Love or hate them, just as your vehicle MOT is part of having a vehicle, LOLER examinations on your kit are an essential part of being an arborist.
Your tree climbing and aerial rescue training will have covered some parts of kit care and inspection, but how important is this day to day in your role as a climber?
We carry out over 600 LOLER examinations a year at Hi-Line Training and get asked a wide range of questions about kit care and examinations. Our LOLER overview here covers some of the main ones.
The legal bit …
The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) are regulations under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 that came into force in 1998. They were introduced to reduce the risk of people becoming injured by lifting work equipment & falling from height.
The regulations aim to ensure that all lifting operations are properly planned by a competent person, that there is appropriate supervision and that the lifting operations are carried out safely. Equipment used should be fit for purpose, appropriate for the task being undertaken and thoroughly examined by a competent person at regular times scales.
Simply put, the legislation is there to keep you safe.
Its relevance in the arb world & to you and your kit …
Everyone working in arb should have an understanding of the LOLER regs. Employers, employees and those that are self-employed all have responsibilities under this legislation.
LOLER relates to any equipment that lifts or lowers loads, this includes people, such as tree climbing arborists, who within these regulations are considered to be “a load”.
Within arboriculture, LOLER applies to:
· All your climbing equipment – including your ropes, karabiners, harness and the item that is most often forgotten with regards to LOLER examinations – your tool strop
· All your rigging equipment
· Tree Spades
Basically, anything that lifts or lowers a person or other load such as a piece of timber, comes under the LOLER regs.
Keys things to remember:
· Work needs to be planned by a competent person
· Equipment needs to be used for the task it was intended for
· Equipment such as climbing kits need checks / thorough examinations
· Equipment must show the Safe Working Load (SWL) – the maximum load that piece of equipment can lift
· All items should be uniquely identifiable, for example with an individual serial number
· Equipment used for lifting people (such as climbing equipment) should be different from equipment used for lifting other loads (such as rigging equipment).
How often are checks needed on your kit and who needs to do them ……
Whether you are employed or self-employed, as a climber you are responsible for caring for and checking the climbing kit you use.
There are three types of inspection or examination needed for arboricultural lifting equipment – pre-use checks, weekly inspections and thorough examinations.
Pre-use checks – carried out by the user before each use
The users of equipment are required to carry out pre-use checks before each use of the equipment. As part of their tree climbing and aerial rescue qualification qualified climbers will have received training in recognising damage / defects to their equipment.
Climbing equipment pre-use checks will include checking ropes for signs of abrasion or strand damage, ensuring the harness is working correctly and checking karabiners are fully functioning.
Weekly inspection – carried out by the user every week
Within tree work the HSE recommends that a weekly documented inspection is carried out on high wear items or items that may deteriorate quickly. This would include ropes and harnesses etc. A record should be kept of this inspection indicating if items are deemed safe or not.
Thorough examination – carried out by a competent person every 6 months (for climbing kit)
For equipment used to lift a person (climbing equipment for example) a thorough examination must be carried out by a competent person at least every 6 months. For other equipment used for lifting or lowering (such as rigging equipment) a thorough examination must be carried out at least every 12 months.
The thorough examination is an in-depth examination by a competent person who will determine if the equipment is safe to use. These examinations are documented, and records should be retained.
The examination will include checking for damage, defects, misuse, areas of weakness, checking expiry dates and looking at how the equipment is being used. Items will be deemed safe or unsafe once the examination has been carried out.
Following the examination, a report will be produced. It is important that this is read by the user as it will include important information about the equipment. The report will include:
· Name of company or person the examination is for
· Name of the LOLER Examiner
· Details of the equipment (including serial number, safe working load, condition, date of manufacture or date of first use)
· Date of examination
Thorough examinations should be carried out by a competent LOLER Examiner. The LOLER Examiner should be impartial and independent. They should have practical and theoretical experience and knowledge of the equipment they will be inspecting. It is essential they understand how the equipment works and that they can recognise defects or damage to the equipment. With so many advances in arboricultural equipment over the past few years, and the widespread use of items such as Petzl Zigzags and ART devices, it is important that your LOLER Examiner is up to date with the equipment you are using.
Within the arb industry LOLER Examiners would usually hold the NPTC Level 3 Competence in the Thorough Examination of Arboricultural Equipment LOLER qualification.
The experience and competency for those carrying out LOLER examinations on climbing equipment would be different to those carrying out examinations on MEWPs or Cranes.
What about items that fail their LOLER examination ….
Your LOLER Examiner will clearly mark all items that fail examinations. Unfortunately, items that fail their LOLER examination must not be used as part of your climbing system. If they have been deemed unsafe then they should be removed from your kit.
Kit care and cleaning ….
Whether it is your own kit, or one supplied by your employer our advice would be:
Get to know your kit – familiarise yourself with serial numbers, safe working loads, maximum service life etc. This information will be on your LOLER certificate.
When you buy new bits of kit keep the receipts – your LOLER Examiner will want to see these when your kit goes in for its 6-monthly examination.
Keep your kit in a dry, clean bag. Try to remove sawdust, leaf litter, old food etc and avoid storing sharp objects such as chainsaw bars and chains in with your climbing kit. Ropes and sharp things don’t mix!
Get into the habit of keeping all your kit clean. Cleaning your kit prolongs its life, gives you the opportunity to check over each item and keeps items in safe, working order.
Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions with regards to cleaning, caring for and maintaining all your equipment. This information can be found on the manufacturers’ website. It is important for you to know what you can / can’t use to clean your kit and they know best about their equipment.
As a general rule though, keep it simple – to clean most items you just need warm water (and no excuse for not doing it, if you don’t have warm water, cold water will do). Do not use boiling hot water – if it’s too hot for your hands it’s probably too hot for your kit. Just a bucket, trug or, if your parents, partner or house mates will let you, a bathtub of warm water.
For textile items wash grit, sap and dirt out then rinse with clean water and leave to dry.
For metal items wash the dirt out, dry and then lubricate. Don’t lube before drying – you’ll end up in a sticky mess!! From our experience, Duck Oil seems to work best and in the world of arb where it can be harder to keep things clean and dry, a wet lube rather than dry lube is probably preferable. You only need a few drops, no need to saturate the items.
Detergent can be used for cleaning your equipment but make sure you use one that won’t damage textile items and use sparingly.
Some chemicals (including some cleaning products) can damage and contaminate textile and metal items so to save expensive mistakes check with the manufacturer, supplier or your LOLER Inspector before using.
Inspecting so many kits each year we’ve seen some costly mistakes that were well meant but ended up in expensive damage or contamination of equipment. Learn from the following:
· DO NOT put your kit in the dishwasher – it is way too hot in there for it!
· DO NOT treat your kit to air freshener spray or powder – this is not the friend of your ropes!
· DO NOT soak your karabiners in boiling water or dry them with a heat gun – they may be tough but extreme heat is not for them!
Bucket/trug/bath of warm water + 15 to 30 minutes of your time + bit of effort = happy, clean, safer kit!
Cheesy as it may sound, your kit is a reflection of you. Keeping it clean, in good condition and in date with LOLER not only keeps you safe and ensures you comply with the regulations but it also saves you money and shows you take pride in your work to your team mates, employer and your customers.
Content by Kirsty McNicol / Matt Evans – Hi-Line Training
Hi-Line Training are an independent training & LOLER provider based in Exeter, Devon. Offering ground and aerial based training, utility arb training, arborist first aid courses, LOLER examinations and bespoke arb and first aid courses. Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/HiLineTraining and Instagram www.instagram.com/hilinetraining or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org