How to Make Sure your Work Equipment is Safe to Use
Here in the UK we have a wide range of laws, guides, codes and standards that were designed to help ensure that equipment provided for use at work is in a safe condition. The legislation aims to make sure that purchased equipment is fit for the task and safe to use. Once the equipment has been purchased, then there are separate regulations to ensure that once the equipment is installed or in place, that it is maintained and safe to operate or use.
There are regulations covering all types of equipment from access equipment that is needed to reach the job to the machinery and tools which will be used to carry out the task. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) expand the general rules set out in section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which requires that employers provide and maintain safe equipment, plant and work systems. This applies to all work equipment including items that are leased, hired or second hand and the regulations apply to most workplaces.
The term “work equipment” is broadly defined to include any machinery, appliance, apparatus or tool, assembly or components which work together or function as a whole. This means that ladders, step units, mobile work platforms and other access equipment are all covered by the regulations.
Although workplace injuries have been radically reduced in recent years, this is no reason for us to become complacent and cut corners. The overall rate of fatal injury has dropped below a five year average to 0.5 per 100,000 workers. However, there were still 148 fatal injuries in the workplace between April 2012 and March 2013 and these were in key industrial sectors. The construction industry was responsible for 39 of those fatalities and it still remains the most risky industry for workers in the UK.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) which represents the majority of trade unions, has welcomed the decrease in fatal injuries in the workplace, but still warns against complacency. Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC, said “The drop in number of people killed while at work is welcome, but any death is one too many and today’s figures will be of no comfort to the families of the 148 people who died last year.”
She went on to warn that recent cuts to the inspection budget will result in fewer workplaces receiving a visit from a safety inspector which could create an environment where some employers will be less attentive to workplace safety.
A survey of 2000 UK workers revealed that a massive 20% of responders say their workplace currently contains an obvious hazard or danger that is not being dealt with in an appropriate manner. Even more worrying, nearly a quarter of UK workers disclosed that their employers actually cut corners when it comes to health and safety issues.
We need to make workplace fatalities a thing of the past in the UK, especially in the construction industry, where access equipment means that workers have an extra risk to consider when working.