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Warehouses and food distribution centres, across the UK

Warehouse Compliance Paramount as Engineering Inspectors Are Deemed ‘Key Workers’

May 2020

Warehouses and food distribution centres, across the UK, are still trying to get goods and food into the hands of UK citizens forced to stay at home, and medical supplies into the NHS hospitals and care homes needing crucial items such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Some workers are now working overtime to try to help ease the burden on consumers.  Major supermarket chains are trying to recruit not just more in-store staff but also logistics operatives and delivery drivers, such is the demand to get items on to shelves and into delivery vehicles.

Thus far, during the coronavirus epidemic, some rules and regulations relating to mandatory requirements, such as VAT payments and company accounts submissions, have been loosened[1].  The same is true with regard to insolvency and unlawful trading when in financial difficulties.  However, there has been no official change to the legal requirement to keep workers safe and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said it is not currently issuing exemptions or relaxing regulation of equipment due for engineering inspection.[2]

Whilst health and safety compliance requirements such as engineering inspections may be hard to arrange at present, such is the necessity for Allianz to carry out such inspections that they have been deemed ‘essential’, with them classifying engineering surveyors as ‘key workers’.  Inspections of critical facilities – including those of health and food-related premises – are being prioritised, however.[3]

Much of the equipment required in warehouses and logistics depots is governed by health and safety laws 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.

Equipment that should be inspected every 12 months includes telescopic handlers, manual pallet trucks and forklift trucks.  Passenger lifts should also be inspected every six months.[4]

Even if a physical inspection cannot quickly be arranged at the present time, employers operating equipment of this type should do all they can to ensure it is safe to operate.  The coronavirus lockdown is also no excuse not to put right any defects shown on past inspections.  Allowing any member of staff, temporary or permanent, employed or contracted in, to use faulty equipment could lead to something as serious as a corporate manslaughter charge, should something go wrong.  Being under pressure to get goods out is unlikely to prove a justifiable excuse for putting lives at risk.

Employers should check back on paperwork relating to former engineering inspections of plant and equipment but also listen to any feedback from experienced operatives. They are the ones most likely to note any problems with equipment which they regularly use. 

It is the employer’s responsibility to train staff (including agency staff) in the safe operation of equipment and processes on their premises.  Assumptions should not be made about a new recruit or agency worker’s ability to operate machinery or work safely and it is important practice to check that qualifications to drive or operate machines have actually been earned. 

If you need help in getting to grips with these requirements, please talk to one of our experts, who you can source by using our ‘Find a Local Broker’ Tool.  They should be able to offer the guidance you seek, at this difficult time.