What does PUWER stand for in health and safety?
PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. The regulations require that the equipment you use at work is safe and suitable and that it is maintained, inspected, and installed correctly. PUWER also requires that equipment is used only by competent people, that have had adequate information, instruction and training.
Because PUWER is a set of regulations, it's a legal requirement.
What equipment is covered by PUWER?
The regulations cover every type of work equipment you can think of. If you use the equipment at work, it's covered by PUWER.
“work equipment” means any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not);
PUWER covers any item of machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation. If it is used at work (exclusively or not), PUWER applies.
Who does PUWER apply to?
PUWER places duties on employers, the self-employed, and anyone who has control of work equipment. The regulations apply to those who own, operate, and use work equipment. If you buy equipment, hire out equipment, hire equipment, or use equipment, you need to know about PUWER.
The use of equipment covers a wide range of activities. Even if you are just responsible for turning the equipment off, or cleaning it after it has been used.
“use” in relation to work equipment means any activity involving work equipment and includes starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing and cleaning;
What are the main requirements of PUWER?
In summary, PUWER requires that:
- Equipment is suitable for the purpose used
- Equipment is maintained in good working order
- Equipment is inspected after installation and at suitable intervals
- All persons using work equipment have suitable instruction, information and training
- Guards and protection devices are used to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery
- Protection is provided from ejection, rupture, overheating, burns, scalds and other equipment hazards
- You select and provide appropriate controls
- Controls for starting, stopping (including emergency stop controls) and controlling the speed
- All controls are clearly visible and identifiable
- All control systems are safe and make allowance for failures and faults
- Equipment is provided with suitable means to isolate from all sources of energy
- Equipment is stabilised where necessary
- Suitable and sufficient lighting is provided
- Maintenance operations can be carried out safely
- Equipment is marked appropriately for reasons of health and safety
- Equipment incorporates any warnings or warning devices
- Ensure mobile work equipment is used safely
- Ensure power presses are used safely
That's quite a list of requirements! But the aim of PUWER is simple - equipment at work must be used safely.
However, the regulations contain some fairly specific requirements about how you must do that. These rules apply to every piece of work equipment, all of the time.
How often is equipment checked under PUWER?
Equipment should be checked under PUWER:
- After installation (before first use)
- After assembly at a new location (e.g. if the equipment is moved)
- At suitable intervals
- After exceptional circumstances
The duration of suitable intervals will often depend on the environment the equipment is used in. For example, in external or demanding environments like construction sites or industrial sites, equipment may deteriorate quickly and need regular inspections.
If equipment is exposed to exceptional circumstances, for example, extreme weather or an incident, then it should be inspected to check it remains safe before it is used again.
PUWER inspection requirements are a minimum standard for all workplace equipment. Some equipment may have more strict inspection requirements under other regulations. For example, lifting equipment (under LOLER), and power presses (see the extra requirements section at the end of this blog post).
Find out more about the differences between LOLER and PUWER.
What does PUWER mean for your business?
But what does PUWER mean in terms of day-to-day use? Because let's face it, nearly all businesses use equipment in one form or another.
What it means is, you are fine to use work equipment - but you must use it safely. It may not be possible to eliminate 100% of the risk, but risks must be controlled.
You should use the right equipment for the job, and make sure it's got all the right parts and is in safe working order. How do you know if it's safe? Inspections and regular maintenance.
It sounds fairly straightforward, and it can be. But once you have more than a few items of equipment it can become a complex task to keep on top of the requirements. The simplest way is to keep an inventory and a log of maintenance and inspections. In fact, PUWER requires you to keep the results of inspections and maintenance logs up to date.
Once you know the equipment is safe, you then can make sure it is used safely. It needs to have the right guards. It must be stable. It needs to be operated correctly. How can you make sure it is used safely? Instruction and training.
Now we know what PUWER stands for, and what the regulations cover. Let's go a little deeper into what the requirements mean for your business.
You should use the right equipment
The first requirement of PUWER is to ensure equipment is suitable for the purpose used. That means using the right equipment. Is it designed for the job you have intended? If in doubt, contact the manufacturer.
Equipment must be safe to use
PUWER requires equipment to be in good working order. It must be maintained and inspected regularly. The manufacturer's instructions will contain maintenance information.
Routine checks and preventative maintenance help keep your equipment in a safe condition.
Guard dangerous parts of equipment
Moving and rotating parts of equipment can be dangerous, as they present a risk of entanglement and cuts. Fixed, interlocking and automatic guards should all be in place before use.
Check guards are suitable, allow the machine to be cleaned and maintained, and don't increase any risks or cause restrictions.
Control the risks
Even the right equipment in good working order creates risks. PUWER requires controls to be in place to protect against hazards. Controls to consider include stop, start and speed adjustments, and emergency controls.
Where there are hazards identified, PUWER requires employers to take measures to ensure any risks to health or safety are prevented or controlled.
(3) The hazards referred to in paragraph (1) are—
- any article or substance falling or being ejected from work equipment;
- rupture or disintegration of parts of work equipment;
- work equipment catching fire or overheating;
- the unintended or premature discharge of any article or of any gas, dust, liquid, vapour or other substance which, in each case, is produced, used or stored in the work equipment;
- the unintended or premature explosion of the work equipment or any article or substance produced, used or stored in it.
Use equipment correctly
Sometimes, accidents with work equipment happen not because the equipment was unsafe, but because of the way it was being used. Work equipment is powerful and can get the job done, but in the wrong hands, that power is dangerous.
Users must know what guards are needed, how to stop equipment in an emergency, and how to control it during use. No one should use work equipment unless they have been provided with information and instruction on its safe use, and training as necessary.
Mobile work equipment and power presses get their own section (part 3 and part 4) of the regulations.
Mobile Work Equipment
Mobile work equipment is equipment that moves, either during work or between work areas. Forklift trucks, tractors and trailers are examples of mobile work equipment.
PUWER requires that employees are not carried on mobile equipment unless it is designed for that purpose. There must be roll-over protection, and the risk of overturning reduces as low as reasonably practicable.
Mobile work equipment should be fitted with safety features like cab barriers, seat restraints, roll-over protection and protective cages.
Use the forklift truck checklist to carry out a safety check.
“power press” means a press or press brake for the working of metal by means of tools, or for die proving, which is power driven and which embodies a flywheel and clutch;
Power presses are also high-risk items of work equipment and get special consideration under PUWER. Accidents with power presses can lead to serious injury or amputation.
Many of the same rules apply, but more strict requirements surround thorough examination of the equipment and guards. Timeframes are also given for examination at 6-12 months and after exceptional circumstances.
Need help risk assessing your work equipment? Start with the PUWER risk assessment template, or browse our library of 100+ risk assessment templates.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.