Choosing a LEEA Audited provider for any lifting gear solutions offers the assurance of excellence. Denis Hogan, Performance and Special Projects Manager at LEEA (Lifting Equipment Engineers’ Association), explains why.
A LEEA Technical Audit Is not only a unique and valuable feature of LEEA membership, it is a badge of excellence for end users of lifting gear.
Unlike other assessments, LEEA’s Technical Audit does not just provide a snapshot of compliance and competence at a moment in time. It provides a development mechanism that ensures that each and every LEEA member rapidly achieves, and maintains, the highest international standards. It shows they meet, and often exceed, the requirements of local laws and regulations. Members, their customers, and their regulators can thus be assured that high, verifiable and sustainable safety standards are being adhered to.
The Technical Audit forms an integral part of LEEA’s Membership Assessment process. This is no desk-based box-ticking exercise. Every new application received has to be posted on the LEEA website for a period of 30 days to allow for any objections from existing members. The Audit cannot be arranged until this 30-day waiting period has expired and is carried out as soon as possible after this wating period. It is carried out through site visits by LEEA’s Member Engagement Team, with an inspection lasting several hours, even up to a full day in some cases.
The Member Engagement Team all have extensive experience in some significant part of the industry, including Quality Assurance and audit work, and receive further training on products, services and standards. This achieved, typically, by going through the relevant foundation and advanced stages of LEEA’s training programmes. They ‘shadow’ existing assessors before being allowed to ‘fly solo’, ensuring a consistency of approach, with many having special expertise in the laws and regulations of particular countries, regions and industries.
The Audit is not a ‘one size fits all’ process: its scope is tailored to the activities of the applicant member, who may be involved in any, or all, of the equipment design, manufacture, distribution, test and inspection, service and repair, equipment hire or operator training. Additionally, the Audit is sensitive to the standards and legislation applicable in whichever part of the world it is undertaken, and other higher standards that may be required or expected by companies or industry sectors.
As should be the case with all Health and Safety work, the Audit is responsive to risk and can recognise practices that are at variance with the ‘standard’ approach providing the result is equivalent or an improvement.
In Europe, for example, there exists fundamental Health & Safety legislation, mostly deriving from the UK’s 1974 Health & Safety at Work Act, widely seen as the ‘grandfather’ of modern legislation. There is also comprehensive regulation such as theSupply of Machinery Safety Regulations (SOMSR), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), augmented by BS/EN/ISO Standards and national additions and variations. The US has its own Federal legislation issued by OSHA and ASME Standards. Other countries have adopted EU or US approaches in part or in full. Where legislation is lacking or deficient, some industries – for example in the West African oilfields – have adopted European norms as ‘best practice’. Of course, even in the absence of comprehensive legislation, any court or tribunal will tend to look at culpability in terms of adherence to recognised best practice whether mandated by law or not. LEEA’s own Codes of Practice are widely accepted as ‘best practice’ in many countries that do not have their own comprehensive regulations.
Raising the bar
The specifics of LEEA’s Audit output will vary as some legislation is very prescriptive and other rules are couched in terms of principles and frameworks. However, LEEA Audits always aim to raise the bar, rather than merely certify the bare minimum of compliance.
Some companies will be fully compliant at their first Audit, which is not to say that even further improvement isn’t possible, and will be offered full LEEA membership. More often, the Audit will identify some areas that require improvement. Such firms are invited to become Development Members, and for each of them we devise Development Action Report from the Audit results. This explains what the firm needs to do to meet the requirements for full membership. Some of the concerns may have easy fixes – inadequacies in the way records and documents are maintained, for example. Others may be more deep-seated, such as deficiencies in training and competences. The Action Report sets out the additional training required and the number and type of people needing to be trained.
These deeper-seated problems may take some time to resolve. Training provision has to be identified, and may not be available locally. Cover for staff under training needs to be arranged as courses themselves, whether face-to-face or on-line, take time to complete, Company structures and responsibilities may need to be reorganised or it may be necessary to bring in additional people or contract for external competencies. In such cases, the Action Report allows for up to two years before the firm is re-assessed. The re-assessment may not require another site visit, but we do require objective evidence that the requirements have been fulfilled.
The Audit process for LEEA members is continual, recommencing approximately every two years by first ensuring that the range of relevant activities hasn’t changed, which is termed: ‘The Surveillance Audit’. Special audits can also be arranged if, for example, there has been fundamental change in a company.
The LEEA Audit process furnishes members with a recognised and highly marketable guarantee of excellence. More importantly, the Audit provides reassurance to the many tens of thousands of ‘duty holders’ who bear responsibility for the safe design, maintenance and operation of the lifting equipment their firm buys, hires or contracts in, often with little personal knowledge of the subject. Through using an audited LEEA member, they gain a guarantee that those aspects of their responsibilities have been faithfully and professionally discharged.
LEEA | http://www.leeaint.com