Provision and Safe Use of Work Equipment

The Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) set out the criteria and standards by which work equipment can be used safely.

The Primary objective of the regulations is to ensure that the use of work equipment does not result in foreseeable and significant health and safety risk, regardless of its age, condition or origin.

The Regulations are supported by an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which is available as a free download from the HSE website. The core principles of the ACoP are incorporated within the guidance given here.

However, those responsible for the purchase, management, or supervision in use of hazardous equipment and machinery are also advised to familiarise themselves with the content of the ACoP directly.

What is "Work Equipment"?

The scope of "work equipment" is extremely wide. It covers almost any equipment used at work including:

Risk Assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require a risk assessment to be carried out to identify the significant risks arising out of work activities.

A significant risk is one which could foreseeably result in major injury, illness or worse.

The assessment must be made with a depth and detail commensurate to the degree of risk (risk being a combination of the severity of potential injury combined with the likelihood of an incident occurring). For instance, a simple visual check on the integrity of a hammer head on its shaft immediately prior to use as part of user competence is perfectly adequate.

Conversely, the use of complex and hazardous laboratory equipment, such as a molecular beam epitaxy machine, would involve a systematic analytical assessment to determine any guarding needs, safe systems of work, emergency procedures and necessary operator training and instruction. The results of this latter assessment would need to be written down, the former would not.

Heads of Department should ensure that there are arrangements in place for work equipment to be assessed for any significant risks arising from its use and, where necessary for a risk assessment record to be completed.

It may be appropriate for the Area Safety Officer to be involved in the administrative details of the process as they will normally be aware of what equipment is currently used in the workplace and the arrival of new or modified items.

An Equipment Safety Checklist is reproduced to assist in the process.

The checklist is for use where a significant hazard is likely to be presented by the type of equipment and covers where the equipment is to be used, how it is to be used, by whom and what risk controls should be put in place.

It is intended to form part of the risk assessment record.

The checklist is generic and it may be useful for departments and faculties to develope their own equipment specific checklists. In the summary section of the checklist, an indication must be given as to the timescale within which any actions identified must be implemented and what action is to be taken in the meantime, for instance, taking equipment out of use or limiting use to certain tasks and functions.

The review date on the checklist must match with that shown on the main risk assessment record.

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