Well appointed

25 April 2008

“Appointed person” is a term defined in ISO 12480-1 – Cranes Safe Use – General

“Appointed person” is a term defined in ISO 12480-1 – Cranes Safe Use – General

Everyone involved in lifting operations should be familiar with the concept and role of the “appointed person” (AP). An AP is often known as a crane or rigging supervisor in North America or competent person in Australia. Lately concern has been expressed in some quarters that a significant number of appointed persons are lacking experience, training or ability.

The role of AP was introduced, for example, in the UK in 1989 with the publication of the first part of BS 7121 – Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Cranes. This specified that every employer or organisation wishing to carry out a lifting operation should establish a safe system of work for that operation and, “To ensure the implementation of the safe system of work, one person should be appointed to have overall control of the lifting operation to act on behalf of the management of the organization requiring the load to be moved (the “Employing Organization”). The appointment of the person does not remove any legal responsibility from the management but enables them to use his expertise the better to fulfil their responsibilities. The person appointed may have other duties and need not be an employee of the Employing Organization. The appointed person should have adequate training and experience to enable these duties to be carried out competently.”

The Standard goes on to say that the appointed person's duties should include:

' planning the lifting operation

' ensuring that the equipment to be used has been maintained, inspected and thoroughly examined

' ensuring that defects and incidents are reported and corrected

' responsibility for the organisation and control of the lift.

It also says, “The appointed person should be given the necessary authority for the performance of all these duties”.

These requirements are mirrored in the UK Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) where Regulation 8 – Organisation of Lifting Operations requires “competent persons” to carry out the planning of a lifting operation and ascribes the same requirements and duties to them as BS 7121 does to the appointed person. In the guidance to LOLER, the planning principles contained in BS 7121 are also commended.

When a crane is hired in to carry out a lift, the person or organisation requiring the lift to be carried out has two choices. If they feel they have the personnel and resources to plan and supervise the lift, they may take responsibility for hiring the crane, with their own AP planning and supervising the lift, and the hired crane's operator working to the AP's direction.

If, on the other hand, they do not feel they have the necessary resources, the employing organisation can contract a crane hire company to carry out the lift. The crane hire company will then use its own AP and take responsibility for the lift, although the employing organisation will need to cooperate on such matters as ground conditions and exclusion zones.

Suitability assessment

It is clear that the AP has a pivotal role in the planning and execution of safe lifting operations and that the right combination of training, experience and ability is required for each lift. A set of simple lifts, where the load is in view of the crane operator at all times, such as lifting stillages of scaffold components on a green field site, will not need the skills and experience required for a complex lift such as the installation of a large fractionating column in a refinery. There is however, no simple answer to the question of suitability of APs. It is up to the employer to make an adequate assessment and appoint an appropriate AP for each lift.

Unfortunately this is often not sufficiently appreciated by employers. In the past the person appointed to plan and control lifting operations was not the most experienced or able person, just the one who was least useful elsewhere on site. The effect of this was that significant numbers of unsuitable and inexperienced people have been appointed. This has not been helped by AP training courses varying in quality from the excellent to the downright inadequate. The situation has been rectified, to an extent, by the recent introduction of a CPCS scheme category for APs and there is continuing debate on the scope and effectiveness of the training and assessment required to achieve certification in the category.

I believe the major problem lies in the lack of understanding of the AP's role by employers who do not appreciate the risks of a poorly planned lifting operation or the benefits of a well planned one. Unfortunately the AP's role is often considered as being just another necessary evil and that, providing the AP has the right “ticket”, everything will be alright. There are also significant differences in the backgrounds of the people appointed. Some major employer's APs are graduate engineers who should have little trouble in calculating the centre of gravity and mass of loads, carrying out risk assessments and writing lucid method statements, while perhaps lacking hands-on experience of carrying out lifting operations. The other approach is to use people with long experience of carrying out lifting operations such as crane operators and slinger/signallers. The problem here is lack of skills to carry out simple calculations, or the drafting skills for risk assessments and method statements. They may also feel a lack of “clout” when it comes to telling a project manager that an important lift cannot go ahead for various reasons.

Moving forward

Where do we go from here? It seems that there are two required courses of action. Firstly, a process of educating employers in the critical role performed by the AP and the importance of the right person for the specific lift. Secondly, setting a national standard for APs, such as an NVQ in the UK, to ensure that they have the appropriate mix of experience, ability and training. This would ensure that potential APs are assessed on both their practical and theoretical abilities, recognising the different levels of skill required for differing complexities of lift.

Some people may say that we do not need to change anything as lifts do not very often go wrong. My belief is that this is more by luck than good management and when lifts do go wrong it is often due to poor planning or supervision, resulting in death or serious injury. Surely it is worthwhile minimising the chances of this happening by having appointed persons who have the correct experience, ability and training to plan and supervise the lifts they are required to carry out?

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