PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. The regulations require that equipment is safe, suitable, maintained, inspected and installed correctly. PUWER also requires that equipment is used only by competent people, that have had adequate information, instruction and training.
The regulations cover any type of work equipment you can think of. Every item of machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation. If it is used at work (exclusively or not), PUWER applies.
You could summarise PUWER as requiring equipment to be used safely. However, it's clear that the regulations contain some fairly specific requirements about how you must do that.
These rules apply to every piece of work equipment, all of the time. But what does it really mean in terms of day to day use? Because let's face it, nearly all businesses use equipment in one form or another.
What it means is, you are fine to use work equipment. But you must use it in a safe way. It may not be possible to eliminate 100% of the risk, but risks must be controlled. You should use the right equipment for the job, and make sure it's got all the right parts and is in safe working order. How do you know if it's safe? Inspections and regular maintenance.
It actually sounds fairly straightforward, and it can be. But once you have more than a few items of equipment it can become a complex task to keep on top of the requirements. The simplest way is to keep an inventory and a log of maintenance and inspections. In fact, it is a requirement of PUWER to keep results of inspections and maintenance logs up to date.
Once you know the equipment is safe, you then can make sure it is used safely. It needs to have the right guards. It must be stable. It needs to be operated correctly. How can you make sure it is used safely? Instruction and training.
PUWER places duties on employers, the self-employed, and anyone who has control of work equipment. The regulations apply to those who own, operate, and use work equipment. If you buy equipment, hire out equipment, hire equipment, or use equipment, you need to know about PUWER.
The use of equipment covers a wide range of activities. Even if you are just responsible for turning equipment off, or cleaning it after it has been used.
“use” in relation to work equipment means any activity involving work equipment and includes starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing and cleaning;
Now we know what PUWER stands for, and what the regulations cover. Let's go a little deeper into what the requirements mean for your business.
The first requirement of PUWER is to ensure equipment is suitable for the purpose used. That means using the right equipment. Is it designed for the job you have intended? If in doubt, contact the manufacturer.
PUWER requires equipment to be in good working order. It must be maintained and inspected regularly. The manufacturer's instructions will contain information about maintenance. Routine checks and preventative maintenance help keep your equipment in a safe condition.
Moving and rotating parts of equipment can be dangerous, as they present a risk of entanglement and cuts. Fixed, interlocking and automatic guards should all be in place before use.
Check guards are suitable, allow the machine to be cleaned and maintained, and don't increase any risks or cause restrictions.
Even the right equipment in good working order creates risks. PUWER requires controls to be in place to protect against the hazards. Controls to consider include stop, start and speed adjustments, and emergency controls.
Where there are hazards identified, PUWER requires employers to take measures to ensure any risks to health or safety are prevented or controlled.
The hazards referred to...
- any article or substance falling or being ejected from work equipment;
- rupture or disintegration of parts of work equipment;
- work equipment catching fire or overheating;
- the unintended or premature discharge of any article or of any gas, dust, liquid, vapour or other substance which, in each case, is produced, used or stored in the work equipment;
- the unintended or premature explosion of the work equipment or any article or substance produced, used or stored in it.
Sometimes, accidents with work equipment happen not because the equipment was unsafe, but because of the way it was being used. Work equipment is powerful and can get the job done, but in the wrong hands, that power is dangerous.
Users must know what guards are needed, how to stop equipment in an emergency, and how to control it during use. No one should use work equipment unless they have been provided with information and instruction on its safe use, and training as necessary.
Mobile work equipment and power presses get their own section (part 3 and part 4) of the regulations.
Mobile work equipment is equipment that moves, either during work or between work areas. Forklift trucks, tractors and trailers are examples of mobile work equipment. PUWER requires that employees are not carried on mobile equipment unless it is designed for that purpose. There must be roll-over protection, and the risk of overturning reduces as low as reasonably practicable. Mobile work equipment should be fitted with safety features like cab barriers, seat restraints, roll-over protection and protective cages.
Use the forklift truck checklist to carry out a safety check.
“power press” means a press or press brake for the working of metal by means of tools, or for die proving, which is power driven and which embodies a flywheel and clutch;
Power presses are also high-risk items of work equipment and get special consideration under PUWER. Accidents with power presses can lead to serious injury or amputation. Many of the same rules apply, but more strict requirements surround thorough examination of the equipment and guards. Timeframes are also given for examination at 6-12 months and after exceptional circumstances.