Hook loader vehicles: Applicability of Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
"Lifting equipment" is defined as "work equipment for lifting or lowering loads and includes its attachments used for anchoring, fixing or supporting it".
Loading the skip on to the vehicle bed involves a combination of lifting and pulling or dragging. The process of loading the skip on to the vehicle bed could not be achieved without initial lifting. The reverse sequence involves an initial lifting of the end of the skip so as to facilitate its lowering to the ground. Therefore, hook loaders are within the scope of LOLER.
Example of failure:
HSE investigated an accident in which failure of a lifting arm on a hook loader vehicle led to disconnection and ejection of the skip, fatally injuring a worker.
The mechanism failed when the driver was attempting to "jog" the vehicle to dislodge material by repeated sharp braking and forward/ reverse motions with the skip in the raised position.
During the "jogging" process the seals on the hydraulic cylinder failed leading to the unhooking and dropping of the skip onto nearby worker.
What is required
The lifting components should be regarded as safety critical (this includes the lifting hook, hydraulic cylinders and associated pipework and fittings). A failure of this system could lead directly to loss of controlled movement of the container skip. Employers using this equipment should ensure:
- LOLER thorough examination is carried out on the lifting equipment so that deterioration can be detected in sufficient time to allow remedial action to be taken.¹
- Maintenance is carried out on the lifting equipment to ensure it remains available for use at work in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.²
Container skips can be filled a variety of materials resulting in a wide range of load weights. Therefore, the operator should be able to assess the weight using a range of indicators (this can include visual indicators of overload of the vehicle chassis or stabilisers or in extreme circumstances the activation of the hydraulic pressure relief valve which should be set and calibrated .
Emphasis is therefore required on maintenance and Thorough Examination of the hook-loader mechanism. There is high reliance on the competent person carrying out the thorough examination to target their inspection and detect deterioration.
Thorough examination (LOLER)
Regulation 9 of Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) require the employer to have items and accessories directly used for lifting to be subject to thorough examination at regular intervals. Thorough examination of lifting equipment must be carried out within mandatory 6 and 12 months intervals or at shorter periods if stipulated by the competent person within the written scheme of examination.
All equipment deteriorates subject to: the environment it works in; the work it undertakes and the amount of work it performs. The purpose of the thorough examination is to detect such deterioration in sufficient time, to allow remedial action to be taken.
The person carrying out a thorough examination must have appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the particular lifting equipment. This knowledge and experience will enable them to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the equipment.
It is essential that the competent person is sufficiently independent and impartial to allow objective decisions to be made. Competent persons may be 'in-house' however the employer must ensure that they have sufficient authority and independence to ensure that examinations are properly carried out and that necessary recommendations are properly implemented.
The competent person provides expert guidance on the extent of the examination required to ensure that health and safety conditions of the lifting equipment are maintained and that any deterioration can be detected and remedied in good time. The competent person has to make a professional judgement about the level and extent of examination on a particular installation, including what tests, if any, are necessary.
The competent person completing an examination scheme may need to draw on others for assistance on specific issues, such as testing (proof, non-destructive testing, etc) as part of the examination regime.
A simple test to indicate creep within the lifting and tipping mechanism is referenced in HSE guidance note INDG 392 by using a fully loaded test skip (this must only be carried out in a safe area) to check for ram creep, fluid leakage from the hydraulic hose and fittings, and other defects.
Thorough examination report
Regulation 10 of LOLER requires a Report of Thorough Examination to be made which contains specific information, detailed in Schedule 1 of the ACOP. This includes a list of what was inspected and what conclusions were made about the lifting item.
Thorough Examination reports should include essential information relating to the equipment studied and follow the main headings included in Schedule 1 of the HSE Approved Code of Practice L113, specifically:
- Statement of the Regulations for which the examination is carried out (LOLER)
- Identification of significant defects which are or could become a danger to persons
- Description of the particular fault or defect for each item of lifting equipment
- Date of next examination
- Name/ signature of the person who carried out the examination
Established best practice typically lists defect categories marked either type a, b, or c
- Defects which are or could become a danger to persons.
- Identification of any other part found to be deteriorating and which requires to be rectified
- Observations and recommendations
Regulation 11 of LOLER requires the Company to keep reports of examination, so that they are available for inspection. Where there is opinion that lifting equipment has a defect likely to cause risk of serious personal injury, the competent person is required to send the report of examination to the enforcing authority.