The purpose of this Safety guide is to support learners working towards their Certified PUWER Assessor (CPA™) qualification and other safety practitioners looking to develop their PUWER compliance implementations.
If you are new to PUWER then check out our ‘ What is PUWER Page’.
PUWER Stands for Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations
The PUWER Regulations are supported by the PUWER ACOP which provides practical guidance on how to interpret and implement the Provision and use of work equipment regulations in your workplace. They are designed to ensure that work equipment is safe to use and maintain. The regulations were first introduced in 1992 before being amended to the 1998 version to come into line with requirements put on the UK by its membership of the EU at the time. The regulations are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and non-compliance can result in significant consequences both in terms of personal risk to your workers as well as fines and legal action against the employer or the organisation in control of the work equipment at the time of the breach or incident.
PUWER regulations require that all work equipment be suitable for its intended use, and that it is maintained and inspected regularly to ensure that it remains safe. Employers are also required to provide their employees with appropriate training and information on the safe use of equipment.
These regulations sit underneath a framework of duties and risk assessment from other pieces of legislation. These include:
PUWER 1998 is the most commonly applicable requirement for work equipment, but other regulations also often apply to machinery in the UK, such as:
It's important for employers and operators of machinery to be aware of all relevant regulations to ensure that their equipment is safe and complies with legal requirements.
Each PUWER policy will be subtly different, but all policies should include the requirement for:
There is no explicit legal requirement for a company to have each discrete role below. For smaller companies or those where risks under PUWER compliance are not significant then, it is likely that one person would take the lead on all these responsibilities. However, for large organisations with significant risks covered by PUWER 1998 then, this would not be appropriate.
The responsibilities are likely to be distributed across several roles. Each of the roles represents a group of responsibilities for which proportionate capabilities must be maintained.
The benefits to filling these responsibilities across multiple roles include:
Here are some of the different PUWER job roles
The Health and Safety at Work Act (HaSaWA) allows for proceedings against a body corporate to result in a Section 37 prosecution of a PUWER duty-holder if an offence has been committed under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER). This will only occur where the offence was committed with the consent, connivance, or neglect on the part of the duty-holder. This may include circumstances where the duty holder was not aware of their duties under PUWER.
The Provision and use of work equipment regulations involves inspections of work equipment for suitability and condition. It also involves risk assessment of work activities to ensure that they can be done safely. Safety Training is needed to ensure that the duty holders and those given responsibilities under PUWER 1998 are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to form a reasonable basis for assigning competency and authorisation.
Training for PUWER will include:
PUWER applies a statutory duty on the employer and those in control of work equipment. It does not apply to the general public. You cannot be assigned any duty under PUWER unless you have a degree of control over the selection and use of the work equipment. Your duty will apply when you take control of the work equipment under your systems of work. This is not necessarily the same times that you are in physical control of the work equipment as the work equipment may continue to be ‘in use’ when you or your workers, are not physically present. Where work equipment is shared amongst a mixed workforce special care shall be given to ensure that the work equipment is operated and maintained in a manner that ensures the safety of all persons who could be exposed to it.
The extent and complexity of a PUWER inspection and risk assessment can only be determined after an initial appraisal of the risks and existing safeguards. The initial inventory and appraisal is completed by the PUWER planner. The absence of a significant accident history (e.g. a small number of accidents, low severity of accidents, etc.) should not be used as the basis for a presumption of the work equipment being low risk I.e. not requiring an inspection.
Inspection Planning by Type: Types of machines that require PUWER inspections.
Where the workplace has some repetition of machine by type then the PUWER planner may choose to approach the PIPP by first establishing a list of the types of work equipment and taking an inventory of each asset to that type.
What are examples of asset types that are certain to represent significant risk and will certainly be identified as needing a PUWER inspection by the planner?
This is not an exhaustive list.
The PUWER inspector is not a designer. No PUWER inspection record can be used as evidence of safe design. Despite this there is some benefit to the inspector in having knowledge of what machine design for safe use looks like in practical terms.
There are published sources of best practice in the form of designated standards and a useful summary of the main sort of features that a PUWER inspector will need to be aware of can be found in PD 5304:2014 Guidance on safe use of machinery.
Where user checks identify defects, those defects should be remedied immediately wherever possible. Where it is not possible to remedy immediately, the business must decide on how to proceed. This decision will be based on the risk that exists due to the defect. Risk assessment of defects is not an explicit requirement of a PUWER inspection, but many clients/employers will want defects to be communicated in the form of a risk assessment to help with internal communication and prioritisation of resources.
Where a PUWER inspection identifies a defect that increases risk you will need to put control measures in place to reduce this risk. The PUWER inspector will have given their view on what these controls should be. Wherever the control is simply to replace or repair then this action can be added to the work orders in the normal way but prioritised appropriately based on risk and the resource available at the time.
