Don’t Cut Back on Engineering Inspections During Energy Crisis

Energy costs are causing a variety of responses in the engineering and manufacturing industries – ones particularly hard-hit by the soaring prices.  Where businesses can, they are passing price increases on to customers.  Where they cannot, they are having to resort to other measures.  What engineering and manufacturing firms should not be tempted to do, however, is to cut maintenance budgets and stop commissioning statutory engineering inspections.

Maintenance and engineering inspection requirements

Responses to the energy crisis, within businesses in general, has been to reduce production, change suppliers and reduce staff hours.

As early as November, 4.3% of businesses were also saying they could not carry out maintenance in their workspaces, with money required elsewhere.[1]  Many of those giving this response would not, however, have been under a legal obligation to carry out statutory engineering inspections, whilst others might not have realised that maintenance is often essential and part of their duty of care as an employer, under the obligations imposed by the Health and Safety at Work Act.

During the pandemic, engineering and manufacturing firms were given some leeway with engineering inspections, not having to comply with the timeframes within which such inspections have to be ordinarily organised (typically every 6 or 12 months, dependent on the equipment type).  This leniency was purely due to the issues that inspectors had with entering premises, whilst Covid-19 was at its height.  There is no such agreement in place during the current energy crisis and it is very much ‘business as normal’ when it comes to statutory inspections.

Why are engineering inspections necessary?

Engineering inspections are all about company owners and duty-holders ensuring that their machinery and systems are safe and that they can safeguard anyone that interacts with them, whether an employee, agency worker or member of the public.

Engineering inspections are as relevant in industry as in agriculture and can also take place in sectors such as construction and retail.  What matters is the type of equipment being used.  Engineering inspections have been described as the ‘MOT’ for plant and machinery and they focus on reducing injuries and fatalities, by ensuring that equipment is safe to use and operate.

Which equipment requires an engineering inspection?

The range of equipment that requires inspection can be hugely varied – from a fork-lift truck to a steam-generating coffee machine in a café.  Both of these fall under different laws.  In the case of the fork-lift, it is LOLER – the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.  In that of the coffee machine, it is PSSR (2000) – the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations.

Both of these laws require owners of such equipment to have inspections carried out.  Other laws that require engineering inspections to be conducted on particular types of equipment are the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulations (for Local Exhaust Ventilation equipment).

Duty of care requirement

The motivation to keep on maintaining equipment during the energy crisis should not, however, be that the law requires it.  Business owners should be maintaining equipment in order to keep people safe.  If they do not do that, it could not only be on their conscience forever, if an accident occurs, but also potentially lead to receiving a major fine from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It is worth noting that the penalty payment could be one that has to be personally paid by the negligent director or manager who failed to keep their equipment safe, rather than the business.  Imprisonment is also a possibility, for very serious offences.

Other reasons for engineering inspections

Another great reason for carrying out engineering inspections, as the law requires, is to ensure that your business can keep on producing goods, or generating income.  Engineering inspections can identify issues with equipment long before it breaks down, helping to direct maintenance spend where required and ensuring no business interruption and downtime.

Additionally, being able to demonstrate a strong maintenance regime is a very useful defence in any liability claim that could be brought against the business.

How common are defects within inspected equipment?

If you think that you would be well aware of any serious defects, if they existed, think again.  The Head of Engineering Development at Zurich Engineering says that its 575 surveyors in the UK found 350,000 defects in the equipment that they inspect, every year.  Of these, 25,000 are typically serious.[2]  That is just one inspection body’s feedback.  Many more defects will be staying undetected, in companies where inspections have not been carried out.

It is false economy to cut back on maintenance and certainly not the answer to rising energy costs.  If you need help organising an engineering inspection, please get in touch with us and allow us to help.  Call 0113 244 8686to talk to our Leeds team, or choose one of our local brokers elsewhere in the country, to help you with this process.



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