Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)
PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (or Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999). PUWER replaces the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 (or Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999) 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. Lifting equipment is also subject to the(or Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999).
What does PUWER do?
In general terms, the regulations require that equipment provided for use at work is the following:
- Suitable for the intended use
- Safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and, in certain circumstances, inspected to ensure this remains the case
- Used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training
- Accompanied by suitable safety measures, e.g., protective devices, markings, warnings
Equipment covered by the regulations
Generally, any equipment which is used by an employee at work is covered, 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, it, too, will be covered by PUWER and you will need to make sure it complies. Work equipment must meet all the requirements of the regulations from 5 December 1998.
Examples of equipment usage
Examples of uses of equipment which are covered by the regulations include starting or stopping the equipment, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing, cleaning and transporting.
Who the regulations apply to
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(or Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (HSWO)).
While your employees do not have duties under PUWER, they do have general duties under the HSW Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 or Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (MHSWR), for example, to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions, and to co-operate with others.
The regulations cover places where the HSWA or HSWO applies - these include 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.
What you need to do to comply
You must ensure that the work equipment you provide meets the requirements of PUWER. In doing so, you should ensure that it is the following:
- Suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is 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 competence to perform the task) and a record kept until the next inspection.
You should also ensure that risks created by the use of the equipment are eliminated where possible or controlled 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. 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.
You need to ensure that people using work equipment have received adequate training, instruction and information for the particular equipment.
Mobile work equipment
In addition to these general requirements which apply to all 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 (e.g., 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 in use to ensure that it is safe. This work should only be performed by a competent person; records should be kept.
How the regulations relate to health and safety legislation
The requirements of the regulations need to be considered alongside other health and safety law. For example, section 2 of the HSWA (Article 4 HSWO) requires all employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. Similarly, the MHSWR contain important duties relating to the carrying out of a risk assessment to identify measures that you can take to eliminate, or reduce, the risks presented by the particular hazards in your workplace.
Other more specific legislation may also apply, for example:
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (or Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993)
- The Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (or Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996) which contain, for example, specific requirements relating to certain types of work equipment such as scaffolding.
Generally, if you are meeting the requirements of more specific legislation such as those outlined above, then this should normally be sufficient to meet the more general requirements of PUWER.
The information contained in this section is only intended to be used as a guide and you should see the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (or Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI)) for more detailed advice. The HSE has a number of publications on the topic and you can also see the PUWER section of their website which is linked below: