UK warehouse operators overlook planned maintenance of scissor lifts at their peril – risking injury, loss of business and even fines or prosecution, according to Roger Bates of lift manufacturer Saxon.

Robust, reliable and all too often ignored – for many manufacturers and logistics operators, that is the typical view of the scissor lift. Often viewed as the workhorse of the operation, the trusty lift just keeps going – with little fuss or bother. That is, until it goes wrong. And when it does, the results can be catastrophic.

Properly maintained lifting gear is one of the vital links with the supply chain. However, when lifts fail, the issues can be severe – loss of operational continuity (potentially resulting in failed order deadlines or loss of contracts, with associated reputational damage) or even serious injury or fatalities, with prosecution an all too likely consequence.

As an employer or a self-employed person in control of lifting equipment, there are two regulations that demand engagement and action. Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) regulations, the law requires operators to do the following:

  • Maintain records about the safe operation of the scissor lift
  • Educate operators how to use the lift in the same way
  • Regularly maintain the scissor lift according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Keep records and logbooks
  • Have thorough examinations regularly undertaken by a ‘competent person’

Keep it regular

Unless the equipment has an EC Declaration of Conformity less than one year old and was not assembled on site, a thorough inspection of the lift should be done before it is used. This must be undertaken by a competent person to establish the assembly is correct and safe.

Once in regular service, operators have a choice. Thorough examinations should be carried out either:

  • at regular intervals (either at least every six months or 12 months depending on
    whether the lifting equipment is for lifting people or not); or
  • in accordance with an examination scheme drawn up by a competent person.

Any accessories for lifting, such as fixing equipment, must be thoroughly examined either at least every six months or in accordance with an examination scheme.

Are you competent?
Much of the responsibility for the examination and logging of service schedules rests on the shoulders of a ‘competent person’ – as cited in both the PUWER and LOLER regulations.

A competent person should have enough appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and experience of scissor lifts so that they can detect defects or weaknesses and assess how important they are in relation to the safety and continued use of the equipment.

Importantly, they should not be the same person who performs routine maintenance as they would be responsible for assessing their own work, and so should be sufficiently independent and impartial to make objective decisions.

The competent person may be employed by a separate company, or selected by an employer from members of their own staff.

Finding fault
If the competent person finds a defect with the lifting equipment during the thorough examination which in their opinion is, or could become, a danger to people, they must tell you immediately and confirm this in the report of thorough inspection.

If the competent person discovers a defect that involves an existing or imminent risk of serious personal injury, then they must tell the owner immediately and send a copy of the report to the relevant enforcing authority (HSE or the local authority), even if the defects are remedied immediately. A competent person who fails to report a defect, simply because it has been remedied on the spot, is disguising a potentially dangerous situation.
It is the owner / operator’s responsibility to rectify any defect as soon as it becomes apparent. If you are notified of a serious and significant defect, you must immediately take the lifting equipment out of service until the defect has been put right. Failure to do so is deemed as breaking the law.

For defects that need to be rectified within a certain timescale, you must repair or replace the defective equipment within the specified time. In line with the regulations, the following records need to be kept:

  • The manufacturer’s manual including the declaration of conformity
  • All maintenance and repairs
  • Past two years thorough examinations
  • Staff training undertaken
  • Risk assessments and other documentation related to your safe system of work

Saxon recommends that all scissor lifts undergo weekly function checks on all safety-critical components to check that they are operating correctly. General cleaning and checking for debris or obstructions is also important. In line with best practice, any cleaning under the platform should be carried out by maintenance engineers.

As part of its commitment to safety, Saxon has produced a simple guide for platform lift operators, highlighting key areas of responsibility. As part of this initiative, Saxon has also introduced a simple sticker system for all equipment, which clearly states when the next service date – either annually or six monthly – is due. This robust, visible and updatable solution helps lift operators to maintain their equipment and stay on the right side of the regulations.