The UK’s warehouses and food distribution centres are operating flat-out to try to feed consumers and provide NHS hospitals and care homes with much-needed and essential personal protective equipment PPE.
Longer hours are being worked and rapid recruitment drives are underway within the supermarket sector, where it is not just in-store till, counter and shelf-stacking staff who are required but logistics operatives and delivery drivers too.
As of April 2020, we have already seen some relaxation of mandatory requirements relating to VAT submissions  and company accounts reporting, as well as concessions with regard to insolvency and wrongful trading when in financial difficulty. Health and safety law has not been relaxed, however, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said it will not be making changes to the rules governing engineering inspection.
Such inspections will not necessarily be easy to arrange at the current time but they have been deemed to be of high importance and ‘essential’. Allianz have stated they have classified engineering surveyors as ‘key workers’ and they will be carrying out inspections as usual, with a prioritisation of premises dealing with health supplies and food.
Health and Safety laws such as such as LOLER (Lifting Operations & Lifting Equipment Regulations) 1998, the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) 1998 cover much of the equipment to be found in
warehouses and logistics depots.
An annual inspection is required for various types of equipment, including telescopic handlers, manual pallet trucks and forklift trucks, whilst a bi-annual inspection is required for equipment such as passenger lifts.
Regardless of whether a physical inspection can be organised, employers with equipment that is regulated and which requires inspection, should ensure such equipment is safe to operate and any defects on past inspections should be immediately addressed, if action is still outstanding. A corporate manslaughter charge could emanate from a situation in which an employee is allowed to use faulty equipment. Lives should not be put at risk, just because the current situation is so high-pressured.
As well as reviewing paperwork relating to former engineering inspections of plant and equipment, employers should encourage experienced operatives to feed back any concerns about equipment they are using. If there is any doubt about a piece of equipment’s safety, it should be decommissioned until it can be inspected.
A high priority should also be given to the training of new employees – or agency workers – who have been recruited to help get supplies on the road. Employers should not assume that an individual is trained to operate machinery or even know rules relating to working safely. Checks on qualifications are also required, to ensure an employee should, according to their experience, be able to safely drive or operate machinery after induction training.
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