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Why Is the UK a Global Leader for Lifting Operations?

Lifting equipment is used across almost every industry, in one way or another. Whether a window cleaner uses a building cradle to clean the windows of a skyscraper, a container from a cargo ship is moved to the docks, or a worker uses a forklift to transport stored goods between factories, it is crucial that lifting equipment is correctly maintained and operated for everyday use.  

The United Kingdom is often seen as a leader in the safe planning and development of lifting operations. With strict regulations and access to a wide range of guidelines and codes of practice, the country is often used as an example for lifting safety.  

In this article, we explore why the UK is at the forefront of safe practices, the importance of strict regulations, and how other countries can adapt these guidelines for their own lifting activities.

Why are lifting operations heavily regulated?

Lifting operations are heavily regulated, to ensure that employees have the appropriate training and experience for handling heavy items or operating lifting equipment. This ensures that lifting activities are carried out by a competent individual – someone who has appropriate training and experience – in a safe and responsible way.  

For most lifting operations, compliance with the following legislation, along with appropriate planning and training, is crucial: 

If lifting operations are not carried out correctly, there can be serious consequences; accidents during lifting operations can lead to severe injuries and even fatalities to employees and the public.  

Mismanaged lifting operations can cause considerable damage to property, infrastructure, and equipment from falling loads or hitting structures. If lifting equipment fails while handling hazardous loads, such as fuels and liquids or flammable materials, there could also be significant risks to public and environmental safety.  

Another reason for regulating lifting operations is to maintain operational efficiency and prevent losses. Companies that fail to regularly inspect and maintain their equipment face not only the high costs of replacing faulty equipment but also significant downtime. But most importantly, failure to adhere to the UK’s regulations can result in costly fines for non-compliance.  

Ensure your lifting equipment is safe and compliant with BES Group

Why is the UK considered a benchmark for lifting operation standards?

The UK has many standards, regulations, and codes of practice to ensure the safety of lifting operations and equipment. This collection of legislation acts as a guideline for the safe use, inspection, and maintenance of lifting equipment. As a result, the industry has experienced very few fatal accidents.  

Most incidents in the UK arise from non-compliance, such as a lack of routine inspections or safety breaches involving lifting equipment. In these cases, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issues improvement notices aiming to prevent serious accidents or injuries and instructing these companies to arrange inspections of their lifting equipment.  

This highlights the UK’s dedication to safety in lifting operations and ensures that companies remain compliant with strict safety regulations.  


How does this impact other countries that don’t have these regulations?

Due to the UK’s robust legislation and codes of practice, along with a culture of safety education, awareness, and continuous training, the country demonstrates a strong commitment to safe practices for lifting operations. This dedication ensures that the UK’s standards remain high and innovative in risk management.  

Internationally, the UK’s approach to lifting operations is seen as both rigorous and adaptable; countries lacking their own legislation or safety procedures often use the UK’s guidance as a foundation for creating their own safe practices. LEEA’S codes of practice often serve as a “best practice” example in nations without comprehensive legislation.  

Meanwhile, the USA has their own safety standards for lifting operations, governed by organisations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  

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Types of Standards, Regulations, and Codes of Practice

Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment (LOLER) 1998

One of the most well-known regulations in the United Kingdom is the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment (LOLER) 1998, which sets out clear guidelines for the safe use and operation of lifting equipment. This type of equipment includes any type of work equipment used to support lifting or lowering heavy loads, and their accessories. Some examples are: 

  • Cranes  
  • Fork-lifts 
  • Goods and passenger lifts, dumbwaiters 
  • A variety of hoists (such as those used in construction, patient healthcare) 
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) such as vertical (scissor) lifts and boom lifts (also known as cherry pickers) and building cradles.  
  • Vehicle inspection platform hoists  
  • Lifting accessories such as chains, slings, eyebolts etc.  

These regulations ensure that all lifting operations are carefully planned and managed by competent individuals, conducted in a safe and responsible way, and that equipment and accessories are regularly inspected to minimise the risk of accidents and injuries.  

Find out more about our LOLER Inspection services here.


Provision and Use of Working Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998

Another well-known regulation is the Provision and Use of Working Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998, which sets out guidelines to ensure that work equipment is safe to use. This covers a wide range of equipment, not only lifting equipment but also: 

  • Machinery, such as lifting equipment, pallet trucks, lathes. 
  • Appliances; commercial coffee makers, fridges and freezers, ovens 
  • Toolbox tools; pressure washers, power tools, saws, welding equipment 
  • Installations; fire alarms, air conditioning, heating, electrical wiring  

The fundamental aspects of PUWER are that companies should be responsible for the maintenance of their work equipment, ensuring it is safe to be used, inspected regularly, and correctly installed. It is also important that the equipment is used by workers that are appropriately trained, and that adequate health and safety measures such as protective devices (emergency stops, guarding, signage) and PPE are in place.  

Find out more about our PUWER Inspection services here. 


BS 7121 – Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Cranes

BS 7121 is widely recognised as “best practice” within the industry, as it provides recommendations for the safe use of cranes and how to comply with LOLER regulations for operating cranes.  

These types of cranes include; 

  • Mobile cranes 
  • Lorry Loaders 
  • Tower cranes 
  • Bridge and gantry cranes 
  • Cargo handling and container cranes 
  • Offshore cranes 

This code of practice gives guidance on the safe selection, assembly and dismantling, and operation of cranes. It also covers guidance on inspection, maintenance, and examination of cranes.  


Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA)

Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) is a recognised organisation that aims to promote high standards of safety for lifting equipment. LEEA works with companies involved in designing and manufacturing lifting equipment to ensure they are compliant with UK legislation, and also offers technical support, training and certification for lifting safety.  

BES Group is a member of LEEA, which demonstrates our own commitment to delivering trusted and reliable lifting support to our customers. Through our range of lifting operations consultancy and management assurance, we can provide planning support and advice to help our customers develop a detailed plan for lifting projects, from small scale operations to larger, complex projects.  


How can we help?

Whether you’re planning a lifting project or need your equipment inspected, we’re here to help. From statutory inspections for LOLER and PUWER compliance, to project planning or equipment location our team of engineers are on hand to help you create a safe environment for your employees and maintain compliance with lifting standards.  

Contact us for your lifting solutions today

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