Where the control measures include the need to modify or further investigate then the employer should use appropriate change management practices to ensure that the controls decided upon are suitable. This change will require design (and records of design risk assessment – DRA) to ensure that the machine continues to meet the essential requirements upon which valid certification is based.
Where defects cannot be remedied immediately with the proper fix then, depending on risk, there may be organisational measures that can be applied as a temporary fix to reduce the risk to a level that is sufficient for the use of the machinery to continue whilst waiting for the resource and opportunity to apply to proper remedy later. The user/employer will decide what level of risk is tolerable to be managed by competence.
User checks will identify defects. When not remedied immediately there will be risk assessments to inform decision making. There is a legal duty to consult the workforce on risk. Defect reports must be communicated and progress towards the remedies tracked.
The reporting of defects is how we communicate the findings of inspections and risk assessments to the workforce. It is important to develop ways of reporting the findings that:
The following is an example of what might be included in a PUWER policy for a large organisation such as a manufacturing, logistics or college where work equipment is a significant risk that needs to be managed.
[The employer] uses work equipment in its operations with a significant risk managed by the implementations because of this policy. [The employer] accepts a duty of care to ensure the use of work equipment is safe and legal, where the term ‘use’ covers all work activities from commissioning, operations, maintenance, and decommissioning. Will meet the requirements of Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations 1998 and the relevant provisions made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
This procedure is intended to ensure that all relevant persons who use, or are affected by the use of, work equipment do this in a manner that supports [The employer] to discharge its duty of care and comply with the above Regulations.
This procedure does not restrict how [The employer] may use work equipment but will ensure that their use is both safe and legal.
This procedure applies to all work equipment under [The employers] control regardless of:
This procedure is aimed at ensuring [The employer] discharges the responsibilities outlined in the [ insert Health & Safety Policy reference] and must be followed when any work equipment is used by workers or other persons under the control of the [The employer].
The procedure provides links to the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) Provision and use of work equipment regulations 98, HSE published guidance and commonly applicable standards.
The Approved code of Practice (ACOP) has been approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with the consent of the Secretary of State. It gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. If you follow the advice, you will be doing enough to comply with the law (where the Code is relevant). Where you choose not to work to the Code and in the event of enforcement action for a breach of the law then, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way.
Equipment provided for use at work is:
[insert references to your internal policy]
Some work equipment is subject to other health and safety legislation in addition to the Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations. For example, lifting equipment such as cranes and patient hoists must also meet the requirements of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), pressure equipment must meet the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and any personal protective equipment required must meet the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 and its newest amendment in 2022.
When providing new work equipment for use at work, you must ensure it conforms with the essential health and safety requirements in place at the time of supply. For machinery, the primary concern will be the requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.
For large projects consider inclusion of minimum criteria for vendors to demonstrate their Certification procedures for third party expert review.
The check will include:
a) Appropriate certification mark indicating that the manufacturer of the product is declaring conformity with all of the Regulations (UK) or Directives (EU) relating to that product.
b) Declaration of Conformity
c) Instructions in English (or the language of intended use).
d) No obvious defects i.e. an inspection by a competent person that identifies no unacceptable deviations from published best practice in designated standards.
Additional requirements for Power Presses and mobile work equipment e.g. forklift truck, are not covered by this policy.
See your procurement procedure for more information.
PUWER places a duty on the employer but does not place further duties on employees (beyond those in the act).
To implement this policy [The employer] will identify individuals with accountability for statutory compliance (PUWER Duty holders) and include explicit responsibilities within individual job roles for where those roles explicitly include duties that contribute towards PUWER compliance.
Where a job role includes responsibilities for asset integrity, that employee is a duty holder for PUWER so far as they have control of work equipment and how people work with it.
The duty holder has a professional responsibility to their employer and other employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act, to avoid putting others at risk by their acts or omissions i.e., negligence.
All departmental managers are required to ensure that the use of all work equipment within their area of responsibility is identified and classified by risk assessment, as required by the Management Regulations, to ensure that proportional arrangements are/will be in place for PUWER compliance.
Arrangements for compliance shall include:
During these compliance activities, both initial integrity (suitability) and condition (current integrity) shall be considered. The duty holder will support the management responsibilities.
The person responsible for business decision making or influence of processes that contribute towards PUWER compliance is a PUWER duty holder. The duty holder will be provided with the knowledge and resource needed to ensure that the asset and the arrangements are effective to ensure that the work equipment can be operated in a safe and legal manner. This will include, where appropriate the allocation of PUWER leaders.
The duty holder will apply good practices to ensure the PUWER compliance activities are effective e.g. sampling, peer review, monitoring of response rates, compliance of actions taken and evidence collected.
To reduce the administrative burden of this procedure and reduce risk you will adhere to the following: