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07th September 2021

Monthly H&S Review – Sep 2021

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The maintenance of a building and upkeep of an environment to make sure it is safe to work in and safe to deliver high-quality services to clients in can be quite a challenge in any sector. Employers, business owners and operators of services in the care sector face many unique challenges while trying to ensure their service users and employees are protected from the many risks associated with delivering such services and managing care home properties.

It is vital to remember that as a business owner or care service operator, you are responsible for the provision of a safe environment for your workers, service users and visitors, it’s a legal requirement. Amongst a host of other legal duties and responsibilities which require you to provide and maintain a safe workplace and safe work equipment, stands one of the first sections of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 itself, which clearly states that employers must make sure that any workplace under their control is maintained in a safe condition.

One aspect of care sector premises, found to regularly be a cause of disruption to service, incidents, accidents and even enforcement action is the humble passenger lift, or elevator if you prefer. The maintenance, inspection and examination regimes for such assets are of vital importance. There are countless examples from care homes and other businesses in which seemingly minor defects associated with lifts have been left unrectified, resulting in incidents which have led to avoidable deaths and life changing injuries to staff and others. Many businesses have faced enforcement action for failures to properly maintain lifts or subject them to the necessary examinations, as well as the failure to carry out appropriate remedial action where it’s identified as required.

There is no doubt that having an operational lift in your premises can be costly, with regular maintenance, replacement of parts, and ultimately replacement of the lift altogether when it reaches the end of its serviceable life but if having such an asset is necessary for you to deliver your service, it’s a cost that must be met.

There are several key things you need to have considered if your business premises operates a passenger lift and several essential steps to ensure compliance and reduce risk:

You must comply with the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER):

  • Check your lift is fit for purpose, make sure it is certified as strong and stable enough to carry the equipment and persons you expect it to
  • Check your lift displays a clear safe working load. You must clearly display how much weight the lift can safely carry and put measures in place, including staff training, to ensure this limit is never exceeded
  • Your lift must be subject to a regular programme of maintenance, action needs to be taken where defects are identified, and records need to be maintained
  • Ensure your lift is subject to thorough examination by a competent person. If your lift carries people, these examinations must take place every 6 months or more frequently if a competent person determines it’s necessary. This thorough examination is additional to routine maintenance inspection, is certified separately and records must be maintained
  • Make sure defects are rectified, where they are identified in maintenance or during thorough examination. Lifts with safety critical defects must not be used.

You should have Emergency and Business Continuity Plans in place:

  • Do you have a procedure or plan for lift entrapment? If the lift fails with persons in it, how will they raise the alarm and what will the arrangements for rescue be? Staff need to be trained in such plans and systems for raising the alarm and effecting rescue should be tested periodically to make sure they will work if needed
  • What arrangements will you put in place should a lift fail or be required to be isolated because of a safety defect? How will you ensure that you can continue to gain access to all areas of your facility and ensure that residents can continue to safely access all areas of the premises?
  • How will you securely prevent access to and use of a lift in the event it’s deemed not safe to operate? It will need to be isolated, and access prevented, more than a “do not use” sign will be necessary

Other Risks to Consider:

  • Contractors carrying out maintenance and examination of lifts are at risk too. Ensure that you appoint only competent contractors and that they deploy appropriate risk control. Ensure the works are properly planned and managed to reduce any risk to your staff and service users while they take place
  • If a lift is out of service, staff may well be able to continue to use the stairs to get around the facility, but you’ll need to ensure they are not in danger through trying to carry excessive weight or awkward loads up and down stairs

As an employer in the sector there’s a duty to have identified the potential for lift defects, break downs and incidents to occur. You should look at your existing arrangements, ensure equipment is adequately maintained, and ensure you’ve got emergency and contingency plans in place, as well as ensuring staff are adequately trained.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Napthens LLP

Employment Law Specialists

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