Friday, July 21, 2023
The recent Global Lifting Awareness Day—#GLAD2023—should serve as a reminder of the importance of safe and high-quality load lifting, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
On Thursday 13 July, the lifting industry united to make the case for professionalisation and standards. The annual concept, led for the fourth successive year by the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), was supported by anyone and everyone with a stake in the industry, from individuals to the largest corporations.
Whether they participated on social media using the hashtag and sharing the rallying call—‘We promote safe lifting, so we support GLAD’—or held in-person or digital events, everyone involved reported that it was a great occasion.
It was good to see members of the end-user community contribute because it’ll be owners, inspectors, examiners, etc., that will decide whether this awareness day is successful in the long-term or not. Most people in the trade know where to look for guidance and advice, but there are others that might only use it occasionally, while someone, somewhere, is asked to source or use a piece of lifting equipment for the first time every day.
This is arguably where an accident is most likely to happen so putting our guidance and content where they spend their time, especially online, is crucial.
Stand the test
One way we can continue to build trust among this group of people is to ensure that, as an industry, we constantly strive to improve best practices in quest of a world where there are zero accidents or incidents involving lifting, rigging, material handling, or height safety equipment. A component of achieving that is to expose our sector’s people and processes to the toughest scrutiny and auditing there is—and prove it with certifications, accreditations, and memberships.
Ultimately, that’s what LEEA—we’re members of the association—serves to achieve. Its vision is lifting and height safety industries, which have eliminated accidents, injuries, and fatalities; and its mission is to educate, influence, and enable so that best practice is everyday action.
End users that use LEEA members can be confident of compliance to standards and legislation, wherever they are in the world; competency of personnel for the design, manufacture, maintenance, testing, and inspection of lifting equipment; and continual improvement in standards of practice. Members are subject to technical audits of their working practices and their employees are required to undertake training and continuing professional development (CPD).
Although perhaps the standout example, LEEA isn’t the only beacon of brilliance.
We circulated a press release recently about our fabrication facility receiving a UKCA Certificate of Conformity of the Factory Production Control, up to and including EXC 3. The certificate, to designated standard EN 1090-1:2009 + A1:2011, covers structures and structural components, including manufacture of structural steelwork components. EXC 3, or execution class 3, relates to supporting structures made of steel up to strength class S700 and structural components made of aluminium alloys.
As Alan Varney, our engineering services director, told trade media, our customers benefit in having the confidence that the products that we manufacture will have full traceability and non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection with certification.
You can begin to see how user and specialist product and / or service provider help each other this way. And we must develop these partnerships.
One group that has been successful in permeating everyday language is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Most people can tell you that it stands for standards development, at least. If we get to the point where end users and others in wider society know what LEEA and #GLAD2023, #GLAD2024, and #GLAD2025 are, and what they represent, we’ll be winning the battle.
I was taking to Erin Thomas, HSE (health, safety and environmental) coordinator here at my company, about this recently.
As she said, ISO 45001:2018, the replacement for OHSAS 18001 certification, is a standout example, while the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), a voluntary organisation that promotes best practice for commercial vehicle operators, is gaining recognition all the time.
I won’t list them all, but the point is that gaining these certifications is important because it serves as proof that a company is pursuing excellence and a third party agrees that they’ve achieve it. Think about it in very simple terms; when you completed 25 metres when you were learning to swim, you wanted a certificate to show your parents, guardians, and friends.
“I did it,” in other words.
Of course, as we go through life, we realise that some certificates are more meaningful than others, and it isn’t a competition to see who can fill their boardroom with the most awards in frames or trophies in cabinets. There are a lot of meaningless awards and badges out there, so it’s necessary to go after the right ones—and LEEA, ISO, FORS, BS, RISQS, RoSPA, etc., are all examples of that.
Deciding which is which has become a specialised role in modern business, as has organising renewals, audits, and monitoring new certifications that a business might need. It’s why I recommend that companies employ an individual, like Erin, who has acquired, over a number of years, the skills and knowhow to make sure a fast-moving organisation can continue to prove to existing and potential customers that it is committed to excellence across the board.
Invest in safety
I happily invest at least £50k per annum on certifications, compliance, and audits.
It’s a mistake to view CPD, training, certification, and accreditation as cost. Reality is, these days, buyers of all sizes are looking for certain entry-level requirements before they’ll invite your bid or welcome you on site. It means that there’s return on investment, provided that a business backs up certification with all the other important elements of business that contribute to happy customers.
Really, it’s hard to meet the requirements of certain accreditation bodies without possessing those abilities and skills.
ISO 45001:2018, for example, specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, and gives guidance for its use, to enable organisations to provide safe and healthy workplaces by preventing work-related injury and ill health, as well as by proactively improving its OH&S performance.
All new LEEA members, meanwhile, go through a thorough application process, which includes a face-to-face technical audit. Only having completed this process are companies admitted as members of the association. They are then expected to continually raise their standards of practice; this includes ongoing training offered by LEEA either in person or online, as well as by referring to the numerous best practice guidance documents it produces each year. All members receive annual contact from an expert team, including short notice audits, to ensure standards remain high.
FORS helps businesses improve operator safety, fuel efficiency, and vehicle emissions. It also helps embed economical operations throughout. The scheme is an effective way to demonstrate to clients that a firm is a high-performing operator that seeks to instil industry-leading best practice.
The same attitude should be taken towards individuals. I know some leaders (if you can call them that) that are reluctant to expose staff, especially new recruits, to the best training because they worry that they will take the education and apply it elsewhere. I disagree for two main reasons: one, employees usually repay you for investing in them; and two, it’s all part of the greater good to improve our workforce. Buying into this is fundamental to endeavours like Global Lifting Awareness Day.
How else can we authentically promote safe lifting?
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd