Kevin Crilly, Senior Technical Officer, LEEA, breaks down the increasingly popular piece of legislation.
Globalization has been one of the defining trends of the past two decades, and its impact on the lifting industry has been profound. The term is usually used in the context of the shift in volume manufacturing to low-wage economies. However, in the lifting sector, an increasingly international outlook is also shaping the regulatory framework. Most notably, this is reflected in the extent to which a piece of UK legislation, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), is being adopted by companies operating in other parts of the world. Furthermore, public authorities and other stakeholders in regions such as the Middle East, Asia, and Australasia are also showing more interest in embracing at least some of its central principles and requirements.
Introduced in 1998, LOLER marked the end of a period of transition in the UK from old national legislation to a framework based around common European directives. The fact it took a fresh look at the needs of the lifting sector goes a long way to explaining its ever-widening appeal. Significantly, LOLER replaced a patchwork of rules and regulations for different industry sectors with a single piece of legislation that applied to all lifting operations. In addition, it adopted a flexible, risk-based approach that correctly placed the emphasis on the “human factor,” and was not unduly prescriptive. For example, LOLER demands that lifting operations are properly planned, supervised, and performed by competent people, but leaves it to the employer to determine precisely how this is done.
In the UK, the framework established by LOLER is widely regarded as having raised standards. The steady “export” of LOLER to other parts of the world reflects this. From the outset, it has been driven by companies operating in developing countries that lack sector-specific legislation—that have chosen to fill the vacuum by adopting LOLER as best practice for their lifting operations.
More recently, LEEA has also been approached by a steady stream of national bodies with responsibility for health and safety, most of whom are keen to see if lessons can be learned from LOLER. Typically, this trend involves countries experiencing rapid economic development, and with it a steep rise in demand for lifting operations. Fortunately, there is growing recognition among such nations of the need to modernize health and safety legislation as it applies to lifting operations, in line with their changing industrial landscapes.
Of course, no one is suggesting that the global lifting industry is about to be subject to a single regulatory framework, inspired by LOLER. However, in the years ahead, more and more people employed in this sector are likely to be working to at least some of its requirements and principles. In broad terms, this will involve much greater emphasis on planning, risk assessment, and effective training of personnel. As a result, new challenges will go hand in hand with the opportunity to improve standards in an industry that is still too often associated with accidents and injuries. In this respect at least, it can be hoped that the phenomenon of globalization will bring with it a positive impact on the safety and efficiency of lifting operations around the world.