Tim Watson explains the benefits of working together to produce best practice for lifting.

Guidance for the planning of lifting operations and the safe use of lifting equipment is essential if these activities are to be carried out safely and efficiently. In the past however, the lifting industry has tended to have adopted a "silo" mentality in which different sectors and trade associations have concentrated on their own areas of activity, producing standards and guidance which are sector-specific.

The effect of this has been for guidance for carrying out lifting operations in different sectors to be slightly different, depending on the sector, which can lead to confusion and argument. In addition, historically, much guidance has been written by safety authorities, for example, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK. With changing priorities, however, most recent guidance has been produced by trade associations working with HSE.

In the UK a recent trend in the lifting field, led by the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), is to produce guidance on a pan-industry basis by partnering with the HSE and other organisations. These include the Safety Assessment Federation (SAFED), the United Kingdom Construction Group (UKCG), Construction Skills, the National Construction College and the Association of Lorry Loader Importers and Manufacturers (ALLMI).

The outcome is best practice guidance on subjects that include maintenance, inspection and thorough examination of tower cranes, safe use of top slew tower cranes and the safe use of lorry loaders. The process has been for the CPA to take the lead in initiating each project and provide the secretariat for drafting and organisation of working group meetings. An initial meeting is held with all the stakeholders, at which the aim and scope of the project is agreed, together with membership of a working group to carry out the actual drafting of the guidance document.

The secretariat then produces an initial draft for discussion at the first working group meeting. A number of subsequent working group meetings are held, at which the draft is discussed and reviewed, with amendments being incorporated by the secretariat into a revised draft between meetings. Once the working group are happy with the draft, it is then circulated widely, both inside and outside the stakeholder organisations, for a period of generally three months.

At the end of the consultation period all comments are reviewed by the working group and a final draft produced. This final draft is then circulated for approval for publication to all the participating organisations and to the HSE for approval to badge the document with its logo. One of the stipulations for HSE badging is that the guidance document must be free of charge to anyone who wishes to use it.

CPA policy for years has been the provision of free guidance and, consequently, all the jointly produced guidance is freely available as downloadable pdf files. This has the benefit of easy access to the guidance and enables the documents to be updated easily. Historically, lots of guidance material has gone out of date due to an understandable reluctance to reprint paper copies and scrap large numbers of the out of date documents. Providing guidance without charge encourages users of lifting equipment to read and keep their own copy of the most up to date guidance on lifting, thereby contributing to better practice and increased safety.

In conclusion, this process has been a very positive experience for all the parties involved, not just in producing consensus guidance but also in strengthening ties between organisations and promoting understanding each other's issues and points of view.

All guidance documents can be downloaded from http://www.cpa.uk.net

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