We understand that due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and businesses are facing restrictions or challenges to their normal operation including statutory inspections. This could involve the closing of premises and challenges associated with receiving support from contractors who normally carry out statutory inspections, examinations and tests of plant and equipment even if premises are open.
We will detail guidance published by Barbour in relation to statutory inspections during COVID-19, including legal implications, facts to consider and advice on the best course of action in these exceptional circumstances.
Delays in statutory inspections, examinations and tests
Difficulty in getting support from contractors carrying out statutory inspections, examinations and test of plant and equipment or the need to close premises is to be expected in the current climate. However, failure to carry these out would be a breach of legislation which could lead to potential enforcement actions including prosecution.
As far as plant and equipment is concerned, you minimise your risk of prosecution and help to ensure the safety of your staff and others if additional steps are taken to mitigate risks arising from delays in inspection. It should also be considered to inform the HSE of your position and plan of action as you are less likely to be subjected to enforcement action if they have been informed of your situation and raise no issues with your proposal at the time.
However, there are some statutory requirements for thorough examination and inspection or testing of plant or machinery, including lifts, lifting equipment, pressure systems and local exhaust ventilation, which include a set time frame. These fall under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH) (for scaffolding). Failure to maintain some systems, in particular fire sprinkler and detection systems, may invalidate the insurance for the premises even if the premises are closed.
If taking plant out of use is putting vulnerable persons at risk, a careful decision would need to be made and it may be necessary to seek further advice from the HSE for these specific circumstances. This should only be considered when failure to keep plant and equipment operating poses a genuine risk, rather than an inconvenience, to vulnerable persons’ safety.
What mitigating steps should be considered
- Assess which plant and equipment require statutory inspections and examinations and when these are due.
- Place any plant or equipment which has not had its mandatory inspection and is not essential, out of service until an inspection can be carried out.
- Where, however, equipment is essential, a risk assessment of the equipment with input from engineers familiar with the equipment and those who operate it should be carried out to consider what might fail, the potential consequences that this poses, and focus on how that risk might be eliminated or managed.
- Inform your insurance company if any planned inspection and testing is not being completed or if premises or part of the premises are closed.
- If closing premises for a period of time, and where it is decided to shut off the power to services such as electrical, gas, water and ventilation systems, plant shutdowns should be undertaken in accordance with manufacturer instructions to ensure that it is done safely. On subsequent restart manufacturer guidance should be followed to ensure that the plant is re-energised safely and to avoid potential damage.
- Follow Public Health England recommendations on hygiene and social distancing (maintain two metres between people).
- Additional checks with prescribed frequency e.g. daily or at the beginning of each shift.
- Parts pro-actively replaced rather than reactively.
Regardless of delays in statutory inspections during COVID-19 it is essential that all plant and equipment is maintained for the safety of workers. Equipment must only be used outside of its test regime if you can demonstrate that it is critical for essential work and that it can still be operated safely. If there are any identified faults with plant or equipment, which could lead to a risk from its operation, it should be taken out of use immediately and securely isolated to prevent further use until the necessary repairs have been completed.
If you require any further information or have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org