The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced a range of challenges for businesses with many restrictions on normal operations. This may include difficulty in getting support from contractors on carrying out statutory inspections, examinations and test of plant and equipment or the need to close premises.
Failure to carry out a statutory inspection, examination and test would be a breach of legislation which could lead to a range of potential enforcement actions including prosecution, although some requirements will not apply when premises are not in use.
However, failure to maintain some systems, particularly fire sprinkler systems and detection systems may invalidate the insurance for the premises even if the premises are not in use.
There is currently no legal extension period granted against statutory requirements for thorough examination and inspection or testing for plant such as lifts, lifting equipment, pressure systems and local exhaust ventilation, which include a set time frame e.g. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR) and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH), with the exception of a 6 month extension for most vehicles’ MOTs during the 1st national lockdown.
So what does this mean? Business owners, Directors and or Managers could find themselves prosecuted as an individual under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 if there is a breach of legislation which occurred with their consent, connivance or neglect. Consent and connivance both imply knowledge and that a decision was made with such knowledge. In this case this could include knowingly using plant or equipment that is outside of maintenance.
What should you do?
- Assess which plant and equipment require statutory inspections and examinations and when these are due.
- Make an assessment to determine if any plant or equipment is essential for safety or operation of the premises – if plant or equipment is not required, it could be taken out of use.
- Liaise with the relevant contractors who carry out statutory inspections and examinations to determine what level of service they can provide (for hospitals, care homes or infrastructure essential to the running of the country, it would be prudent to draw your contractors attention to this).
- If a decision is made to continue to use plant or equipment despite it not having had the relevant statutory examination and inspection in order to safeguard life, it is essential that this reasoning is recorded.
- Inform your insurance company if any planned inspection and testing is not being completed or if premises or part of the premises are closed.
- If closing premises for a period of time, and where it is decided to shut off the power to services such as electrical, gas, water and ventilation systems, plant shutdowns should be undertaken in accordance with manufacturer instructions to ensure that it is done safely. On subsequent restart, manufacturer guidance should be followed to ensure that the plant is re-energised safely and to avoid potential damage.