Plant and equipment used at work falls into several legislations but the one we’re talking about today is Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
PUWER generally covers any equipment which is used by an employee at work, for example hammers, knives, ladders, drilling machines, power presses, circular saws, photocopiers, lifting equipment (including lifts), dumper trucks and motor vehicles. Similarly, if you allow employees to provide their own equipment then it will also be covered by PUWER and you will need to make sure it complies. Examples of uses of equipment which are covered by the Regulations include starting or stopping the equipment, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing, cleaning and transporting.
What do the Regulations require me to do?
You must ensure that the work equipment you provide meets the requirements of PUWER.
You should ensure that it is:
- suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is to be used;
- maintained in a safe condition for use so that people’s health and safety is not at risk; and
- inspected, in certain circumstances, to ensure that it is and continues to be safe for use. Any inspection should be carried out by a competent person (this could be an employee if they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task) and a record kept until the next inspection.
You should also ensure that risks created by using the equipment are eliminated where possible or controlled as far as reasonably practicable by:
- taking appropriate ‘hardware’ measures, eg providing suitable guards, protection devices, markings and warning devices, system control devices (such as emergency stop buttons) and personal protective equipment; and
- taking appropriate ‘software’ measures such as following safe systems of work (eg ensuring maintenance is only performed when equipment is shut down etc), and providing adequate information, instruction and training about the specific equipment.
A combination of these measures may be necessary depending on the requirements of the work, your assessment of the risks involved, and the practicability of such measures.
What do I have to do?
If you are an employer and you provide equipment for use (such as hammers, knives and ladders or electrical power tools and larger plant), you need to demonstrate that you have arrangements in place to make sure it is maintained in a safe condition.
Think about what hazards can occur:
- if tools break during use;
- if machinery starts up unexpectedly;
- if there is contact with materials that are normally enclosed within the machine, ie caused by leaks/breakage/ejection etc.
Failing to correctly plan and communicate clear instructions and information before starting maintenance can lead to confusion and can cause accidents. This can be a particular problem if maintenance is carried out during normal production work or where there are contractors who are unfamiliar with the site.