5 reasons why you need engineering inspections

  • Organisations may be unaware of their duty to periodically inspect their equipment, leaving them vulnerable to regulatory action or even criminal prosecution if something goes wrong
  • Beyond legal compliance, engineering inspection contracts can also generate a host of wider business benefits
  • We look at five key reasons why you can benefit from engineering inspections

Although health and safety laws contain a number of provisions relating to inspections of work equipment, many organisations may be unaware of the extent of their responsibilities, or may only choose to inspect items specifically referenced in legislation.

Engineering inspection contracts not only help to ensure legal compliance, but can also add great value to an organisation’s operations.

1. Complying with the law

A number of health and safety laws exist to ensure equipment will not harm workers or the public. Collectively, this complex body of law covers all types of working equipment – be it an electrical socket, air-conditioning system or passenger lift. Organisations of all sizes will be affected in some way and many will need an engineering inspection contract.

Failure to comply with these laws can attract large fines, and in the most serious cases of negligence can lead to imprisonment. Organisations need to be aware of their duties regarding inspections, and ensure they have taken appropriate action.

“Establishing inspection requirements can be difficult,” says John McMullen, Chief Engineer at Zurich. “But, unfortunately, ignorance is no excuse under the law.”

2. Avoiding costly Fees for Intervention (FFI)

Since 2012, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been able to charge Fees for Intervention (FFI). These fees are charged against any time spent or actions taken by the HSE, from the moment it identifies a material breach in health and safety legislation, to the conclusion of any investigation and/or enforcement action. With the HSE charging £124 per hour, these fees can soon add up.

Health and safety law requires organisations to have reasonably practicable inspection and maintenance regimes. Without evidence of such a regime, the HSE could identify a material breach and begin charging FFI.

“One thing the HSE is targeting at the moment is local exhaust ventilation (LEV), which includes anything that removes dust, fumes, vapours, etc,” says John.

Organisations need to think about:

  1. What they do that involves hazardous substances?
  2. How can these cause harm?
  3. How can these risks be reduced?

Air conditioning is also something that many people overlook. Infrequent inspections can in extreme cases lead to serious corrosion and a potential explosion, and depending on the size of the pressure unit, the Pressure Systems Safety Regulation (PSSR) may stipulate how regularly inspections need to be conducted.

Evidence of compliance with health and safety law is very important to avoid interventions from the regulator. An engineering inspection contract helps demonstrate compliance, independence and impartiality as well as providing an opportunity to identify defects early, before they cause damage or harm.

3. Defending a claim/prosecution

Even with the most rigorous inspection and maintenance regimes, accidents can happen. Should someone be injured or lose their life, this may result in a personal injury claim and/or criminal prosecution against the organisation and its senior leadership team personally.

The Corporate Manslaughter law has also gathered momentum since it came into force in 2008. With the Crown Prosecution Service bringing new cases to trial each year, it is more important than ever that organisations ensure their health and safety risks are properly managed.

“When assessing questions of liability, the courts will look at the law and assess whether the applicable duties were met,” says John. “Having the equipment in question documented as inspected regularly by a competent person or organisation, such as Zurich, can greatly increase your chances of defending a claim and/or criminal prosecution.”

4. Avoiding equipment downtime

An engineering inspection contract is not just about legal compliance; it can also add huge value to an organisation’s operations.

When equipment unexpectedly fails, an organisation can be faced with a period of downtime while it is repaired or replaced. This can eat into profit margins through lost production, repair/replacement costs and hire charges.

Regular inspections can identify potential issues before they lead to equipment breakdown/malfunction, giving organisations the opportunity to conduct planned maintenance at a time that suits them.

“If you work on a breakdown approach, then you could be out of action until the equipment is repaired,” explains John.

“However, if you adopt a planned maintenance approach, with regular inspections at the core, then you are in control of the equipment’s downtime, and can minimise any lost production capacity and avoid unexpected costs.”

5. Improving efficiency, longevity and environmental impact

Identifying potential defects early can help machinery to run more efficiently, last longer and use less energy.

“Environmental impact is a key measure for organisations nowadays,” says John. “More and more people ask us how they can reduce theirs. Regularly inspected, well-managed equipment can certainly help towards achieving that goal.”