Tuesday, June 27, 2017
This blog aims to help anyone who has a need to hire lifting equipment.
There are many different scenarios that present a need for lifting gear. A company might require a single, low capacity load to be lifted once, while another may need to schedule hundreds a day, including critical lifts, over a period of months or even years. Short-, mid-, long-term hire or purchases are the contractor or end user’s options.
In each case, the load, lifting technology, rigging and work environment are important considerations, but arguably more significant than all of them is the supplier of the cranes, hoists, hooks, shackles, slings, etc. that will be delivered to meet the site’s requirements.
The lifting industry is a specialist field and it should be respected as such. The trouble with the word ‘hire’ is it lumps above and below-the-hook equipment in with the kit one can readily source with a set of instructions from a plant store. Hiring an industrial carpet cleaner or hedge trimmer is one thing, renting a set of slings to rig a heavy load is quite another.
It’s difficult for decision makers in the field because the UK marketplace has an abundance of suppliers but not enough specialists or skilled people. It means they’re almost playing potluck when choosing a company to source from. There are a lot of national players who don’t have the required skilled personnel to back up their stock while, on the other hand, there are many local, independent suppliers who can’t support their skills with widespread coverage.
When a need for lifting equipment presents itself, the purchaser can look for a number of hallmarks in a quality supplier.
When looking at a company’s website or literature, references to lifting equipment should be more prevalent than those to tools, hire or general plant. Diversification can mean dilution in terms of expertise. When sourcing a set of slings, what does it matter if the company also has a great range of hardhats? The safest lifting solution will be based on the best quality of manufacture, supported by a specialist in lifting.
Another thing to look for is Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) accreditation. LEEA is established across the globe as the leading representative body for all those involved in the lifting industry worldwide. It is the respected and authoritative representative body for members who work in every aspect of the industry, from design, manufacture, refurbishment and repair, through to the hire, maintenance and use of lifting equipment. It’s hard to earn LEEA accreditation—they don’t give the illustrious status away—so it means something.
It’s also prudent to look into the processes of the company. How do they manufacture their kit? How qualitative is their testing and inspection process? How many staff are LEEA training and competent? How do they deliver equipment to site? How do they support customers once it’s in the field? How close might an engineer be to the site in the case of an unscheduled call out? These are all questions to ask before committing to an order, especially a large one.
Once these boxes are ticked, consider location. I’ve blogged before about the importance of locality. For example, we’ve just opened our sixth UK facility in Warrington, close to the heavy lift depot of Ainscough Crane Hire, but we know we need 10 sites to provide proper UK-wide coverage. The right supplier is not always the closest, but if they’re hundreds of miles away it will impact the relationship at some point.
There might be people reading this who haven’t sourced lifting equipment before but are about to. In that case, make sure everyone who will actually use the kit is properly trained and take the right advice from LEEA. The accessibility of lifting equipment, particularly in the tool hire environment referenced above, doesn’t mean it can be used by anyone. One wouldn’t think of getting into a car with someone who hasn’t passed his or her driving test; the principle is the same below-the-hook of a crane or hoist.
Whether it’s the first time one has sourced lifting gear or the thousandth, it might be acquired via a tender process. If that’s the case, put as much detail in them as possible to ensure the resulting choice is made from only reputable, quality, fully trained suppliers. Specify geography, LEEA membership, deadlines, etc. at the outset. Tenders are an efficient sourcing method, especially when large orders for hundreds of units are required.
Beyond the paperwork and products, people are important too. Remember, there will be scenarios where the lifting equipment supplier is required to make visits and / or give advice and guidance over the telephone. If the supplier is taking a long time to reply to messages or lacks courtesy and personality during the negotiation stages, imagine what will happen when the pressure is on out of hours when a critical lift has been put on hold.
Even when the right supplier has been chosen, the end user must remain diligent and adhere to the proper procedures. If during visual inspection at the start of a shift a sling looks threadbare or frayed, don’t use it. Just because a supplier is reputable and does everything in their power to prevent it, a fibre sling, for example, might become damaged or expire in the field. Never take a risk. Also be sure to only use equipment for its intended purpose. A sling is for a rigging application, not for batching together concrete reinforcement bars.
Rest assured, when you return the equipment to the supplier, a good company will carry out a LOLER inspection and use LEEA’s approved code of practice criteria for the procedure. Equipment doesn’t have to be new, but it does have to be safe.
Good luck with your next lifting equipment hire process!
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Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd