Safe Use of Equipment

Every day, employees perform their roles making use of an assortment of work equipment. Whether they use simple hand tools or operate complex automated machinery, the health and safety risks must be taken into consideration and properly managed. This month’s article outlines the responsibilities employers have under legislation that is specific to the use of work equipment, namely The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

What is ‘Work Equipment’?
Work Equipment is any equipment, machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work and includes mobile and lifting equipment. Examples include:

  • Hand tool e.g. hammers, knives, screwdrivers, chisels, handsaws, shears etc.
  • Machines e.g. photocopiers, FLT’s, lathes, hand held drilling machines, band saws, lawn mowers
  • Apparatus in laboratories e.g. Bunsen burners
  • Lifting equipment e.g. scissor lifts, block and tackle
  • Other equipment e.g. ladders, platforms, pressure cleaners

The definition of ‘use’ is wide and includes not only normal daily operations but also maintenance, servicing, repairing, modifying, cleaning, programming, setting and transportation.

What The Law Says
The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) expands upon the general provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by providing fuller details of what employers must do to ensure that work equipment is suitable, safe and properly maintained and operated.

The scope of PUWER extends to more than 30 specific regulations. The main provisions are for the employer to:

  • Ensure that equipment is suitable for its intended use.
  • Consider the working environment when choosing equipment.
  • Maintain equipment in good order.
  • Train and inform staff in the use of work equipment, including such procedures as daily checks and defect reporting.
  • Only allow trained personnel to use work equipment.
  • Ensure equipment is provided with effective safeguards such as protective devices, markings and warnings.

Some of the main provisions under PUWER and the measures you can take to ensure compliance are considered below.

Suitability of Equipment for its Intended Use
The work equipment must be suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is used. In selecting the work equipment, you must take into account the working conditions and risk where the equipment is used. Risk assessment is a requirement under the Management Regulations and will help in the selection process of work equipment by assessing its suitability for particular risks.

Think about the design of the equipment and where it will be used and what extra hazards it may introduce. For example, using a large scissor lift to lift large and heavy products into position may reduce and eliminate manual handling and falling object hazards, but at the same time introduce other, potentially more serious risks associated with machinery and confined spaces.

Regular Maintenance
Consultation with manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, and an understanding of the manufacturer’s instructions, will help an organisation understand the maintenance requirements. Maintenance of work equipment should be planned in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and not just reactive. When carrying out maintenance of work equipment, make sure the equipment is shut down and isolated from sources of energy where appropriate. It may also be necessary to conduct work under the tight controls of a permit to work. You should also consider whether the worker requires any personal protective equipment e.g. safety gloves / glasses and coveralls.

Use of Controls
Powered work equipment must have controls for starting and stopping located within easy reach of the operator. These controls need to be clearly identified to locate the functions they serve. They should be positioned, designed and shielded as necessary, so they do not pose any risk to health and safety.

Training
All people who use work equipment or supervise its use must be provided with adequate information, instruction and training. This includes people who carry out maintenance, servicing, repairs and cleaning of equipment.

The training will promote safe working practices, provide an understanding of the current legislation and raise awareness of the dangers and hazards associated with the work equipment. It should include practical guidance to reduce workplace accidents.

Inspection by a Competent Person
Where the safety of the equipment is dependent on its condition and deterioration could put people using the equipment at risk, then it must be subject to inspection by a competent person. The inspections should be recorded and should include visual checks, functional checks and testing. The frequency of the inspection will be determined by manufacturer’s instructions and risk assessments.

The use of work equipment is an integral part of our worklife and covered by the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations. One of its key requirements is to ensure the work equipment is suitable for use, and for the purpose and conditions in which it is used. In determining its suitability an assessment of the equipment and its use is required. Ellis Whittam conducts a variety of different types of risk assessments. To find out if you are compliant, contact Ellis Whittam to carry out your risk assessment.

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