The origins of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) can be traced back to wartime Britain in 1943; a small group of competing companies came together to address what they perceived as a serious threat to their livelihoods. On 3rd June, nine people representing eight chain testing houses met at the Great Eastern Hotel, near Liverpool Street Station, and the idea to form an association to take on the might of government was conceived.
Several weeks later, a draft set of rules and regulations was drawn up. During that process, a decision was made that, regardless of size, all members should be considered equal, both in terms of influence and financial contribution and the annual subscription was set at £4 and 4 shillings (£4.20).
The London Chain Testers Association was the name chosen by the founding members and it was a clear reflection of the nature and location of the businesses involved. However, evidence shows that as this small group quickly made headway in negotiations with the government, attention turned to other areas where it was felt that co-operative action could be of mutual benefit. These included exploring the potential for pricing agreements, block insurance, the use of collective purchasing to secure more favourable deals from manufacturers, and adherence to British Standards to improve quality and consistency within the industry.
By 1946, the association’s geographical boundaries were expanding. Members were now being actively sought from across the country, a move highlighted by a change of name to The Chain Testers Association of Great Britain. Furthermore, with the immediate concerns of a wartime economy behind them, the following decades of the 20th century can be seen as a series of landmarks that would ultimately establish the association as an authority on safe lifting and the industry’s foremost provider of training and qualifications for the test, examination and maintenance of overhead lifting equipment. Milestones in this period included:
In the closing decades of the 20th century, important developments were also taking place to the association’s infrastructure, and the nature of member companies was changing to include a far wider range of activities. Notable events include the setting up of the organisation’s first independent office in 1977, and a third name change to the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association in 1988.
With the introduction of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) in 1998, LEEA’s training, qualifications and publications had to be fundamentally reworked to reflect this new legislation, and the association’s support and guidance became even more important to members obliged to comply with the requirements of the new legislation.
This legislative upheaval coincided with the all-pervasive impact of globalisation. In the absence of sector-specific health and safety legislation, many companies operating in these parts of the world began to adopt LOLER as best practice, further enhancing the appeal of LEEA membership.
Since the turn of the century, LEEA’s development has reflected these trends and milestones have included:
Perhaps the most striking is LEEA’s transformation into a truly international body. Regardless of where they are based, there is now no distinction between members – all are subject to the same technical audits prior to being granted full membership, with regular follow-up visits as long as they wish to remain part of the association. Dedicated local groups are now operating in the Middle East and Australia, and LEEA staff have become globetrotters, regularly meeting existing and potential members, as well as a host of other stakeholders, right across the world.