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Lifting and Climbing Equipment Legislations Explained


Working at height presents a range of unique problems and safety risks. Those that choose to work within the arborist and forestry environment do so with full trust in their equipment. The items that make up a toolbox are also those that will actively minimise the risk of injury and, in serious instances, death. To protect these workers, there is specific legislation in place to cover both lifting and climbing equipment used here in the UK. Specifically, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) stands as the key piece of legal legislation. This guide will explain it’s relevant to the arboriculture industry and how it may apply to the tools you rely on daily.

It is worth noting that pre-1995, there were international standards drafted by the UIAA Safety Commission. These were optional for tool manufacturers and acquired you a special badge for packaging if abided by. Now, the legislation in place is compulsory and acts to protect all workers within these industries.

What tools fall under this regulation?

The term ‘lifting equipment’ applies to all those used to lift OR lower a load. This includes those used during fixing and anchoring to support the transportation of products or individuals to height. Among others, this legislation covers items such as:

  • Your climbing ropes.
  • Your anchor points.
  • All karabiners.
  • Harnesses.
  • Rigging systems used for lowering branches to the floor.
  • Cranes.
  • Tree spades.

There are some items not covered by LOLER as it is not considered lifting equipment. In this instance, PUWER will stand in place to cover pieces such as stairlifts and platform lifts.

Who is responsible for ensuring LOLER is abided by?

This legislation places a duty on owners, employers and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. This includes companies that employ people to work with lifting equipment, even if they do not own it. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) are put in place to protect the safety of every worker in line with current health and safety requirements.

What does it cover?

The LOLER requires that all climbing and lifting equipment must be fit for purpose and appropriate for the task at hand. It must be suitably marked and, where applicable, needs to undergo periodic checks and examinations to ensure it fits the standard. This ensures that wear and tear is not allowed to reach a potentially unsafe point. To abide by the requirements, a clear and detailed record must be kept throughout these inspections and defects should be reported back to the person in charge. If equipment is found to be subpar, it must be replaced as quickly as possible without putting anybody’s life at risk.

What is the most important information that an employer needs to know?

LOLER requires that all lifting applications that require lifting equipment to be used must be planned out comprehensively by a competent person. They must be supervised throughout and carried out safely. All of the equipment used must be fit for purpose and used appropriately for each job. Businesses that require lifting operations to take place regularly must provide these tools and lifting equipment for their employees.

Most importantly, LOLER has a wide application covering most types of lifting equipment. The main exception to this rule is lifting equipment commonly used on ships as there are separate provisions in place to cover these.

When carrying out lifting projects, you should plan them extensively to minimise the risk of injury. Make sure that the people you employ are sufficiently competent and offered training as and when required. Workers should be supervised during work to ensure each project is carried out appropriately. And, there should be considerations in place to make sure safety is kept at the height of importance.

How to choose the right equipment?

LOLER states that workplace equipment used for lifting needs to be fitted and positioned to reduce risk. This needs to cover and protect the individual in the event of a load drifting, falling or becoming unintentionally released. It also requires items to be appropriately marked with their ‘safe working loads’ (SWL) which refers to the maximum load it can safely list.

In situations where the SWL depends on a tools configuration, this information must be provided along with relevant SWL’s for each configuration. Any accessories that accompany main tools should also be marked to show any sections or characteristics that could impact their safe use.

Does LOLER cover pre-planning for jobs?

Yes. Before carrying out any climbing operation, all potential risks should be identified in detail. A qualified and competent person should analyse these risks and present solutions to help minimise these as much as possible. Some of the key factors that need to be considered include:

  • Potential visibility.
  • Attaching and detaching loads.
  • Site environment.
  • Potential overturning.
  • The proximity of other hazards.
  • Equipment location.

Working at Height Regulations 2005

You cannot easily discuss legislation around climbing equipment comprehensively without taking into account the Work at Height Regulation of 2005. Referencing PPE (personal protective equipment), it references all tree work that involves workers at height.

What does it cover?

This regulation states that all climbing work that requires personal fall protection systems should only be done if:

  • A comprehensive risk assessment has been undertaken and shows the work can be done safely when using the system.
  • There is no need for other, safer work equipment such as mobile elevating work platforms.
  • All those working on the project have been adequately trained in how to use the system and in rescue techniques.

In particular, it covers both work positioning and rope access/positioning.

Work positioning

Where possible, any personal fall protection system should securely attach to two load-bearing anchor points. These points need to be strong enough to support the climber along with all relevant equipment and foreseeable loading suitable. Systems such as these should only be used for preventing or arresting a fall. Backup setups with a second line must be attached to the user. Additionally, the system must be tested to minimise the risk of failure. This includes:

  • Providing adequate training.
  • Using appropriate equipment.
  • Working with suitable anchor points.
  • Following the HSE’s guidelines.
  • Using all tools correctly.

Rope Access and positioning

These systems should only be used in situations where there is a minimum of 2 separately anchored lines - a working line and a safety line. Users should be connected to both lines with an appropriate harness. There needs to be a safe means of ascent and descent along with a self-locking design that minimises injury.

The only time when a single rope can be used is where a risk assessment deems the second rope to cause a higher risk of injury.

Where can I find additional information about these relevant legislations?

There is a whole host of information available online to support those who work at height. Your first point of call should always be the Health and Safety Executive who aim to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. An evaluation of LOLER can be found on their website here. To learn more about the purpose of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, click the link here to visit their website and download a brief guide.

It is vital that, as both an employer and someone working in arboriculture, you understand the legal requirements placed on you here in the UK. They are in place to protect your safety, keep your business on par with current requirements and protect the livelihood of all of those who work for you. Equipment is so important within this industry, as is the knowledge of how to use and maintain it appropriately.

Sorbus International pride itself in having a wealth of knowledge about arboriculture. If you have any questions about the guide above or would like to discuss how the products available in our online store support these legislations, get in touch with our friendly and helpful team here today.

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