Welcome to Safeti’s online guide on the PUWER requirements for workplaces.
This summary provides an outline of the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and describes what you, as an employer, may need to do to protect your employees in the workplace.
It will also be useful to employees and their representatives.
There may be particular requirements on the equipment you use at work; it’s important to also understand the industry and regulatory standards within the context that you are working.
This guide will give you a useful overview of the basic principles and legal requirements of the PUWER regulations that apply across the United Kingdom (UK).
Let’s get started with answering looking at what the PUWER regulations cover…
What do the PUWER Regulations cover?
Generally, any equipment which is used by an employee at work is covered by the PUWER regulations.
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.
Does PUWER apply to my business?
If you are an employer or self-employed person and you provide equipment for use at work, or if you have control of the use of equipment, then the Regulations will apply to you.
They do not apply to equipment used by the public, for example compressed-air equipment used in a garage forecourt.
However, such circumstances are covered by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act).
The Regulations cover workplaces where the HSW Act applies – this includes factories, offshore installations, offices, shops, hospitals, hotels, places of entertainment etc. PUWER also applies in common parts of shared buildings and temporary places of work such as construction sites.
While the Regulations cover equipment used by people working from home, they do not apply to domestic work in a private household.
Main Requirements of PUWER
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;
- 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.
Reducing the Risks
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, e.g. 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 (e.g. ensuring maintenance is only performed when equipment is shut down etc.), and providing adequate information, instruction and training about the specific equipment
PUWER 1998 | Machinery Safety
Working with machinery can be dangerous because moving machinery can cause injuries in many ways:
- People can be hit and injured by moving parts of machinery or ejected material.
- Parts of the body can also be drawn into or trapped between rollers, belts and pulley drives.
- Sharp edges can cause cuts and severing injuries, sharp-pointed parts can stab or puncture the skin, and rough surface parts can cause friction or abrasion.
- People can be crushed both between parts moving together or towards a fixed part of the machine, wall or other object, and two parts moving past one another can cause shearing.
- Parts of the machine, materials and emissions (such as steam or water) can be hot or cold enough to cause burns or scalds and electricity can cause electrical shock and burns.
- Injuries can also occur due to machinery becoming unreliable and developing faults due to poor or no maintenance or when machines are used improperly through inexperience or lack of training.
PUWER Tips | Using New Machinery
Before allowing someone to start using any machine you need to think about what risks there are and how these can be managed. It is recommended that you consider:
- Check that equipment is ‘complete’, with all safeguards fitted, and free from defects. The term ‘safeguard’ includes guards, interlocks, two-hand controls, light guards etc. The supplier must provide the right safeguards and inform buyers of any risks (‘residual risks’) that users need to be aware of.
- Produce a safe system of work for using and maintaining the machine – including inspection of critical features where deterioration may cause a risk.
3. Consider residual (still remaining) risks identified by the manufacturer in the information/instructions provided with the machine and make sure they are included in the safe system of work.
4. Ensure every static machine has been installed properly and is stable (usually fixed down) and is not in a location where other workers, customers or visitors may be exposed to risk.
5. Choose the right machine for the job.
CE Marking & Declaration of Conformity
Note that new machines should be CE marked and be supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English.
Make sure the machine is:
- safe for any work that has to be done when setting up, during normal use, when clearing blockages, when carrying out repairs for breakdowns, and during planned maintenance;
- properly switched off, isolated or locked-off before taking any action to remove blockages, clean or adjust the machine.
- Also, make sure you identify and deal with the risks from: electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic power supplies
- Identify badly designed safeguards. These may be inconvenient to use or easily overridden, which could encourage your workers to risk injury and break the law. If they are, find out why they are doing it and take appropriate action to deal with the reasons/causes.
Preventing Access to Dangerous Parts
Think about how you can make a machine safe.
The measures you use to prevent access to dangerous parts should be in the following order, as an indication.
Do keep in mind, in some cases it may be necessary to use a combination of these measures:
- Use fixed guards (e.g. secured with screws or nuts and bolts) to enclose the dangerous parts, whenever practicable.
- Use the best material for these guards – plastic may be easy to see through but may easily be damaged.
- Where you use wire mesh or similar materials, make sure the holes are not large enough to allow access to moving parts.
- If fixed guards are not practicable, use other methods, e.g. interlock the guard so that the machine cannot start before the guard is closed
- In some cases, trip systems such as photoelectric devices, pressure-sensitive mats or automatic guards may be used if other guards are not practicable.
- Where guards cannot give full protection, use jigs, holders, push sticks etc if it is practicable to do so.
- Control any remaining risk by providing the operator with the necessary information, instruction, training, supervision and appropriate safety equipment.
Do's and Don'ts of PUWER Safety
Adequate training should ensure that those who use the machine are competent to use it safely. This includes ensuring they have the correct skills, knowledge, experience and risk awareness, and are physically suited to the task.
As the dutyholder, you should ensure that all employees likely to use machinery understand and follow these dos and don’ts:
✔ Check the machine is well maintained and fit to be used, i.e. appropriate for the job, working properly and all the safety measures are in place – guards, isolators, locking mechanisms, emergency off switches etc;
✔ Use the machine properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
✔ Make sure employees are wearing the appropriate protective clothing and equipment, required for that machine, such as safety glasses, hearing protection and safety shoes;
✔ Ensure that those who use machinery are competent to use it safely, provide training where necessary. For some machinery a formal qualification is needed.
✘ Use a machine or appliance that has a danger sign or tag attached to it.
✘ Danger signs should only be removed by an authorised person who is satisfied that the machine or process is now safe;
✘ Remove any safeguards, even if their presence seems to make the job more difficult;
✘ Wear dangling chains, loose clothing, rings or have loose long hair that could get caught up in moving parts;
distract people who are using machines.
Additional Points from the PUWER Regs
In addition to these general requirements which apply to all work equipment, Part III of PUWER contains specific duties
Mobile Work Equipment
Part III of PUWER contains specific duties regarding mobile work equipment, for example fork-lift trucks and dumper trucks.
You should ensure that where mobile work equipment is used for carrying people, it is suitable for this purpose.
Measures should be taken to reduce the risks (eg from it rolling over) to the safety of the people being carried, the operator and anyone else.
Part IV of the Regulations also contains specific requirements regarding power presses.
In particular, you should have a power press, and associated guard or protection device, thoroughly examined at specified intervals and inspected daily when it is in use to ensure that it is safe.
This work should only be performed by a competent person and records should be kept.
Maintenance of Plant and Equipment
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require work equipment and plant to be maintained so that it remains safe.
But crucially, it also demands that the maintenance operation is carried out safely.
An effective maintenance programme will make plant and equipment more reliable. Fewer breakdowns will mean less dangerous contact with machinery is required, as well as having the cost benefits of better productivity and efficiency.
Additional hazards can occur when plant and equipment becomes unreliable and develops faults. Maintenance allows these faults to be diagnosed early, to manage any risks.
However, maintenance needs to be correctly planned and carried out.
Unsafe maintenance has caused many fatalities and serious injuries either during the maintenance or to those using badly maintained or wrongly maintained/repaired equipment.
Keeping Things Reasonably Safe
As an employer who provides work equipment, you need to be able to demonstrate that it is maintained in a safe condition. You should think about what might happen if;
- tools or parts break during use
- if machinery starts uexpectedly
- if someone contacts parts or materials that they are protected from if equipment is operating properly
- timing of the work (are there conflicts that cause risk?)
- working at height, access to work areas, risk of confined spaces etc.
Putting in place a Planned/Preventative Maintenance Programme (PMP) is a great way to manage risks associated with PUWER. Here are some useful tips on what you may need to think about as your are planning the tasks….
Before Starting Maintenance
- Decide if the work should be done by specialist contractors.
- Never take on work for which you are not competent or not prepared.
- Plan the work carefully before you start, ideally using the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions, and produce a safe system of work. This will reduce the risks and avoid unforeseen delays.
- Make sure maintenance staff are competent and have appropriate clothing and equipment.
- Try and use downtime for maintenance.
Safe Working Areas
You must provide safe access and a safe place of work.
Don’t just focus on the safety of maintenance workers – take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of others who may be affected by their work, e.g. other employees, contractors or even the general public working or simply present nearby.
Set up signs and barriers and position people at key points if they are needed to keep other people out.
- Ensure moving plant has stopped and that it is isolated from electrical and other power supplies.
- Most maintenance should be carried out with the power off. If the work is near uninsulated, overhead electrical conductors, e.g. close to overhead travelling cranes, cut the power off to these first.
- Lock off machines if there is a chance the power could be accidentally switched back on.
- Isolate plant and pipelines containing pressured fluid, gas, steam or hazardous material. Lock off isolating valves.
Other Things to Consider...
- Release any stored energy, such as compressed air or hydraulic pressure that could cause the machine to move or cycle.
- Support parts of plant that could fall, e.g. support the blades of down-stroking bale cutters and guillotines with blocks.
- Allow components that operate at high temperatures time to cool.
- Place mobile plant in neutral gear, apply the brake and chock the wheels.
- Safely clean out vessels containing flammable solids, liquids, gases or dusts, and check them before hot work is carried out, to prevent explosions.
- Avoid entering tanks, vessels or confined spaces where possible
- If required, get specialist help to ensure adequate precautions are taken.
- Ensure that those who are doing the maintenance are competent to carry out the work.
That’s it for our guide on the PUWER (Provision and Use of Workplace Equipment Regulations) – we hope this has given you a helpful overview of the regulations and the expectations for employers.
If you would like to learn more about the UK-related regulations for workplace Health and Safety, you might also enjoy our guide to LOLER…
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