Last reviewed 28 August 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently reminded employers of their duties to thoroughly examine and test equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The health and safety watchdog has acknowledged that during the Covid-19 outbreak, dutyholders may find it difficult to carry out their legal duty to do thorough examinations and testing of equipment.

Several health and safety regulations require examination and testing, including:

  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998

  • Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000

  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment 1998 (including power presses)

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (for local exhaust ventilation)

  • Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

The HSE has noted it may be difficult to complete thorough examination and testing on time during the outbreak, for example because of:

  • a backlog of thorough examination and testing inspections not done during lockdown

  • lack of staff and contractor availability to prepare complex pressure systems for examination

  • refusal of engineers to enter dutyholder premises to carry out thorough examination and testing, because they think working arrangements may not be safe.

However, equipment failure because of deterioration can create dangerous situations, physical harm and business disruption and so, the HSE says, it is important that plant and machinery continues to be properly maintained and inspected.

The HSE has said it expects dutyholders to make reasonable efforts to arrange thorough examination and testing within legal time limits.

The watchdog added it will adopt “a pragmatic and proportionate approach” towards enforcement action if the outbreak means dutyholders cannot arrange examination and testing, as long as they make sure equipment is still safe to use.

The HSE has published advice on the practical steps that can be taken to comply with the requirements.