Engineering Inspection FAQs


What is a competent person?

Competency requirements are defined in HSE regulations and associated guidance. These cover areas such as training, operation of machinery and daily inspection of working parts. In terms of thorough examinations of machinery and plant to find defects likely to cause damage, the competent person is generally defined as:

A person who has the appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge and actual experience of the plant he is examining to enable him to detect defects or weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the plant.

In some regulations the academic qualifications of a competent person are clearly defined. In other regulations it is stressed that the competent person must be sufficiently independent and impartial to allow objective decisions to be made.

This definition of competency for plant examinations has been tested following numerous court cases. It is not sufficient that you have used the item of plant for many years, or if you are the person who regularly maintains the machine. You must have the theoretical knowledge, as well and be sufficiently independent, so that no conflict of interest exists.

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What constitutes a serious defect?

For pressure equipment, the term ‘serious defect’ is used to describe a defect found at the time of examination that presents an ‘imminent danger’ to persons working in the vicinity.

For lifting equipment the term ‘serious defect’ involves ‘an existing or imminent risk of serious personal injury’ to persons using the machine or working in the close vicinity.

The competent person who undertakes the thorough examination and identifies such defects will report them as requiring attention either immediately, or within a specified time period. When the regulations require it, he will forward a copy of his examination report to the relevant enforcing authority - the Health and Safety Executive or local authority.

Examples of serious or safety related defects include:

  • Defective safety components such as safety valves or overspeed governors
  • Worn or wasted structural components such as forks, chassis or pressure envelopes
  • Damaged lifting ropes or chains
  • Incorrect or bridged fuses.

Other ‘defects’ may also be identified during an examination, which are not considered to present any danger to persons. These other defects and observations will normally receive attention at the next routine maintenance of the equipment.

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The engineer sent a copy of the serious defect report to HSE. Does he have to do this?

Yes. As the competent person he is duty bound under the relevant regulation to send a copy report to the enforcing authority within a specified time limit if, in his opinion, the defect is likely to cause imminent danger to the person using the machine or persons working in the vicinity.

However, this should never be a surprise to the customer as the engineer will always explain the defect, its seriousness in relation to the continued use of the plant, and he will leave a hand written note at the time of his visit detailing the problem(s). When the HSE call on the customer it will reflect badly if they have taken no action to remedy the situation. If they have already repaired or have made arrangements to replace the defective item, this is often sufficient to satisfy the HSE inspector and no further action is normally taken.

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What is an EC Declaration of Conformity?

An EC Declaration of Conformity is issued with new products which legally need to comply with any relevant EC Product Directive before the product can be supplied in the UK or anywhere else in the European Community.

Fork lift trucks are manufactured in line with the Machinery Directive and air receivers must comply with the Pressure Equipment Directive. The Declaration of Conformity, along with CE marking, is confirmation that the product meets the essential requirements for safety.

The Declaration lasts for the lifespan of the machine unless major alterations are made. It must be passed to any new owner when the item is sold. For lifting equipment the declaration allows new plant a short period of exemption for thorough examination. This is normally 12 months providing safety does not depend upon installation conditions.

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I have a brand new item of plant. Does this require an inspection prior to being put into service?

If it is pressure plant, for example an air receiver or steam boiler, the answer is yes. If it is lifting plant and safety does not depend upon installation conditions - when the declaration of conformity initial period has expired - an inspection is normally required 12 months after being purchased.

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Can thorough examinations be carried out by the maintenance company?

Yes. However, plant owners must ensure that the competent person who undertakes a thorough examination has appropriate practical and theoretical knowledge.

He must also have experience of the equipment to be thoroughly examined in order to detect defects and weaknesses and to assess their importance in relation to the safety and continued use of the equipment. It is essential that the competent person is sufficiently independent and impartial to allow objective decisions to be made. This does not mean that competent persons must be necessarily employed from an external company. If employers and others within their own organisations have the necessary competence they can use it.

However, they must ensure that their examiners have genuine authority and independence to ensure that examinations are properly carried out and that the necessary recommendations arising from them are made without fear or favour.

It is generally accepted that enforcing authorities and inspection bodies accredited to BS EN45004, are independent and impartial.

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I want to place more than just the items available online. What do I need to do in order to get a full quotation?

You can contact a member of our new business team on 0845 712 5842 or email

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I am a journalist and I would like to speak to somebody regarding RSA Engineering Inspection and Consultancy, is there somebody who can help me?

Please contact, who will be happy to help.

