PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (1999 in Northern Ireland).
Who needs to know about PUWER?
- Self-employed people and the equipment they control or use.
- Those who are employed to supervise or manage the use of equipment operated by others.
It’s not just large organisations that are subject to the Regulations – if you use or control work equipment or if you’re self-employed operating for profit or not, then you have a legal obligation to follow them.
When does PUWER apply?
Generally, it applies to any work equipment and machinery used every day in the workplace, which is used by an employee at work. This includes things such as toolbox tools, single machines, power presses, lab apparatus, ladders etc.
If you allow employees to provide their own equipment, then this too is covered by the Regulations.
They cover all work activities throughout the whole of Great Britain and also to offshore installations such as oil rigs and gas supply platforms. You must ensure that the work equipment you provide meets the requirements of PUWER.
So what does PUWER require?
It sets out regulations to make working with or coming into contact with machinery or equipment safer for everyone in the work place, with an aim to ensure equipment is:
- 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.
Working with PUWER
We are all aware of the need to undertake a Risk Assessment and the legal obligations to protect yourself, your workers and others who may be affected by your work activity. Following on from that if we know what can harm us then we can work out what action to take to eliminate and reduce that harm.
A good starting point, is by using the hierarchy of control.
Elimination – Remember that risk is a function of severity and probability. Since both severity and probability are affected by the existence of the hazard, eliminating the hazard reduces the risk from that hazard to zero.
Substitution – Undertaken by design requires the designer to substitute a less hazardous material or process for the original material or process.
Engineering controls – Engineering controls typically include various types of mechanical guard’s, barriers, safeguarding devices etc.
Administrative controls – Standard operating procedures for instance. For example, requiring workers who drive vehicles to do a walk-around inspection of the vehicle before use and logging of any problems found during the inspection is an example of an administrative control to reduce risk while driving.
Personal protective equipment – It should be a last resort; so ensure it is suitable for its purpose, environment and user.
So what happens if we choose to ignore PUWER, and what happens if I don’t comply?
Health and safety inspectors enforce the regulations, where there are serious risks, inspectors are prepared to take firm enforcement action which could lead to heavy fines or even imprisonment.
Ensue you to seek further advice and training prior to letting yourself or other employees ‘use’ work equipment, which should be:
- Suitable for its intended purpose.
- Regularly maintained to ensure safety.
- Only used by people who have received adequate training.
- Inspected by a competent worker.
We must stress this is basic guidelines to the PUWER, and are not a substitute for the true regulations’ requirements or approved code of practice. Contact your dedicated Health and Safety advice team who are always happy to help.