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Thorough examination and testing of equipment during the coronavirus pandemic

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, businesses may find it difficult to carry out their legal duty to do thorough examination and testing of equipment.

HSE expects dutyholders to make reasonable efforts to arrange thorough examination and testing within legal time limits. But we will adopt a pragmatic and proportionate approach towards enforcement action if the pandemic means dutyholders cannot arrange examination and testing, as long as they make sure equipment is still safe to use.

Requirements in law

Several health and safety regulations require examination and testing:

  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations
  • Pressure Systems Safety Regulations
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment (including power presses)
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (for local exhaust ventilation)
  • Electricity at Work Regulations

For equipment covered by these regulations:

  • the requirement that work plant and equipment is maintained and safe to use remains in place
  • an effective maintenance regime is still essential to make sure equipment is safe
  • examination and testing is still a legal requirement and a fundamental part of management (although HSE has a pragmatic approach to enforcement during the pandemic)

Difficulties during the pandemic

It may be difficult to complete thorough examination and testing on time during the pandemic because of:

  • a backlog of thorough examination and testing inspections not done during lockdown
  • lack of staff and contractor availability to prepare complex pressure systems for examination
  • refusal of engineers to enter dutyholder premises to carry out thorough examination and testing, because they think working arrangements may not be safe

Managing equipment safety during the pandemic

Equipment failure because of deterioration can create dangerous situations, physical harm and business disruption. So it is important that plant and machinery continues to be properly maintained and inspected.  

There is detailed guidance with additional advice for dutyholders and inspectors on:

  • managing safe working arrangements for equipment inspection
  • prioritising inspection activity
  • what to do if a thorough examination cannot be done
  • how to manage the risks if you cannot arrange thorough examination and testing
  • offshore/onshore major hazard industries and pipelines

Page last reviewed: 31 December 2020

Next review due: 29 January 2021