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A common ‘serious’ defect on lift trucks is wear in excess of 10% at the fork heels. Why does the engineer have to report this defect and what can be done to rectify worn fork heels?

The engineer is bound by the guidance issued by the HSE and information within BS ISO 5057. Guidance is provided on inspection of fork arms, surface cracks, straightness of blade, fork angle, difference in height of fork tip and of set of fork arms etc. BS ISO 5057 rejects fork arms that are worn at the heel more than 10% of the original thickness of the metal.

We recommend repairs are only carried out by the fork arm manufacturer. If welding is carried out, the welding method will need to include welding preparation, pre-heating, stress relieving and re-heat treatment within the manufacturer’s specification.

Use of mild steel materials and ordinary jobbing welding methods are likely to result in an unsatisfactory and unsafe repair. Most manufacturers do not even recommend welding at the heels of the forks to replace metal removed by wear as this only replaces the thickness and not the strength. Welding may in fact do further harm by mismatching of metals, localised heating and lack of heat treatment.

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How often is a ‘thorough examination’ required on lifting plant?

Under LOLER a ‘thorough examination’ is typically required every 12 months. Lifting attachments, accessories and machines for lifting persons need examination every six months.

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Can I lift a person on my lift truck?

The only acceptable use of a lift truck lifting persons in exceptional circumstances is using a specifically designed and tested carrier or working platform. Purpose built units are normally available from the manufacturer of the truck.
A more appropriate method of working at heights should be employed such as permanent/temporary scaffold or a mobile elevating work platform.

A person should not be lifted on the forks, pallet or bucket on the front of a lift truck under any circumstances. The recognised minimum examination frequency of a lift truck used to lift a person is six months.

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The ‘thorough examination’ highlighted a serious defect which has now been repaired. Does the item need to be examined again?

The competent person who undertakes the thorough examination states in his report that, ‘subject to any remedial action to defects noted, which are or could become a danger to persons, the equipment is safe to operate’.Therefore when repaired, the equipment may be re-introduced back into service. However, the plant owner must ensure that the serious defect is repaired in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and by persons competent to undertake such work.

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Do all air receivers need to be inspected? What is the calculation for deciding when an air receiver needs to comply with statutory regulations?

Within the PSSR the question is asked: is the pressure x volume of the pressure vessel greater than 250 bar litres?

If YES - then a written scheme and inspection certificate will need to be issued to comply with the legislation. This calculation takes the pressure rated in bars and this is multiplied by the capacity of the tank in litres. This is commonly found on a plate on the receiver.

e.g. MWP 11 bar 50 litres capacity

In this example, the MWP (maximum working pressure) is 11 bar multiplied by the 50 litre capacity, which gives a rating of 550 bar litres. 1 bar is equivalent to approximately 15 psi. As a general rule, air receivers with a diameter in excess of 12 inches operating at 150 psi will need to comply with the legislation.

The other components of the air compressor set (i.e. compressor and motor) do not need a statutory inspection. If an air compressor has no receiver it does not need an inspection.

Hydrovane manufacture compressors have no receivers and are consequently exempt from the legislation.

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What is the difference between an air receiver and an air compressor? Do they both need an inspection?

An air compressor has three component parts:

  • Driving motor
  • Compressor - which compresses the air
  • Air receiver - a pressure vessel, which stores the compressed air.

The air receiver is the only part of the air compressor unit that needs a ‘statutory’ examination. The air compressor and driving motor do not need an inspection - but should be regularly serviced and maintained by the user.

Some air compressors only have two components - a driving motor and an air compressor. The delivery of compressed air is immediate and the need to store air in a pressure vessel is not required. Because these compressors do not have an air receiver they do not need examination.

The term ‘compressor’ is also used for refrigeration compressors on fridges, cold stores, freezers and air conditioning systems.

Refrigeration compressors only require examination under regulations where the driving motor exceeds 25kW. The majority of commercial cold stores operate using motors well below this limit.

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How often do air receivers need to be examined?

An examination usually takes place once every 12 months. However the type and frequency of examination are defined by the written scheme. For the majority of air receivers the first examination is a full, internal thorough inspection. The next inspection, 12 months later, is a working external examination and the following year it requires another thorough examination. This means there is a thorough examination every two years.

With the agreement of the customer, the written scheme can be amended so that both the thorough and external examination are completed at the same time and therefore only one examination takes place - every two years.

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The thorough examination highlighted a serious defect which has now been repaired, does the item need to be examined again?

The item should be examined during the repair and a final examination carried out on completion of the repair.

