New lifting regulations for European Union countries are now in force, stating minimum standards for employee safety protection.

EU member states had until 5 December 1998 to implement revisions to the Use of Work Equipment Directive into their domestic law. Most requirements are basic common sense and in many countries were already covered by domestic legislation.

Any employee working anywhere in Europe can now be confident that his/her safety is offered a certain degree of protection by law. What the directive does not do, though, is harmonise procedures for lifting contractors. Contractors crossing national boundaries will still have different domestic regulations to which they must conform, as directive sets out only minimum requirements, which several states have gone beyond in certain areas.

Among the stipulations of the new regulations are: • reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that lifting equipment is fit for purpose, and sufficiently strong and stable; • risk assessments must be carried out; • lifts must be properly planned by a competent person, be appropriately supervised and be carried out in a safe manner; • safe working load of machinery must be clearly marked.