PUWER, or the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, is a set of regulations in the United Kingdom aimed at ensuring the safety of work equipment. Enacted in 1998, PUWER applies to all employers and self-employed individuals providing work equipment for use at work. The regulations mandate that work equipment is suitable for its intended purpose, maintained in a safe condition, and used by competent individuals. Employers must assess and manage risks associated with work equipment, provide adequate information and training, and implement measures for the protection of operators and others. PUWER plays a crucial role in promoting workplace safety and preventing accidents related to the use of equipment.
PUWER – Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations
PUWER replaces the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 and carries forward these existing requirements with a few changes and additions, for example the inspection of work equipment and specific new requirements for mobile work equipment. The PUWER Regulations require risks to people’s health and safety, from equipment that they use at work, to be prevented or controlled.
These Regulations place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment. It also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.
Before we continue, lets us understand what work equipment is.
What is work equipment?
Work equipment is any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not). This includes equipment which employees provide for their own use at work. The scope of work equipment is therefore extremely wide. The use of work equipment is also very widely interpreted and means any activity involving work equipment and includes starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing and cleaning’.
Purpose of PUWER
The purpose of the PUWER regulations is to ensure that those using and working with equipment and machinery, such as employees, employers, contractors, traders and anybody who could possibly have access to equipment or machinery in a workplace, does so in a safe working environment.
The PUWER regulations are in place to make sure all equipment is regularly inspected by an experienced worker, as well as ensuring it is regularly maintained to ensure maximum safety at all times. Furthermore, PUWER aims to ensure that equipment and machinery is only used by those who have completed the necessary training, and that it is in a suitable condition for its intended purpose.
Some people believe that it is only big businesses and large organisations that the PUWER regulations apply to, but this is incorrect. Anyone who uses or controls work equipment, whether they are working for a huge well-known corporation or they are self-employed, has a legal responsibility the follow the regulations.
Like in the UK, the PUWER regulations apply to all UK work activities; this includes everything from construction sites, farms and factories, to offshore sites such as oil rigs. Those who the PUWER regulations specifically apply to include employers, people who are self-employed and those who are employed to manage the use of equipment being used by other people.
- Suitable for the intended use
- Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected to ensure it is correctly installed and does not subsequently deteriorate
- Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
- Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. These will normally include emergency stop devices, adequate means of isolation from sources of energy, clearly visible markings and warning devices
- Used in accordance with specific requirements, for mobile work equipment and power presses
Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to PUWER. For example, lifting equipment must also meet the requirements of LOLER, pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations and personal protective equipment must meet the PPE Regulations (PDF)- Portable Document Format.
PUWER Risk Assessments
Risk assessments are necessary due to the legal obligations of protecting yourself and your employees when using equipment and/or machinery. The risk assessments include:
- Recognising potential hazards and making a record of them
- Considering the possible harm caused by any outcomes of a risk assessment in order to identify the necessary actions to lessen or eradicate these risks
- Identifying an alternative way of doing things in order to reduce or eliminate risks
Arrangements that should be put in place to manage PUWER Inspections
1) PUWER 98 Register
PUWER 98 implies that a PUWER register is required, that identifies which assets require inspection and when. For anyone trying to achieve accreditation for ISO 18001 this is an absolute requirement. The PUWER 98 Inspection register and services related to creating and managing it are covered further under PUWER 98 Inspection Planning and Prioritisation (PIPP).
Competency for PUWER 98, Machine Risk Assessment and current best practice such as BS EN standards is essential. People with the right knowledge and experience in proportion to the risk and complexity of the task at hand, will provide the best results. You must be able to demonstrate their competency, whomever you are using to complete them.
3) Records of PUWER Inspection
You should have a record of some sort as evidence that inspections are completed. These records may include or link to supporting records such as a PUWER checklist but this is not a legal requirement.
It is recommended that at least the following information is included in the records of an inspection:
(a) Information on the type and model of equipment;
(b) Any identification mark or number that it has;
(c) Its normal location;
(d) The date that the inspection was carried out;
(e) Who carried out the inspection;
(f) Any faults; and/or
(g) Any action taken;
(h) To whom the faults have been reported;
(i) The date when repairs or other necessary actions were carried out.
Managing Work Equipment
If your business or organisation uses work equipment or is involved in providing work equipment for others to use (eg, for hire), you must manage the risks from that equipment. This means you must:
- Ensure the equipment is constructed or adapted to be suitable for the purpose it is used or provided for
- Take account of the working conditions and health and safety risks in the workplace when selecting work equipment
- Ensure work equipment is only used for suitable purposes
- Ensure work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair
- Where a machine has a maintenance log, keep this up to date
- Where the safety of work equipment depends on the manner of installation, it must be inspected after installation and before being put into use
- Where work equipment is exposed to deteriorating conditions liable to result in dangerous situations, it must be inspected to ensure faults are detected in good time so the risk to health and safety is managed
- Ensure that all people using, supervising or managing the use of work equipment are provided with adequate, clear health and safety information. This will include, where necessary, written instructions on its use and suitable equipment markings and warnings
- Ensure that all people who use, supervise or manage the use of work equipment have received adequate training, which should include the correct use of the equipment, the risks that may arise from its use and the precautions to take
- Where the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety (eg. woodworking machinery), ensure that the use of the equipment is restricted to those people trained and appointed to use it
- Take effective measures to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. This will normally be by fixed guarding but where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) may be needed to stop the movement of dangerous parts before a person can reach the danger zone. Where this is not possible – such as with the blade of a circular saw – it must be protected as far as possible and a safe system of work used. These protective measures should follow the hierarchy laid down in PUWER regulation 11(2) and the PUWER Approved Code of Practice and guidance or, for woodworking machinery, the Safe use of woodworking machinery: Approved Code of Practice and guidance
- Take measures to prevent or control the risks to people from parts and substances falling or being ejected from work equipment, or the rupture or disintegration of work equipment
- Ensure that the risks from very hot or cold temperatures from the work equipment or the material being processed or used are managed to prevent injury
- Ensure that work equipment is provided with appropriately identified controls for starting, stopping and controlling it, and that these control systems are safe
- Where appropriate, provide suitable means of isolating work equipment from all power sources (including electric, hydraulic, pneumatic and gravitational energy)
- Ensure work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise to avoid injury
- Take appropriate measures to ensure maintenance operations on work equipment can be carried out safely while the equipment is shut down, without exposing people undertaking maintenance operations to risks to their health and safety
When providing new work equipment for use at work, you must ensure it conforms with the essential requirements of European Community law (for new machinery this means the Machinery Directive). You must check it:
- Is CE marked
- Comes with a Declaration of Conformity
- Is provided with instructionsin English
- Is free from obvious defects – and that it remains so during its working life
When providing mobile work equipment, you must ensure that:
- Where employees are carried, the equipment is suitable for that purpose
- The risks from rolling over are minimised, and any person being carried is protected in the event of fall or rollover. This should include protection against crushing, through the provision of a suitable restraint and a rollover protection system
- Self-propelled equipment can be controlled safely with braking devices, adequate driver vision and, where necessary, lighting.
- Measures are taken to prevent any risks from drive shafts that power accessories attached to mobile work equipment, by using adequate guards.
When providing power presses for working on cold metal, you must thoroughly examine them and their safeguards before first putting them into use, and periodically afterwards. This means you must ensure that the inspection and testing of guards and protection devices is carried out by a competent person at frequent intervals, and that records of these examinations, inspections and tests are kept.