So who is responsible for your annual assessment, load test and thorough examination of your lifting machine ? According to the occupational health and safety act of 1993 under definition it states, quote “user” in relation to plant or machinery, means the person who uses plant or machinery for his own benefit or who has the right of control over the use of plant or machinery, but does not include a lessor of, or any person employed in connection with, that plant or machinery”.
Therefore, it appears to be left up to the user to determine whether a lifting machinery inspector is not only certified but also knowledgably and qualified to perform the task. The LMI may be ECSA certified and qualified to do one thing but not necessarily qualified for something else.
For this particular example we will use a mobile crane, however, this example applies to most if not all pieces of lifting equipment.
CRANE ACCIDENT DURING TESTING
The lifting machinery inspectors are responsible for cranes assessment, load test and thorough examination of the crane based on their knowledge, experience, manufacturer’s guidelines, regulations and standards applicable to the specific type of crane. All ECSA registered inspectors have limitations and the user needs to know what those limitations are to be able to determine whether the LMI fits the category of a knowledgeable and qualified person for a specific type of crane or lifting machine. For example, an LMI may be very capable and “qualified” to inspect certain types of small telescopic-boom cranes with fly jib attachments but may not have the knowledge or background experience to inspect a large 500 ton telescopic boom crane with a super lift configuration. This also applies to lattice-boom cranes, particularly to friction type lattice cranes. Qualification to undertake the assessment, load test and undertake a thorough examination on all crane types takes many years of experience and training.
Of course, when an accident happens one of the first things the Department of Labour and insurance companies will look at is what procedures were in place and who the certified LMI and LME were. Bear in mind that when the user is contracting a LMI/LME, among other things he/she has to ask the right questions of the lifting machinery inspector as to satisfy himself that this is a knowledgeable and qualified LMI and provides the user with sufficient proof of experience.
How can you check the LMI’s credentials:
- Ask to see his/her ECSA and DoL certifications as well as their scope of work issued by the DoL.
- Ask what type of cranes/lifting machines they have previously inspected
- Ensure that the inspector knows the names of all parts of the crane. If not, this is a sign that the inspector is not very experienced.
- Inquire about rejection criteria for crane specific components such as wire rope, sheaves, hooks etc. For example, a crane inspector should know how many broken wires are allowed in a wire rope and it’s construction, how much wear is allowed in the rotation bearing, how much wear in the hooks before they must be removed from service. Without this knowledge, just what kind of inspection can he provide?
- Ask about the regulations pertaining to crane inspection. The inspector needs to know which regulations and standards apply and be familiar with them.
- Ask about the specialized equipment being used during the inspection. How will he/she check the rotation bearing, internal inspection of the wire rope, the deflection of the boom and how the cranes rated capacity indicator/limiter is tested and at what crane configurations will it be tested. This is just an extremely small example of some critical crane components.
- Ask for a copy of the risk assessment plan, test load lift plans and toolbox talk.
- Ask for the company’s liability insurance.
Of course, the supervising engineer has to be at least as competent as the inspector and should be able to answer the above in a positive manner. However, there are organizations that the user can contact for guidance.
Unfortunately, I think that some of us all know someone who has conducted inspections when they had no idea what they were looking at. One reason this continues to happen is that too often the user (safety managers and equipment managers) may never see the LMI’s report of the load test and thorough examination after it is completed. They just assume because the crane was inspected and has a test certificate it must be safe for use. General contractors (user) need to ask hard questions to make sure the process (and the information) does not break down somewhere between the load test, thorough examination and the equipment manager. Remember it is the user that is ultimately responsible to ensure that the LMI is knowledgeable and qualified to undertake the task.
Finally, truly professional lifting machine inspectors are confident that they have undertaken the assessment, load tested and thoroughly examined a crane in its entirety and they do not cut corners. Slipshod inspections help no one and can hurt the profession as a whole. Each qualified and competent crane lifting machinery inspector doing his or her job well helps to raise awareness in the crane/lifting machinery industry of the importance of quality inspections.