The Beginners Guide to Machine Safety in the UK

Posted By: Warren Spiers avatar

Published to Machine Safety on Jul 06, 2016

The aim of this beginners guide is to explain machinery safety in the UK in a way that you will read without getting very bored very quickly.

It is not intended to be the definitive guide to everything in machinery safety and in some areas detail has been sacrificed for simplicity. This means that in some cases, due to the detail being slimmed down for readability, the general rules of thumb might not apply, so you should always seek expert advice if you have any doubts.

After this guide you might want to move on to more advanced skills and understanding. We have a range of guidance available in our articles on our website or better still you can book on to one of our Machinery Safety Workshops and ask as many questions as you like to an industry expert. Follow this link to see what workshops are available;


Getting Started

The Golden rule …… Safe Machines are no accident!

(Pun intended)

The UK government and Europe know that this is the case, so they have implemented all sorts of directives, law and guidance with the objective of making users of machinery and work equipment as safe as they can be, or should I say, safe enough!.

Zero risk is an admirable position to take and I understand the motivation to use it as a headline to catch the imagination. A clear objective with no grey areas…..

‘Target Zero’

However, like most great theories that use zero as a baseline, they are by definition impossible to achieve and rather dodge the intent of the primary safety legislation in the UK ; i.e. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW). Machinery safety guidance in the UK acknowledges that zero risk is not the objective and instead it lays down principles to be followed and evidence of due diligence in their application. Therefore, you need to define these more realistic objectives and justify them to the ‘Target Zero’ crew. In our world (the world of machinery safety which seems rather too vast at times) we refer to these realistic objectives as YOUR risk reduction objectives.

Yes, YOURS. You decide what your risk reduction objectives are. The law is in place to judge if they are, or in the case of post-accident, were reasonable. The previous sentence fairly reflects the general approach but in some areas the law is more prescriptive either in mandatory design features or in the hierarchy of measures that should be considered during design and adaption.

Learning Point 1 – Who does machinery safety apply to?

European Economic Area (EEA)

The EEA is a group of states who signed up to the treaty of Rome are therefore bound to implement all trade Directives including the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. This is the primary driver behind machine safety in Europe and the UK.

It is useful to have a list of those countries as this can be critical when determining is CE Marking is required due to import/export.

Member States in the EEA:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • European Union
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom


Any employer using work equipment or machinery in the UK is subject to the HSW that require that the work equipment / machinery be safe to use, operate and maintain. This is further detailed in more specific law and guidance known as PUWER (pronounced ‘PURE’). This creates legal duties to ensure work equipment and machines are safe to operate and maintain and these are continuous so long as the machinery/work equipment is in use.

Manufacturers (of Machinery)

This definition is harder than you might think but is necessary in order to understand where, when and often more importantly by whom it is that CE Marking machines is relevant to. There are several different ways that you might become a manufacturer according to the machinery directive 2006/42/EC. Principally these can be split and explained in the following.

If you supply (or make available) for use in to the EEA a machine that:

  • You made
  • You designed and commission to be made (without contractually committing the machine builder to meet your obligations under the appropriate directives)
  • You Imported from outside the EEA (and hadn’t been previously certified – CE marked)
  • You modified
  • You integrated in to a line

Then YOU are the manufacturer

Now who are you?

If you are a sole trader or person (i.e. not a limited company) then the duty to CE mark machinery and declare in conformity with applicable directives are yours and yours alone.

If you are representing a company then it is normal for the company to be the manufacturer. However, a person must still sign on behalf of the company. Who should that person be? We suggest a senior manager with influence and control over all the processes that feed in the evidence that the machine was correctly CE marked. This is a legal document exposing your business to considerable liabilities so it is normally an officer of the company (i.e. a share holding executive director) or some person directly and formally authorised by an officer of the company who will sign this.

Learning Point 2 – Directives, Law and Standards

The first thing we need to do is clear up the jargon and put everything in its place. Directives.

The EU drafts and issue Directives. These place a duty on the member states of the EU (EEA). Some of these directives are related to supply (by manufactures) and other place duties on the users. Below is a summary of the primary directives and the laws that implement machinery safety in the UK. We have also provided a list of useful links to help find further guidance.

Author Level

Manufacture and Supply (CE)

Safe Use (PUWER UK)



Go to Links

Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC

Work Equipment Directive

UK Implementation


Go to Links

Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)



Go to Links

Various sources and Types:


ISO – International


EN – European Norms


BS – British Standards


Industry Best Practice/Advisory


HSE Guidance such as information sheets

Various sources and Types:


ISO – International


EN – European Norms


BS – British Standards


Industry Best Practice/Advisory


HSE Guidance such as information sheets

Important Notes

Directives and law lay the principles down but without much prescriptive detail.


This route must end with a ‘declaration’ to the directive that it is safe.


EN standards provide the minimum safe design required.


Without access and knowledge of EN standards you are flying blind.

The PUWER ACOP lays the principles down and gives some examples but the intent of guidance must be transposed to each machine type.


BS provide further guidance but HSE information sheets or HSE endorsed industry guidance should take precedence.


Where an EN standard conflicts with UK specific guidance then the latter shall be used.


The EU directives are implemented in the UK by Law. For the most part the two documents will be very similar but there are some variations / additions that you will become aware of when reading the two side by side. For the purposes of this guide it is taken that these variations are minor and not to be considered. More advanced courses will analyse the differences more closely.