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What responsibilities do businesses have for electrical systems?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, contain a comprehensive list of legal requirements designed to prevent the
risk of death or personal injury from the use of electricity in all places of work, regardless of size or number of employees.
The regulations require ‘all systems to be maintained so as to prevent danger’. Furthermore, HSE Guidance states ‘regular inspection and testing is an essential part of any maintenance programme.’

The main purpose of the examination service offered by RSA is to identify serious defects likely to create an imminent risk of injury to any person. The extent of our examination covers the accessible parts of the low voltage distribution system including power and mains lighting installations.

Our service does not normally include the fixed electrical plant or portable appliances, but we can quote for these separately. The examination frequency is dependent on the type of business and the risks presented, but is typically once every three or five years. Some trades may require annual examination, for example, places of entertainment, petrol stations and nursing homes.

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Does LEV equipment need an examination?

LEV plant is found in a range of trades from small garages and paint shops to major woodworking and metalworking industries. The equipment is designed to remove the harmful vapour, dust or fumes from the work area identified after a COSHH assessment. The COSHH regulations require that LEV plant is examined by a competent person, this examination should be completed at intervals dependant on the trade / business and the application of the equipment. For example, metal / shot blasting requires an examination every month but non-ferrous metal working equipment requires an examination every six months.

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What is the ‘Intended Operating Performance?’

The intended operating performance is usually set at the time of the initial appraisal.

The initial appraisal serves two major functions. Firstly, to show that the plant works and meets its specified performance to control exposure. Secondly, to determine the operating parameters or ‘intended operating performance’ that will provide satisfactory levels of control. The initial appraisal will form part of the assessment of health risks to comply with Regulation 6 of COSHH.

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Do power presses and press brakes need an examination? What are my responsibilities as a user?

These machines are used to work metal in a variety of industries from small metal fabrication companies to major car and engine manufacturers. Their capacity can range from small ‘bench’ type presses at half a ton to presses which impart 12,000 tons of pressure.

They are mechanically driven and in the case of a power press, operate using a clutch and flywheel. A power press clutch is a device designed to impart the movement of the flywheel to any tool when required.

An important aspect of power presses and press brakes is the guarding employed to protect the user. The type of guards can vary from fixed, to movable, to electronic or photo-electric devices and the type of guard determines how often presses are examined.

Regulation 32 of PUWER requires power presses and press brakes to be examined by a competent person and this examination should be completed at intervals dependent on the type of guards fitted to the press. As a general rule the frequency is every 12 months for presses with fixed guards, and at six monthly intervals for all others.

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Do I have to dismantle the clutch on my power press for every examination?

No. The competent person will require you to dismantle parts of the press but the frequency for this work is dependent upon many factors including the press duty, the operating environment and the general condition of the press. The engineer will not be able to complete the thorough examination until the work has been done.

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Do I have to inspect the press myself?

Yes. You must designate an ‘appointed person’ to inspect and test the guards and safety devices on each press every day that they are in use (within the first four hours of each working period) and after setting, resetting or adjustment of the tools. The appointed person must be adequately trained and competent to do the work on each type of press.

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How does PUWER 98 affect my business?

The Use of Work Equipment Directive (UWED) was implemented in the UK in 1992 by the introduction of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER). This directive has been amended and the Amending Use of Work
Equipment Directive (AUWED) has been implemented in the UK by two sets of regulations, namely PUWER 98 and LOLER.

PUWER 98 revokes and replaces PUWER and applies to the provision and use of all work equipment including mobile and lifting equipment. PUWER 98 also revokes and replaces legislation relating to Power Presses and Woodworking Equipment. LOLER applies over and above the general requirements of PUWER 98 to those specific activities, which involve lifting equipment and operations.

Approved codes of practice and guidance notes are now available for both regulations. They are both very detailed documents and are available from HMSO Bookshops or from the HSE website. PUWER 98 applies to employers, the self-employed and people who have control of work equipment. PUWER 98 should be considered alongside other health and safety legislation, in particular the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the general requirements of other regulations to undertake risk assessments and put corrective measures in place.

The term ‘inspection’ is used within PUWER 98 and should not be confused with the examination undertaken by an independent competent person like an RSA engineer. ‘Inspection’ within PUWER 98 for work equipment builds upon the current but often informal practice of regular in-house inspection of work equipment. ‘Inspection’ does not normally include checks covered by maintenance activity. The purpose of an inspection is to identify whether the equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration, for example wear and tear, can be detected and remedied before an unacceptable risk occurs.

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