Tuesday, May 12, 2020
It’s encouraging that many people are using the Coronavirus lockdown to sharpen their skills and revisit textbooks that have been closed for too long. It’s also a good time to look at the language we use in the workplace or onsite as it relates to the standards, guidelines and laws that keep us safe—alive, even.
A lot of our understanding of words comes from childhood. I remember my mother saying to me, ‘Can you be trusted with that?’ and a teacher bellowing, ‘You boys are so immature and irresponsible!’ We certainly knew what was meant in both cases. The answers were probably, ‘No,’ and, ‘Why would you leave a classroom of teenagers unattended?’
I’m sure I remember a supermarket supervisor blasting at a member of staff once, ‘Gosh, you’re so incompetent sometimes.’
In the lifting industry there are some buzzwords that reoccur; they include:
Ask a young, bright secondary (high) school student to define these words and they’ll give you decent answers. They might say a competent person has necessary abilities; a responsible person has obligation, control or care over something; verification means accuracy or validity; and someone who is trained has been taught how to do something.
None of these explanations would be wrong but it doesn’t mean these students would understand how to apply them to a specialised marketplace like the lifting industry.
And, based on my experience, many people who work in the sector every day don’t fully grasp their true meaning. It’s worthwhile, therefore, to look at them each in more detail. I will reference and quote Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) documentation to ensure I’m in tune with the highest authority in the land.
Fittingly, competent and complexity are quite close together in the dictionary.
The term ‘competent person’ has been long used in legislation to describe a person with the necessary knowledge, experience, training, skill and ability to perform the specific duty to which the requirement refers.
For the purpose of thoroughly examining lifting equipment, LEEA defines a competent person as having such practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of the equipment which is to be thoroughly examined that will enable him / her to detect defects or weaknesses which it is the purpose of the examination to discover and assess their importance to the safety of the equipment.
It adds that the competent person should have the maturity to seek such specialist advice and assistance as may be required to enable him / her to make necessary judgements and be a sound judge of the extent to which he / she can accept the supporting opinions of other specialists. He / she must be able to clarify with confidence whether it is free from patent defect and suitable in every way for the duty for which the equipment is required.
It is the view of LEEA that competency can be corporate responsibility.
In other words, it’s more extensive than having the ‘necessary ability’ to do something. But did you really consider all of the above last time you referred to someone as ‘competent’?
This is one of the words that gets misused all the time because it’s engrained in us from an early age. To use another example from our schooldays, we remember teachers demanding, ‘This exercise requires you to be responsible’. We still see those signs that read, ‘Children must be accompanied here by a responsible adult’. We all think therefore that we know exactly what the word means but, again, it’s worth looking at again.
The term ‘responsible person’ is often used to describe a person who has sufficient knowledge and training to enable him / her to recognise obvious defects and is responsible to his / her employer for the ‘in-service’ inspection of equipment.
The term has also been used since 1992 in the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations to mean the manufacturer or other person first placing equipment on the market within the European Economic Area. The code makes reference to these regulations so, to avoid confusion, where the term is used in the legal context it is shown thus: responsible person (legal meaning).
Interestingly, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) uses the term ‘competent person’ in relation to both the in-service inspection and the thorough examination meaning ‘competent for the purpose’. The use of the same term to cover different levels of competence may lead to confusion so LEEA retained its established term ‘responsible person’ to make the distinction clearer.
This is the generic term used to describe the procedures adopted by the manufacturer or ‘competent person’ to ensure that lifting equipment is to the required standard or specification, meets legal requirements and is safe to operate. This includes proof load tests, sample break tests, non-destructive tests, calculation, measurement and thorough examination.
That’s more than a sticker saying, ‘valid’ or ‘accurate’.
LEEA explains that, for new equipment, the verification methods used by the manufacturer will depend on the standard being worked to.
Let’s tackle this one in terms of ‘operative training’.
All operatives are required by legislation to be trained in the use of the lifting equipment which they will be required to operate. There are different types of training out there that could equate to being ‘taught how to do something’ but LEEA points specifically to 13 (yes, 13) areas that must be covered before anyone can think about considering themselves to be ‘trained’.
For example, operatives shall be informed of the specific use for which the item of lifting equipment is intended and have access to any appropriate operation manual or information. They shall be shown the correct method of use of the item(s). Warning should be given as to incorrect methods of use and dangerous practices, together with an explanation of the possible outcome. The criteria goes on to reference recognition of markings, check procedures, storage, load attachment, etc.
Is everyone who interacts with lifting equipment in your places of work really ‘trained’ to do so?
I could have chosen more words and phrases to analyse but in favour of brevity I’ll leave it there. For more detail and information, look to LEEA.
A word that now needs no explanation!
At the time of writing, we remain in a lockdown holding pattern here in the UK. I’m hearing a lot of doom and gloom from fellow stakeholders in the industry and many are hunkering down waiting for the storm to pass. It’s understandable, but even if you have been forced into temporary shutdown, it’s important not to become too defeatist. The further we retreat, the slower we will recover (we covered that in last month’s blog).
People are still out there researching and planning their next purchases and plotting a resumption of activity on their sites. It’s a good idea to maintain contact and look at ways to promote certain products and services. I accept that it would be cavalier to launch a blanket marketing or recruitment campaign, but there are ways we can take a softer approach to ensuring we have fuel in the tank when we have to hit the road again.
As May advances, we will see more and more signs that normality isn’t perhaps as far away as we thought it might be a few weeks ago. Make sure you don’t miss the boat.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd