Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
From complex machinery to hand tools, office desks and company cars, the PUWER regulations aim to encourage the safe use and control of work equipment used by employees.
But what is PUWER? Who is it aimed at? How is it applied? And who is it relevant to?
What is PUWER?
The 'Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998', or 'PUWER', is a set of government guidelines used to prevent injuries caused by equipment used in the workplace. Overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), its main requirements are that equipment provided for use at work is:
- Suitable for its intended use
- Safe for use - and maintained and inspected to ensure it remains so
- Used only by people who have received adequate instruction and training
- Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures
- Used in accordance with specific requirements
The term ‘equipment' as used within PUWER is wide-reaching, and is defined as:
‘Any equipment, machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work'.
Because of this, the regulations are relevant to the majority of industries, from agriculture and construction to manufacturing, IT and health and social care.
Updated from the 1992 PUWER regulations, it now also includes the coverage of mobile work equipment, woodworking equipment and power presses.
Who is it aimed at?
The PUWER regulations are aimed at and cover the following:
- Self-employed people and the equipment they control or use
- Those who are employed to supervise or manage the use of equipment operated by others
These regulations do not apply to those who have supplied or sold the equipment. It is up to the purchaser to ensure it is specified, installed and used so that it doesn't present a risk.
Although following the regulations is not compulsory, a failure to comply would mean falling short of the law.
How is it applied?
In order to comply, an employer (or other specified individual) must address each issue.
Suitable for use
When assessing its suitability they must look at whether the equipment fulfils its purpose, is suitable for those particular work conditions and whether it is suitable for the specific workers using it. They should always ask, is there a better/safer alternative?
Safe for use
They must ensure it complies with recognised industry standards - for example all new machinery should carry a CE mark from it manufacturer to prove its compliance. In addition, equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained and records kept.
Used only by people with adequate instruction and training
The employer must stipulate who is permitted to use and maintain it. Whatever equipment is used, an employer must ensure that information regarding its use is communicated in an effective manner, including providing written instructions where necessary.
Accompanied by suitable health and safety measures
This includes identifying all the potential risks and putting controls in place to prevent or minimise them. For example, ensuring a machine has identifiable controls for stopping and starting it, that warning signs are used or that suitable lighting is provided.
Used in accordance with specific requirements
Each piece of equipment will have its own unique requirements that should be followed. Mobile work equipment, such as lift trucks or tractors, for example, have their own set of rules and risks demanding special training.
Required PUWER assessments of machinery can be carried out by specialist companies who can provide the necessary paperwork.
Who is PUWER relevant to?
Although PUWER is aimed at employers, the self-employed and people who supervise equipment, it is also relevant to a much wider audience.
Commonly used in personal injury law, Solicitors, the Courts, as well as any person who has suffered an injury as a result of an accident at work involving work equipment, can use these regulations when demonstrating negligence.
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor
About the author
Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.