The safety of equipment and machinery at work is controlled in the UK by the PUWER regulations. This guide outlines what PUWER is, the obligations the PUWER regulations place on employers, the equipment it applies to and what organisations need to do to ensure they comply.
In 2018/19, 147 people were killed and 581,000 suffered a non-fatal injury at work. Of the fatalities, 8% were due to contact with moving machinery and for the non-fatal injuries, 4% were for the same reason. These figures highlight the vital importance of ensuring equipment and machinery is safe and that safety procedures are followed to minimise any health risks.
Understand your responsibilities under the PUWER regulations and ensure employees know how to use work equipment safely. Our electrical safety training course helps ensure employees can work safely.
What does PUWER stand for?
PUWER stands for the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations and deals with the safety of equipment and machinery used in the workplace.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 replaced the original PUWER regulations that were introduced in 1992.
The rules apply to anyone who owns, operates or controls equipment at work.
Users of equipment could suffer serious injury or even death if safety procedures are not followed. Accidents include people being struck by moving machinery, burnt by hot surfaces and injured by faulty equipment.
Organisations not complying with PUWER may be forced to stop using equipment or machinery, which can have a negative impact on business operations.
What are the PUWER regulations?
PUWER exists to ensure that anyone coming into contact with machinery and equipment at work is kept safe. Employers, the self-employed and anyone with control of work equipment should understand what PUWER is and ensure that the equipment and machinery is always safe to use.
All workplace settings in Great Britain where equipment is used are covered by the regulations. PUWER also extends to specified offshore areas and activities.
As well as offices, factories and shops, workplaces covered include schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, entertainment venues, hotels and offshore oil and gas installations.
All employees must follow health and safety regulations, including reporting safety issues to their employer and using equipment in accordance with any PUWER training and instructions they’ve received.
How to comply with PUWER
Anyone who owns, operates or controls workplace equipment and machinery must ensure they comply with PUWER. Equipment must be:
- suitable for the purpose and conditions in which it is to be used.
- safely maintained so the health and safety of people is not at risk.
- inspected, in certain circumstances, to ensure it remains safe for use. To comply with PUWER, inspections must be carried out by a competent person with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience. For example, the person inspecting equipment using electricity should have received sufficient electrical safety training.
A record of all inspections must be kept. Depending on the type of equipment and the frequency of its use, a PUWER inspection could be a basic visual examination or a detailed inspection that involves dismantling the equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Simple hand tools should be repaired or replaced if needed.
Appropriate health and safety measures must be followed when machinery is being used. This might include emergency stop systems, warning devices, personal protective equipment, visible safety markings and isolation from sources of electricity that could harm the user. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be undertaken to determine these measures.
PUWER requires that equipment used in a workplace is only operated by people who have received relevant instruction such as electrical safety training.
The regulations have specific requirements for mobile work equipment and power presses.
For mobile work equipment used for carrying people, such as fork-lift trucks and dumper trucks, checks must be made to ensure that it is suitable for this purpose. Measures should be taken to reduce risks such as preventing it from rolling over.
Power presses and associated guards or protection devices should be examined in detail at regular intervals and inspected daily by a competent person.
What equipment and machinery does PUWER apply to?
PUWER applies to any equipment and machinery that is used in a workplace. It can be new or old and owned or hired by the workplace.
Here is a list of examples of the equipment that the PUWER regulations cover. This list is not exhaustive and you should always assume that PUWER applies to all equipment being used in your workplace.
- Welding equipment
- Heat and glue guns
- Belt sanders
- Angle grinders
- Motor vehicles
- Sewing machines
- Dumper trucks
- Floor polishing equipment
- Forklift trucks
- Motor vehicles
- Food processors
- Vacuum cleaners
- Washing machines
- Clothes dryers
- Microwave ovens
- Fridges and freezers
- Coffee makers
- Power presses
- Laboratory items such as Bunsen burners
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Cooking equipment
- Medical equipment
- Air conditioning systems
- Heating and plumbing systems
- Electrical wiring
- Water sprinklers
If employees are required to use equipment at home for work purposes, PUWER regulations apply.
As well as PUWER, other regulations apply to some equipment. For example, lifting equipment is covered by the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and personal protective equipment is covered by Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992.
The PUWER regulations do not apply to equipment used by the public such as compressed air equipment in petrol stations. Those circumstances are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
How is PUWER enforced?
If a health and safety inspector believes a workplace is not following PUWER regulations, they can issue an improvement or prohibition notice on the equipment.
An improvement notice is given if equipment or machinery is deemed to be poorly maintained or damaged, or it has not received adequate inspections and risk assessments. The owner or controller of the equipment will be given a minimum 21 days to comply with the notice.
If the improvement notice is not dealt with, a prohibition notice could be issued. This means that the equipment cannot be used until the concerns of the inspector have been dealt with. Such an action could lead to increased costs for businesses because key equipment is out of action, or worse if the organisation is prosecuted.
Keep your workplace safe
Poor use or maintenance of any equipment, whether it’s a simple kettle or highly technical machinery, can be dangerous so it’s vital that you understand what PUWER is and how the regulations apply to your workplace.
Not only does compliance with PUWER protect everyone who comes into contact with the equipment, but it could also prevent a financially damaging impact on your business operations.
Ensure employees are aware of the dangers and risks posed by electrical equipment in the workplace, and help comply with PUWER regulations with our electrical safety training course.