OPTIMAL OPERATION Lifting machines must be performance-tested to operate safely
The new amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) passed earlier this year require all lifting machines to be performance-tested at intervals not exceeding 12 months to ensure that unsafe lifting machines are not used, says lifting equipment specialist quality and safety service provider Phakamisa Safety Consultants CEO Piet Otto.
“The danger is that a machine can be load-tested today and damaged tomorrow, rendering it unsafe. Further, a machine is safe only after inspection and the load test only implies that the machine can lift its rated working load limit, plus an additional test load, which is normally 10% extra or more, depending on the type of machine being tested, says Otto.
In the case of chain blocks and lever hoists in use, a minimum test load of 25% and a maximum test load of 50% must be applied in accordance with SANS 500, he adds.
Otto, who is also a council member of lifting equipment association the Lifting Equipment Engineering Association of South Africa, tells Engineering News that South Africa is well regulated in terms of lifting equipment safety in the workplace, but that implementing and understanding the OHSA and the Mine Health and Safety Act regulations, remain a challenge.
“Because definitions and wording are often unclear, various auditors, as well as the Department of Labour and the Department of Mineral Resources inspectors, have different points of view when making findings based on their respective interpretation. This also applies to safety and engineering staff who compile operating procedures or codes of practice,” he explains.
Further, South Africa has a shortage of properly qualified and experienced riggers, with their responsibilities also not clearly stated. “The user has a responsibility to ensure that all persons operating lifting machines and lifting tackle are properly trained and certified, as all lifting equipment is safety critical,” he says.
Otto notes that larger companies are nor- mally well organised in terms of safe lifting practices and procedures, but smaller contractors, mainly in construction and mining, “take chances and do the minimum to ensure that safety becomes a state of mind in daily lifting operations”.
Phakamisa Safety Consultants conducts lifting equipment audits, with full reports on findings and recommendations on how to rectify incorrect practices and procedures in the workplace to ensure that companies remain legally compliant.
The company also compiles customised codes of practice, or written standard operating procedures. It also updates existing written safety procedures.
Further, Phakamisa trains lifting tackle and hoist inspectors, as well as lifting machinery inspectors and safety personnel. It also provides comprehensive inspection and stores legally compliant control registers, as well as sling and inspection wall charts.