Will Inspectors Feast on a Plant-based Defect Diet This Winter?

During the pandemic, there was an easing of the usual arrangements and plant inspection regime that a manufacturing or engineering business must maintain.1

Now there are no excuses for not getting inspections and maintenance up to scratch. With a £43,000 fine recently handed out to an automotive firm and its landlord, for failure to rectify defects with a dangerous platform lift, it would be wise to act with immediate effect.2 

In 2019-2020, there were 7,075 health and safety notices handed out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and 325 convictions were achieved. 3 Not having guards or safety protection systems functioning and doing their job in mitigating risks is often part of this overall picture, as is inadequate maintenance, servicing and repair. 

Given the constant risks, workers can face in manufacturing and engineering businesses, and the severe penalties that can result, including imprisonment, why do firms continue to use equipment that inspectors have already deemed to be unsafe or which they know is unsafe? 

Cost may be one reason, but the other is often one of business interruption. To be without a piece of plant for a period could disrupt production or workflow. For this reason, some firms, which have ultimately been heavily fined, have even physically removed the decommissioning tape applied by inspectors, to carry on using dangerous equipment. 

However, the malfunctioning plant can quickly break down and lead to business interruption, a loss of sales, and potential reputational damage, if you cannot deliver on contracts. To not act on defects, on the basis of business interruption concerns, can be counterproductive. 

Whilst machinery breakdown may be insured as a risk, knowingly operating a defective machine or item of the plant can invalidate any future claim for breakdown. There is nothing to be gained by continuing to operate the defective plant. 

The 2019 Allianz Engineering, Construction and Power revealed that 16% of inspected escalators and moving walkways had a potentially life-threatening defect.4 Following the pandemic and the temporary relaxation of engineering inspections, the plant must be professionally checked over, to eradicate such risks. 

Any company operating plant and machinery has a legal and moral duty to keep it in suitable condition for its ongoing use. Engineering inspections are specifically designed to identify faults and defects before they present an unacceptable risk. 

They also assist by helping to pinpoint what could be the anticipated end-of-life date for a piece of plant, and help businesses to budget for plant repurchase and investment. 

If you have any form of equipment subject to statutory inspection, and such inspection has not occurred during the pandemic or since, it is time to put that right. In addition, test equipment thoroughly, speak to employees and pick up on any concerns, correct malfunctions and repair safety systems which have failed well before an inspector calls and identifies dangerous or life-threatening plant and machinery. 

For help in working through these risks, arranging engineering inspections and organising your insurance, please get in contact.

1 https://www.hse-network.com/hse-suspends-routine-inspections-amid-coronavirus-fears/  

2 https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/news/article/941/landlord_and_tyre_company_fined_43k_for_dangerous_platform_lift  

3 https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforcement.html  

4 https://www.allianz.co.uk/news-and-insight/insight-and-expertise/why-business-should-prioritise-engineering-inspection-and-maintenance.html