What are Pre-Use Safety Inspections?
Pre-use inspections are required before use of any equipment that has a potential to result in a severe loss. A checklist is a simple way of formalising a safety inspection. A checklist gives an operator a consistent set of specific things to look for. This inspection is usually recorded in a log that is kept on the equipment and be available for review. Work equipment that hasn’t been inspected should not be used. Operators are responsible for identifying and completing the pre use checklist, management are responsible for arranging any supporting training and pro-actively monitoring that the checks are being completed.
There are plenty of basic, generic A4 inspection checklist templates on the internet but a good system is tailored for the piece of equipment being checked.
The use of checklists can assist but these, and the records made, should be tailored to the particular type of work equipment to minimise the burden to what is strictly necessary for safety. Requiring too much detail too often can lead to inspection activity becoming burdensome with the risk of a superficial 'tick box' approach or even, in some cases, the inspection activity ceasing altogether. You only need to inspect what is necessary for safety.
HSE Website Guidance: Inspection of Work Equipment
Additionally, there should be some sort of highly visual indicator that shows whether the equipment has passed or failed its inspection. Companies should also think about a robust way of storing and accessing the inspection records at any time. In the unfortunate event of an accident an inspection history will help everybody understand what happened and what safety measures were in place. Whilst having a safety checklist is a useful tool, it is not enough to discharge a duty of care; it must be part of an inspection process that is pro-actively enforced and monitored.
What is the governing legislation?
There are a number of pieces of legislation involved. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain. It sets out general employer duties including a duty of care towards employees including the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (1999 in Northern Ireland). These regulations require all equipment and machinery to be maintained, inspected and safe to use. There is also specific legislation for certain types of work/equipment such as The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998.
At this level, the legislation is very much about what an employer must do as regards safety but doesn’t really go into specifics on how to do it. This is where the HSE guidance comes into play. Publications such as L117 Rider-operated lift trucks: Operator training and safe use, Approved Code of Practice and guidance’ establish best practice processes for employers to implement. The guidance cites pre-use safety inspection checklists as playing a useful part in keeping your workplace equipment safe and operational.
How often do safety inspections need to be carried out?
If you look at the regulations, PUWER does not specify a timeframe for inspections. It requires that that where the work equipment is exposed to conditions causing deterioration, which is liable to result in dangerous situations, it must be inspected at suitable intervals in order for any deterioration to be “detected and remedied within good time”. The findings of these inspections and any resultant actions taken must be recorded until at least the next inspection. However supplemental supporting guidance for specific equipment such as forklifts and MEWPs recommend a pre-use check, so it would be reasonable to take this best practice principle and apply to other similar types of potentially hazardous equipment.
A pre-use inspection is often called a daily inspection and although in many cases, a daily check is appropriate, in some situations it might not be enough. For example, if a warehouse operation is 24x7 and the forklift is also used in the same frequency, then the truck should be inspected before the beginning of every shift to detect any faults and mechanical issues that might occurred.
- Unique asset code
- Date purchased/received
- Estimated value of item
- Building and room location
- Make and model number
- Order number
- Purchase Price
- Asset Status (e.g. on Loan)
- Serial Number
- Order Number
What types of equipment are covered?
Not all work equipment needs formal inspection to ensure safety and, in many cases, a quick visual check before use will be sufficient. However, inspection is necessary for any equipment where significant risks to health and safety may arise from incorrect installation, reinstallation, deterioration or any other circumstances.
What roles does the HSE play?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It helps prevent work-related death, injury and ill health. A well as providing advice and raising awareness, the HSE will carry out targeted inspections and investigations and take appropriate enforcement action to prevent harm and hold those who break the law to account.
The HSE bring prosecutions against hundreds of organisations each year for breaching health and safety legislation, and penalties can be severe. HSE fines of up to £50,000 are commonplace, and in cases of serious negligence they can be millions. In addition to financial penalties being imposed for breaching health and safety laws, your organisation may have to pay Fees for Intervention if a ‘material breach’ is discovered. The Health and Safety Executive can recover their costs from the time of an inspector’s visit, and at every stage of the subsequent investigation. When you consider Fees for Intervention are currently based on an hourly rate of £157, this can really add up over the course of a full health and safety investigation.
Officers of the company can be held personally liable for breaches in health and safety regulations, the HSE may prosecute the company and its officers at the same time. The repercussions of being found guilty of health and safety errors can include imprisonment in the most serious cases, as well as disqualification as a company director for up to 15 years.