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Status of OMHEC guidance

  • Operations notice: 72
  • Issue date: May 2006


1. This notice provides information on OMHEC (Offshore Mechanical Handling Equipment Committee) and the status of two OMHEC guidance publications. This notice replaces Operations Notice 68 which was withdrawn in February 2006.

OMHEC background

2. Offshore lifting and mechanical handling is a worldwide source of concern and HSE's Offshore Division (OSD) participates in a number of international arenas, to share best practice in addressing those concerns. One of these forums is OMHEC

3. OMHEC provides a forum for lifting experts to exchange knowledge, discuss accident causation, and devise guidance. It was formed some ten years ago and its membership comprises representatives from independent verification bodies, international industry trade associations, training providers and specialist lifting equipment forums. It also includes technical specialists from the regulatory bodies in the main countries with offshore operations in the North Sea i.e. Norway, Denmark, Netherlands and the UK. In April 2006, OHMEC entered an Agreement of Co-operation with the North Sea Offshore Authorities Forum (NSOAF) to advise on lifting operations.

4. OMHEC's aim is to help improve safety in offshore mechanical handling and lifting operations, by identifying areas where better and more consistent guidance could be developed by OHMEC to enhance safety. OMHEC is an international group so the aims have to be considered on a North West European basis rather than country specific.

5. OHMEC has already produced guidance and this is described below. None of it is formally 'approved' by HSE. Following the guidance is not a UK requirement although where HSE indicates the guidance appears to represent good practice, following it will normally be a significant step towards complying with the relevant legal requirements. Where HSE indicates the guidance appears to be best practice it will normally exceed what needs to be done to comply with the law.

Current OMHEC guidance

OHMEC Training Standard - Certificate of expertise requirements for skills and competence for the crane operator and banksman offshore

6. A survey 1 by the International Regulators' Forum (IRF) identified banksman and crane operator competence as the highest priority issue to improve safety during lifting operations. The OMHEC training standard was drafted by representatives from dutyholders and training organisations. Its purpose is to stimulate a culture of safe lifting operations and to provide a level playing field across the North Sea for the recognition of a common training certificate.

7. The guidance covers training of banksmen (combination of slinger and signaller) and crane operators. The training standard defines:

It also touches upon the basic training skills required by instructors and assessors at training establishments.

8. The guidance refers to the use of simulator training. Simulation allows the crane operator to experience dangerous and unexpected situations in a safe, controlled environment. The use of simulators is considered best practice and this would not be necessary for training arrangements to satisfy UK legal requirements.

9. With the exception of the clauses that refer to simulator training, OSD considers that the OMHEC training standard reflects good practice in the training of banksmen and crane operators. There are however other training schemes which will provide adequate and suitable training to meet the requirements of PUWER2.

10. The OMHEC training standard may be downloaded from:

OHMEC Enterprise of Competence - Competence and skills requirements for an Enterprise of Competence (EoC) of offshore cranes

11. The IRF survey identified poor crane maintenance as one of the top ten lifting concerns. Following the collapse of two crane booms, which were attributed to poor maintenance, OSD issued Safety Notice 2/2005 3, recommending that dutyholders review the suitability of their maintenance and thorough examination activities on older cranes.

12. The Enterprise of Competence document outlines the competence requirements for business organisations and personnel involved in expert verification of offshore cranes and the tasks involved in expert verification. The document defines expert verification as 'An examination and testing by an enterprise of competence in order to assess whether lifting equipment is in compliance with the requirements of the regulations and is assembled and maintained in a fully satisfactory manner'. From a UK perspective, this means an examination which will ensure that the crane is suitable for its intended use and is maintained as required by PUWER, and that it is thoroughly examined in accordance with LOLER4.

13. The 'enterprise of competence' (EoC) is the competent person organisation that undertakes 'expert verification' tasks. The OMHEC standard defines the competencies that such a body needs in order to exercise those tasks. The competencies mirror those described in BS EN 45004 5 and in UKAS RG6.6

14.The OMHEC guidance recommends that dutyholders approve and implement an expert verification scheme. Elements of the scheme include:

15. Under regulation 9 of LOLER, dutyholders have the option of undertaking thorough examination either at fixed periods, or in accordance with a scheme of examination. OMHEC's enterprise of competence document assumes that the scheme approach is adopted. The scheme approach has the advantage that the scope and nature of the thorough examination devised by the competent person is transparent to the dutyholder. Under the traditional periodic approach, such transparency may be missing.

16. Expert verification covers the same ground as maintenance and thorough examination, but formally ties the two together into an integrated whole. The advantages for the dutyholder are improved clarity and control. If a UK dutyholder designates the crane as a safety-critical element, then the tasks undertaken during 'expert verification' are similar to the verification requirements of the Offshore Installations (Safety Case) Regulations 2005.

17. OSD considers that the OMHEC enterprise of competence standard reflects best practice and while OSD encourages adoption of best practice dutyholders should be aware that this exceeds current UK legal requirements.

18. The OMHEC enterprise of competence standard may be downloaded from:


  1. Generic report on offshore lifting and mechanical handling issues [PDF 83KB] International Regulators' Forum 2005
  2. Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 SI 1998/2306 ISBN 0 11 079599 7
  3. Safety Notice 2/2005: 'Single line components' in the hoisting and braking systems of offshore cranes
  4. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 SI 1998/2307 ISBN 0 11 079598 9
  5. BS EN 45004: 1995 General criteria for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection British Standards Institution
  6. Accreditation for in-service inspection of lifting equipment [PDF 271KB] (First edition) RG6 United Kingdom Accreditation Service 1999

Further information

Any queries relating to this notice should be addressed to:

Health and Safety Executive
Hazardous Installations Directorate
Offshore Division
Lord Cullen House
Fraser Place
Aberdeen AB25 3UB

Tel: 01224 252500
Fax: 01224 252615

This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive. Following the guidance is not compulsory and you are free to take other action. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to this guidance as illustrating good practice

Updated 2009-09-06