There are many sources of machinery safety standards. As explained in the notes from the above table, the EN standards primarily apply during any CE marking of machines but have relevancy during PUWER inspection also unless other machinery safety guidance issued/endorsed by the HSE conflicts with it. In this case the latter should take precedent in the PUWER assessor’s mind.

Learning Point 3 – What are the duties on those involved in machinery safety in the UK?

Duties of Manufacturers

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW)

The following shall be achieved ‘So far as is reasonably practicable’.

The HSW section 6 (1) places a duty on manufacturers of machines to ensure that they are designed and constructed to be safe and without risks. This includes the need to carry out appropriate examination and tests. Further, the manufacturer will provide suitable information for use including updates for new risks that become apparent after the machine has been supplied.

The HSW section 6 (2) puts a duty on the designer to complete research to identify risks and elimination or minimise them.

The HSW section 8 allows a manufacturer to protect themselves to some degree from the risk relating to their product where a third party has provided a written statement to them stating that it is safe.

Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC

Conformity with all Applicable Directives

A manufacturer, as defined previously, must declare their machine/partly complete machine in conformity to all applicable directives.

Technical Construction File (TCF)

They must be able to demonstrate their conformity by providing a technical construction file (TCF) to the enforcement authorities upon their request.

10 Years

The TCF must be held by the manufacturer for a period of 10 years after production of the last unit covered by the declaration.

Compiling the TCF

The TCF does not need to be compiled unless enforcement authorities request it. However, the person responsible for doing so must be based in the EU community.

Non EU Manufacturers

Manufacturers who are based outside the EU will need to use an authorised representative to hold the technical construction file. For example, if the manufacturer is in Taiwan but has a satellite business registered in Germany then the German company may be listed on the Declaration of conformity as the authorised representative responsible for compiling the technical file.

Assemblies of Machines

It is often the case that a number of machines are arrange together as a production line or process. The nature of their interfaces determines whether they shall be treated as a new machine in their own right. This would mean that the person/company responsible for commissioning this work are now a manufacturer and all of the above apply to them.

Use of EN Standards

Where compliance to EN standards is used to presume conformity then these shall be listed on the Declaration.

Note to users: Use of standards is not mandatory so if you want to audit your manufacturer against them you will need to make a commercial arrangement in the contract to do so. This is normally done with a machine safety requirement specification written to reflect to specify the applicable ENs standards to be used on that type of machine.

Duties on Users

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW)

The following shall be achieved ‘So far as is reasonably practicable’.

The primary duty on the user of work equipment or machinery is given in the HSW. The employer shall provide and maintain plant and systems of work that are safe and without risks to health.

Management of Health and Safety Regulations (MHSWRs)

The user shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work. The purpose of the risk assessment is to help the user to determine what measures should be taken to comply with the users duties under the ‘relevant statutory provisions’. For the purposes of machinery safety it is correct to say that PUWER will always apply. However, other statutory provisions may also apply e.g. COSHH, LEV, LOLER, DSEAR etc. Because PUWER applies to all machinery the PUWER inspection often identifies where other provisions should be considered. This is certainly true and a reasonable expectation where you source professional machine safety services such as those provided by Spiers Engineering Safety.

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER)

PUWER is a relevant statutory provision for all work equipment / machines. PUWER has a supporting Approved Code of Practice (ACOP). ACOP text explains how to comply with the law in a specific way and has a special status in law. If you do not follow the advice in ACOP text and you are prosecuted for a breach of the law, the court will take your breach of the law as proven unless you can show that you have complied with the law in another equally effective way. If you follow the advice in an ACOP, you can be sure that you will be doing enough to comply with the law. Guidance text is different as following it is not compulsory, unless specifically stated.

PUWER should not be considered in isolation, rather, it should be used as clarification of the duties imposed by the HSW.

The purpose of the PUWER inspection is to identify whether the equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration (for example, any defect, damage or wear) can be detected and remedied before it results in unacceptable risks.

Designed and Adapted

The users of machinery must ensure that machines and work equipment are designed or adapted so that they are safe to use and maintain.


An inspection is an appropriate visual, or more rigorous inspection, in order to ensure that the machine can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration (for example, any defect, damage or wear) can be detected and remedied before it results in unacceptable risks

Typically, an appropriate PUWER inspection is visual only but will include an audit of the records for other relevant checks e.g. the functional checks of protective devices.

Record Keeping

The user must keep records of all inspections and checks carried out to ensure that the requirements of PUWER (and the HSW) are met.

Planning for PUWER

Planning for PUWER will be covered in another video guide but we can briefly flag the main bullet points here:

  • As with all statutory provisions, planning, control and monitoring requires that a register of assets and risk assessments be kept.
  • PUWER inspections must be scheduled at pre-determined intervals.
  • Competent persons must be available for determining the scope of inspection and completing the inspections. For internal staff, this requires that suitable training be provided. For contractors you must seek evidence of competency through auditing.
  • Records of the current PUWER inspection for all work equipment/machines must be held until the next record is made available.
  • Risk assessments are only useful when actioned! You must monitor progress.

Information and Training

PUWER includes additional requirements for safe systems of work, training and information to supplement those already in the management of health and safety regulations (MHSWRs).

Your Next Steps

I hope you have found this introduction to machine safety in the UK useful. If you would something in more detail where you can ask your questions and get them answered by an expert there and then please come along to one of our Machinery safety workshops which are delivered UK wide.

Or perhaps you could just pick up the phone and ask?

Call us on 0843 289 2624 to speak to one of our lead engineers