/elevators, so why is it that aerial lifts and cranes are not held to the same standards?
First class operations have nothing to fear from such requirements, in fact they are already doing it. What it will do is raise standards and make life more difficult for those who take short cuts, which surely must be good for the industry as a whole?
Perhaps it is time that regulators and industry associations started focusing on the human aspects of using lifting equipment rather than constantly focusing on trying to make the hardware more idiot proof?
The new crane rules in the US are big step in this direction, raising the bar on the quality of inspections could also play a part, and it will certainly make a lot more sense than the current trend among some big contractors of banning all cranes over 10 years old from their sites.
We appear to be sliding into an era where truth and facts are seen as disruptive irritations, not only by outspoken ‘populist’ politicians, but increasingly of large companies and industry associations.
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