Under The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), all lifting equipment needs to be examined, inspected and tested by a ‘competent person’. But what does this mean? How does a duty holder know if the person they are using to inspect their lifting equipment is considered ‘competent’ by the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) standards?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand the importance of both LOLER inspection and thorough examination procedures for lifting equipment and accessories, as well as the obligations a duty holder has. 

Why should your equipment be inspected and tested?

Fundamentally, lifting equipment and accessories require regular thorough examinations to ensure they are in safe working order. The HSE states that lifting incidents account for 21% of all non-fatal accidents at work, with failures in this type of equipment potentially leading to a number of serious injuries for workers. 

From a legal standpoint, it’s important to ensure that your equipment is compliant with LOLER to avoid potential issues relating to injuries at work. LOLER requires that “lifting equipment which is exposed to conditions causing deterioration which is liable to result in dangerous situations” is “thoroughly examined” by a “competent person at suitable intervals”.

If these requirements aren’t met, then there are potentially serious legal repercussions for employers. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales introduced new Health and Safety offences guidelines in 2015 that propose much stricter penalties for health and safety accidents. Crucially, these guidelines also introduced prison sentences for highly culpable individuals, meaning that duty holders responsible for ensuring safety at work can be prosecuted directly. 

This vastly changes the obligations of a duty holder in terms of safety management. 

What are a duty holder’s obligations?

Under LOLER duty holders are responsible for the safe operation of all lifting equipment used in the workplace. This means ensuring that all appropriate equipment is subject to thorough LOLER inspection, tests, and pre-use equipment checks. 

The HSE’s INDG422 Thorough examinations and inspections of lifting equipment recommends the following checks, inspections and examinations are carried out:

  • Users may need to undertake simple pre-use checks on a daily basis
  • General inspections and checks should be made by operators on a ‘regular’ basis (i.e. weekly, monthly or quarterly)
  • Employers should ensure that lifting equipment undergoes a ‘thorough examination’ once or twice a year.

A ‘thorough examination’ is used to refer to a systematic and specialised process of examination for any defects in the equipment, which should be undertaken by a competent person.

As well as ensuring the correct examinations and inspections take place, a duty holder is also obligated to ensure that the person completing the examination meets the criteria of a ‘competent person’.

Failure to meet this criteria can result in severe consequences, as mentioned above. If an accident occurred and it was deemed that the person undertaking your LOLER inspection was not a ‘competent person’, the duty holder would be liable for breaking their regulatory duties. This could lead to criminal prosecution with the possibility of the duty holder going to jail. 

It’s vital, therefore, to ensure that LOLER inspections and thorough examinations are undertaken by somebody with the right credentials. 


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Who is considered a ‘competent person’ to complete LOLER inspections and thorough examinations?

A ‘competent person’ is classed as somebody with the knowledge and understanding to identify issues with the lifting equipment they are examining. The term is used to legally distinguish a ‘competent person’ from others who may just undertake regular servicing and maintenance. 

The HSE INDG422 guidelines state that a ‘competent person’ “should have enough appropriate practical & theoretical knowledge and experience of the lifting equipment 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”.

Knowledge and experience are not the only criteria, however. A ‘competent person’ “should not be the same person who performs routine maintenance as they would be responsible for assessing their own work” and should also “be sufficiently independent and impartial to make objective decisions”.

It’s also essential that a ‘competent person’ belongs to a capable body with relevant accreditations and memberships. This includes SAFed and LEEA, both of which ensure competence levels are achieved and ongoing continuous professional development (CPD) is carried out.

A competent person under these criteria is able to complete both LOLER thorough examinations and inspections. During these examinations, they would be responsible for ensuring that the strength and stability of the lifting equipment is up to the task, as well as identifying any defects or weaknesses. 

How to choose the right LOLER inspection supplier 

When choosing a LOLER inspection supplier, it’s important to find somebody who has more than just an exceptional knowledge of lifting equipment. Finding a company with a wide range of services allows for any issues with your equipment to be addressed quickly and with minimum disruption to your business operations. 

Download our helpful guide – the essential questions to ask your Engineering Inspection supplier - for helpful information on choosing a supplier. Our guide features a range of questions you can ask potential suppliers, as well as useful tips on what a good engineering inspector can do for your business. 


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