Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, commonly abbreviated to PUWER, were introduced to help prevent injuries caused by equipment in the workplace.

The regulations define equipment as ‘any equipment, machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work’. This wide-ranging definition means that the regulations apply to items as diverse as your office desk, hand tools, company vehicles and complex heavy machinery. 

The use of work equipment is defined as any activity involving work equipment. This includes starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing and cleaning.

It means that most industries and workers are affected by the regulations to some degree, therefore whatever your occupation, PUWER may apply to you.

A breach of PUWER is likely to suggest that an employer was negligent for the purposes of making a dangerous machinery-related injury claim, or claim for an injury caused by defective equipment.

What are the requirements of PUWER?

The government guidelines set out in PUWER require that work equipment is safe to use.

This includes ensuring the equipment is:

  1. Regularly maintained and inspected
  2. Only used by adequately trained personnel 
  3. Supplied with usage instructions, including health and safety procedures
  4. Used in accordance with specific requirements and suitable for its intended use 

Who is PUWER relevant to?

PUWER is aimed at anyone responsible for equipment used in the workplace. This includes employers, the self-employed who have equipment they use or have control of and employees or contractors whose role involves supervision or management of others using the equipment.

As equipment suppliers have no control over the use of the equipment once it has been sold or supplied to the third party PUWER does not apply to them. The purchaser must take full responsibility for the installation and use of equipment to prevent it being a risk to others.

How should organisations apply the regulations?

If a business or organisation uses work equipment or is involved in providing work equipment for others to use (e.g. for hire), it must manage the risks from that equipment by addressing each issue.

Is the equipment safe for use?

All new equipment must comply with recognised industry standards for that particular sector. It must be CE marked and come with a Declaration of Conformity and instructions in English.

If the equipment’s safety depends on the manner of its installation it must be inspected after installation and before being used.

Has it been regularly inspected and maintained?

Equipment should be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. Regular inspections should be made and records kept.

Particular attention must be given to work equipment that is exposed to deteriorating conditions, such as farming equipment used and kept outdoors. If faults go undetected they may lead to dangerous situations.

Who is using the equipment?

Employers should ensure that anyone using, or supervising the use of, equipment at work has received adequate training. This includes how to use the equipment correctly, any risks that may arise and the precautions that should be taken.

Where equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety, such as woodworking machinery, the employer must restrict the use of this equipment to those who are trained and appointed to use it. 

Are the usage instructions, health and safety procedures and safety devices in place?

All people using, supervising or managing the use of work equipment must be provided with adequate, clear health and safety information. This may include written usage instructions and suitable equipment markings and warnings.

Equipment should also be accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, including protective devices, such as emergency stop buttons, and controls. It must be possible to isolate the equipment from sources of energy and all warning devices and markings should be clearly visible. 

Effective measures, such as guards, must be in place to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. 

Is it the right equipment for the job and who is using it?

Equipment should be constructed to be suitable for its intended use. Consideration should also be given to the particular work conditions or users at the time as they may affect the equipment’s suitability. For example, although a ladder may be suitable for accessing a roof, it may be safer to use a cherry picker if there are high winds that may blow a ladder over. 

Every piece of equipment has its own particular requirements for safe usage; some have specific rules and risks and require users to undergo special training. These include mobile work equipment such as tractors and trucks. 

What happens if a small company lacks the resources to implement PUWER?

Following the regulations is not compulsory, however a company that fails to comply with PUWER may be found to have fallen short of fulfilling their duty of care to employees. 

If a worker sustains an injury through a workplace accident involving work equipment where PUWER are not being implemented, the employer may be negligent and found liable for the accident. 

Any organisation or user who does not have sufficient resource to assess each piece of equipment may appoint a specialist company to carry out the necessary procedures and paperwork to comply with PUWER.