Work Equipment

What is it and should it be checked?

Posted on: 05/05/2017   By: Lee Rance

All workers use work equipment in some form or another, but just what is it?

Well to quote my boss, “Work equipment can range from a pen to a nuclear power plant and everything in between”.

The regulations that cover work equipment are PUWER which stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.  The regulations deal with work equipment and machinery used every day in workplaces and their aim is to keep people safe wherever equipment and machinery is used at work, this includes employers, employees, contractors, suppliers, and anyone else who might use or have access to machinery in the workplace.

The main aim of the Regulations is to make sure that work equipment is safe.  They do this by requiring employers to make sure that work equipment is suitable, properly maintained, guarded and that employees are provided with suitable training on its use.

  • Employers must make sure that work equipment is constructed so that it is suitable for its purpose. It must be maintained so that it is kept in efficient working order and a good state of repair.
  • Employers must make sure that work equipment is inspected after it is first installed and at regular intervals thereafter. Records must be kept of the inspections which must be kept until the next inspection.
  • Employees must be provided with adequate information and training on the use of the equipment and precautions that can be taken to protect them from any risks.
  • Guards and protective devices must be used to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. Controls for work equipment must be clearly visible and appropriately positioned.
  • Work equipment must be able to be isolated from its energy source, be stable, adequately lit and marked with warnings where needed.

Obviously some machinery and equipment is going to be more hazardous than others and not everything will require a PUWER assessment. For example, you wouldn’t need to carry out an assessment on a pen or a stapler but hazardous machinery like power presses and cutting equipment etc. would need to be assessed. The key is recognising what machinery has the potential to cause harm. As with a lot of health and safety legislation it’s about using common sense.

Any risks created by using equipment should be eliminated where possible or controlled as far as reasonably practicable by:

  • taking appropriate ‘hardware’ measures, e.g. providing suitable guards, protection devices, markings and warning devices, system control devices (such as emergency stop buttons) and personal protective equipment; and
  • taking appropriate ‘software’ measures such as following safe systems of work (e.g. ensuring maintenance is only performed when equipment is shut down etc.), and providing adequate information, instruction and training about the specific equipment.

New machines and equipment should be CE marked and be supplied with a Declaration of Conformity. CE Marking on a product is a manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with the essential requirements of the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation.

Working with machinery can be dangerous because moving machinery can cause injuries in many ways:

  • People can be hit and injured by moving parts of machinery or ejected material. Parts of the body can also be drawn into or trapped between rollers, belts and pulley drives.
  • Sharp edges can cause cuts and severing injuries, sharp-pointed parts can stab or puncture the skin, and rough surface parts can cause friction or abrasion.
  • People can be crushed both between parts moving together or towards a fixed part of the machine, wall or other object, and two parts moving past one another can cause shearing.
  • Parts of the machine, materials and emissions (such as steam or water) can be hot or cold enough to cause burns or scalds and electricity can cause electrical shock and burns.
  • Injuries can also occur due to machinery becoming unreliable and developing faults due to poor or no maintenance or when machines are used improperly through inexperience or lack of training.

In 2015/16, according to the HSE, there were 9 fatalities and 44,000 non-fatal injuries from contact with moving machinery. These figures alone illustrate why machinery safety is so important.

Until next time.

Lee Rance