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Lifting guidelines go back to basic

SAFTEY

Whether lifting 25 kg manually or 25,000 kg with a crane, you need to have received training to ensure it is done safely. David Taylor outlines the legal training requirements for lifting operations

FALLING from height might be the main cause of serious injury and death in the construction industry but a significant number of deaths and injuries are also caused each year by falling objects.

In fact the HSE statistics show that falling or moving objects have been responsible for just over 14 per cent of all fatal injuries to construction workers since 1996-7, making it the second most common cause of death on sites after falls from height.

At the same time, injuries caused while lifting small loads manually, though seldom fatal, are very common and a major cause of lost working time. Last year (2002-3), 11 per cent of major site injuries were sustained while handling, lifting or carrying loads and, at 36 per cent, this was the single largest cause of three-day injuries in construction.

Lifting things is clearly fraught with hazard. So it seems strange that a valid training qualification is not a legal prerequisite in the same way that a driving licence is.

But the absence of a licensing system does not mean that lifting operations are unregulated - far from it: an accident caused by an untrained operator at the controls of a lifting device will still bring the full weight of a considerable body of law down upon the employer and, perhaps, the operator too.

Appropriate training is available from a variety of sources. Independent training companies operate throughout the UK but training is also available directly from the Construction Industry Training Board (now called CITB-ConstructionSkills), or through trade associations such as the Construction Plant-Hire Association and national bodies such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Accidents involving mechanical handling equipment can have catastrophic consequences and so knowledge of the equipment and its use is essential. But more time is lost at work each year through injuries sustained by people lifting loads manually.Accordingly anybody who is required to lift and carry heavy loads as part of their job must be shown how to do it safely.

There are no equipment operators' skills to learn - good posture and common sense are the main elements required. But this does not let employers off the hook.'The Manual Handling Operations Regulations make it clear that where employees are required to lift objects, they must receive adequate instruction in how to do it safely, ' observes Roger Vincent, communications officer with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

He adds: 'Safe manual handling is very much about risk assessment, and there's a lot of value in having a trained assessor on site who can keep an eye on the situation and also provide instruction to their fellow employees.'

What the law says

TRAINING for lifting operations in the workplace is governed by three primary pieces of legislation: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require that the risks to people's health and safety from any equipment they use be prevented or controlled.

The main requirements are that all equipment must be:

suitable for the intended use

safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected regularly

used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training

accompanied by suitable safety measures such as protective devices, warnings etc.

The regulations apply to all work equipment but not to equipment used by the public.

They apply to employers but not to their employees.

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 aim to reduce the risk to people's health and safety posed by lifting equipment. Its requirements include that the equipment is:

strong and stable

positioned and installed so as to minimise risk

operated safely, by a 'competent' person

LOLER applies to employers but not to their employees.

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The HSW Act is the principle legislation governing safety in the workplace. It applies to all workers in all industries. Section 2 of the Act requires all employers ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all employees.Under the act employees have duties to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions.

Manual handling

MANUAL handling is recognised as a hazardous operation.

For this reason it has its own rules - the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 - to control the risk of injury.

Regulation 4 sets out a hierarchy of three preventative measures:

avoid, as far as possible, manual handling operations that involve a risk of injury

assess all such operations that cannot be avoided

take steps to minimise the risk of injury

Training in manual lifting focuses on awareness of risk and on methods of risk assessment.There are no hard-and-fast rules about what can and cannot be lifted; it depends on the situation.

RoSPA offers courses.The Manual Handling Instructors' and Assessors' Certificate costs £965.00 per trainee.

For more information

CITB-ConstructionSkills www. citb. org. uk

Details of RoSPA's training courses can be found at www. rospa. com/CMS/index. asp

The Health and Safety Executive is the main source of information on safe lifting.

Manual handling operations regulations (1992) can be found at www. hse. gov. uk/lau/lacs/56-1. htm

HSE also publishes handy guides to relevant legislation: Simple guide to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 can be downloaded from www. hse. gov. uk/pubns/ indg290. pdf

Simple guide to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 can be downloaded from www. hse. gov. uk/pubns/ indg291. pdf

Lorry loader training is available from the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers.Visit: www. allmitraining. co. uk