Navigating LOLER

October 13, 2022

The British Drilling Association (BDA), together with the Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) have examined the complex subject of LOLER, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. Specifically, the organisations have looked at its application to drilling machines with a view to issuing guidance.

The root of this examination is the fact that the relationship between LOLER and drilling machines is much contested, where the primary use of a drilling machine being to drill and not to lift, and therefore excluding drillings machine from the scope of LOLER. However, the issue arises with the various components forming, and added to the mechanism to create a borehole, are the same as those used by machines for lifting. Logic would suggest that the drilling industry implements robust examination and certification requirements to ensure the safe operation of the drilling machine.

Despite the ‘contest’ much of the drilling industry’s guidance mirrors elements of LOLER and are included in BDA guidance documents and the BDA Audit. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and subsequently underpinned by the release of L113 Safe use of lifting Equipment, (HSE 2014), the land drilling sector represented by the AGS and BDA have completely mirrored the requirements of LOLER, where it could be applied.

However, as the AGS points out “The mechanism for progressing a borehole is either, rotational, resonance or percussion, or a combination. It is reasonable to conclude that a drilling machine is not designed “for” lifting or lowering loads but for creating boreholes; confirming that a drilling machine cannot be tested against LOLER as it fails at the first hurdle.”

The reasons for its adoption are of course many and well documented, but primarily stem from the similarities of failure modes of both types of machinery and the many common components they use, such as steel wire ropes, sheaves, and winches.

Work undertaken by the AGS, and in discussion with the BDA, has allowed them to highlight the elements of LOLER 1998 that should be applied to drilling machines and the BDA urges its members, and the wider drilling community to follow them.

As both the AGS and the BDA point out, “Following good practice is not a legal requirement in itself, but should an organisation choose not to follow good practice, and something goes wrong, that organisation may well be found liable of a tort of negligence under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 and face a financial penalty and or a custodial sentence for its directors.”

More information about the relationship between LOLER and drilling machines can be found in an article published by the AGS and the BDA Safety Sub-Committee, on the AGS website here:

Author:  Paul McMann, Chair, British Drilling Association

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