Regulation 6 of PUWER places a duty on the owners of work equipment to ensure it is appropriately inspected and maintained by a competent person. However, the regulations do not provide a definition of what ‘competent person’ means.
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The HSE’s approved code of practice for PUWER states:
“The purpose of the PUWER inspection is to identify whether the work equipment can be operated and maintained safely and that any deterioration can be detected and remedied before it results in unacceptable risks.”
The use of the phrase ‘can be’ is intentional. It is not the purpose of an inspector to verify that work equipment ‘is’ being operated and maintained safely, this would require that the inspection witnessed every foreseeable task done on the that machine.
Separate to the PUWER inspection process, safe operation and maintenance should be determined taking an approach similar to a HAZOP study but that requires more knowledge and focus on the suitability of the machine for the task at hand. Spiers Engineering Safety have developed Spiers Safe Interventions, an online toolkit, to help equipment owners manage this aspect.
The HSE’s approved code of practice for PUWER expands on the competent person topic; it states that a competent person “should have the necessary knowledge and experience” that enables them to know what to look at, what to look for and what action is needed where an issue is identified.
This knowledge and experience can be split into the following for machine safety:
*Evidence of suitable knowledge in these topics may be achieved by completing a relevant qualification, such as the Certified PUWER Assessor CPA™ Qualification in PUWER Inspection (Level 3).
Inspections may be carried out ‘in-house’ provided the people completing the inspection have:
It should be noted that while inspections may be carried out by a third party, the duty to ensure inspections are completed for all work equipment always lies with the person/business in control of the equipment. This responsibility cannot be transferred to third party inspectors.
It may be the case that experienced employees such as a department manager or supervisor are competent to determine the scope of inspection and complete the inspection itself. They need to have necessary experience and knowledge to be able to identify what needs to be inspected and to be able to detect damage or faults resulting from deterioration. This is likely to be the case for less complex items of equipment.
However, experience of observing and reviewing machine guarding and other protective measures is not easily obtained and maintained so it is likely, in our experience, that some degree of outside support will be appropriate.
This experience, along with knowledge of health and safety best practice, manufacturer recommendations and any relevant industry standards, would be required for both setting the inspection parameters and carrying out the inspections. However, this doesn’t mean the same individual has to do both. HSE guidance makes the following distinction:
Appointed Person for Determining the Nature of the Inspection
This individual requires knowledge of:
This individual requires knowledge of:
There are key aspects of third party inspector competence that should always be verified, alongside any specialist inspection requirements (particular skills are required for inspecting and safety critical control systems for example).
These areas are:
Regulation 6 of PUWER places the duty on work equipment owners to ensure that inspections are carried out by a competent person; to ensure compliance with this aspect, the competence of inspectors must be confirmed prior to any inspections being undertaken. This is straightforward for in-house inspectors as the employer will have knowledge of an employee’s training and experience from being ‘on the job’ and will be able to evidence this through training records and role descriptions.
For third party inspection companies, competence should be checked as part of due diligence or supply chain management processes prior to entering into a contract.
It must be borne in mind that it is not enough to simply ask third parties for evidence of competence; the evidence provided must be fully checked to ensure qualifications remain current and relevant to the service provided. Failure to do so could be significant in terms of liability should an unsafe situation arise.