Health and safety is awash with acronyms; so much so that it can be easy to get confused sometimes. But for organisations which operate any kind of mechanised work equipment or machinery, it is wise to keep ‘PUWER’ high up on their agenda, such is its importance.
In this guide, we take a close look at PUWER, its meaning, its functions and its implications for businesses in the UK.
What does PUWER stand for?
The acronym PUWER denotes the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and concerns machinery and work equipment which is used on a daily basis, as well as the operators which control them. It provides safety measures for workers using mechanised equipment. PUWER in its current form is an updated version of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992.
What is the purpose of PUWER?
In a nutshell, PUWER is there to make work safer for employees who use machinery and other mechanised equipment on a regular basis. It is relevant to individuals at all levels of seniority and locations in the supply chain, including; employees, employers, suppliers and contractors. Even if an individual falls outside this bracket, they are also subject to PUWER regulations if they have access to machinery in the work place.
PUWER aims to ensure that every piece of equipment within the work place:
- Is suitable for its intended purpose.
- Is regularly maintained to ensure safety.
- Is only used by people who have received adequate training.
- Is regularly inspected by a competent worker.
Does PUWER apply to me or my organisation?
If you are engaged in any kind of work activities in the UK, or are a British company which works on offshore installations including gas supply platforms and oil rigs, PUWER applies to you. It isn’t just employers which need to take heed of PUWER regulations - individuals whose job it is to supervise equipment use are also subject to PUWER, as well as self-employed personnel and the equipment they operate.
It should be emphasised that PUWER is not the preserve of large scale organisations. Even if you aren’t operating a business for profit, PUWER and its regulations still carry a legal obligation. It applies to anyone who controls or uses work equipment.
When does PUWER not apply?
If you are a supplier or retailer of work equipment, it is not your responsibility to ensure the operation of that equipment in accordance with PUWER. Rather, it is the purchaser’s obligation to ensure that it follows the regulations, that is; ensuring the installation and ongoing use of the equipment does not pose a risk to the occupants of the work place where it is located.
Similarly, equipment used by members of the public is not provided for in PUWER regulations. For your information, safety guidelines for publically used equipment come under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
PUWER and risk assessment
A key element of PUWER is the requirement that work equipment users carry out risk assessment. Assessment procedures are designed to ensure that equipment is fit for its task, and is not putting its operators at risk. To achieve these health and safety objectives, PUWER specifies that inspections must be carried out:
After installation and before being put into service for the first time; or after assembly at a new site or in a new location to ensure that it has been installed correctly and is safe to operate.
After work equipment has been exposed to any conditions causing deterioration that are liable to cause a dangerous situation.
At suitable intervals; and
Each time that exceptional circumstances have occurred that are liable to jeopardise the safety of work equipment.
The results of these inspections have to be documented and kept until the next subsequent inspection is recorded.
How does PUWER affect training?
Another important facet of PUWER is the training of work equipment users. Where machinery considered to be ‘high risk’ is concerned, a requirement of PUWER is that an individual - considered a “competent person” in relation to the use of the machinery – examines and tests the equipment a) before they are used for the first time and b) every six to 12 months. PUWER also requires that these kind of high risk devices are inspected on a daily basis by the user, in order to ensure it is safe to operate.
These necessities make elements of PUWER an important part of work place training, from the top down. It is just as important for a site manager or departmental head to be aware of PUWER obligations as it is for the first time user of a piece of machinery.
Two typical questions which PUWER often requires the “competent person” overseeing the installation and first time use of equipment to ask are:
- Will it work and be safe as it is?
- Will it have to be adapted in some way to ensure safety?
This is designed to ensure that work place equipment is kept in an environment which has either a) been constructed with the particular equipment in mind, or b) been successfully adapted to ensure it doesn’t pose an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of site occupants.
How to ensure compliance
Many organisations find that the most cost effective solution for ensuring compliance with PUWER regulations is to utilise the service of a specialist. This allows them to continue to concentrate on their core business, while taking advantage of an expert knowledge base.
IES helps organisations meet their PUWER objectives by offering a range of solutions, from a complete package including on-site testing, assessment and reporting, to ad hoc consultancy services which are designed to address specific PUWER issues. From production machinery to control panels, lighting controls, x-ray scanners and test rigs, as well as machinery refurbishment; our procedures can ensure you are continually compliant with PUWER regulations.
For information and advice on PUWER regulations in relation to your organisation, call IES today on +44 (0) 117 938 0600.