Cranes and lifting gear in warehouses are normally confined to forklifts, pallet handling stacker cranes and mini stackers for smaller loads, where operator errors and consequent accidents are less problematic, but some warehouses specialising in handling homogenous loads like steel are much more likely to rely on overhead electric travelling cranes (EOTs) and here the need for operator care is more pressing. Warehouses may also use a wide mixture of other cranes and lifting equipment, like jib cranes, mezzanine lifts, scissor lifts, mobile floor cranes and many kinds of load handlers for load assembly on pallets. As with forklifts, their safe use will be governed by LOLER and PUWER legislation but trying to keep track of the many different equipment requirements, their safety procedures and after sales servicing can be a time-consuming, administrative nightmare.

Handing over the responsibility for all this to a professional, onesource partner should ease the problem of maintenance and legal compliance requirements. Briggs Equipment, which services a wide range of equipment outside their usual speciality of forklifts, like from small access platforms to huge overhead cranes, says: “We are seeing a huge growth in this area as our customers are demanding more from us and gone are the days when we focussed purely on forklift truck maintenance on sites,” according to Ian Tongue, their national accounts and business development director. Mr Tongue attributes this growth to customer efficiencies in terms of managing a reduced supplier base as well as the cost efficiencies of having engineers travelling to site to look after a large number of products.

“They like the benefits of dealing with one supplier that can competently maintain a wide range of equipment on their site,” he adds.

Forklift users will be familiar with the term thorough examination, the requirements of which must also apply to other forms of lifting equipment, but what does a thorough examination actually involve for the diverse range of lifting gear, when should it be done and by whom? As regards lifting gear like cranes and hoists, the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association defines the examination as a visual examination carried out by a competent person carefully and critically and, where appropriate, supplemented by other means such as measurement and testing to check whether the equipment is safe to use. Under LOLER the term has also been broadened to include procedures like proof load and non-destructive testing. Inspection period intervals will vary from six months to 12 months, with the former aimed at equipment used for lifting people and accessories and the latter for other lifting equipment. An alternative can be an examination scheme drawn up by a competent person, where intervals are based on the frequency and nature of use and the rate at which the condition of a particular item of equipment will deteriorate.

Hazards exist in all types of cranes and in all facets of operation. Analysis of overhead crane accidents reveal three most common hazards. These are electrical hazards, overloading and materials falling/slipping from overhead hoists. One commonality that all three hazards share is the quality of crane operators. Nearly 80% of the accidents can be attributable to predictable human error when the operator inadvertently exceeds the crane’s lifting capacity. Often, operators mistakenly believe that they are able to rely on their instinct or experience to determine whether a load is too heavy. It is crucial that the operator knows the weight of the load and the crane’s capacity.

Besides the obvious advantages of dealing with a large, one-source supplier in terms of maintenance and compliance with legal issues covering a wide range of equipment there are other potential gains to be had from such a supplier partner.

Sometimes, for example, their experience will show them that a goods lift to mezzanines can be more cost effective and safer than a reach truck. Or a pit-installed scissor lift in a loading bay without raised docks could be the answer if more desperately-needed space, taken up by internal ramps, is to be had. Buyers, therefore, are more likely to get the best mix of lifting equipment.