The Power of Puwer
The construction industry seems to be awash with acronyms and it’s sometimes difficult to keep on top of them all and know what is what. Today, we’re taking a look at PUWER – Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
PUWER is the set of regulations that deal with the machinery and work equipment that is in everyday use in workplaces. These regulations are designed to ensure workers are kept safe wherever machinery and equipment is used at work and replaces the Provision of Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 bringing some up to date changes and additions to the existing requirements.
PUWER – What is it?
PUWER aims to enhance workplace safety for everybody, including employees, employers, contractors, suppliers and anybody else who may use or have access to machinery in the workplace. The regulations specify that all equipment must be:
- Suitable for its intended purpose
- Regularly maintained to ensure safety
- Used only by people who have been adequately trained to do so
- Inspected by a competent worker
Who does PUWER apply to?
The PUWER regulations apply to all work activities throughout the whole of the UK and any offshore installations (such as oil rigs and gas supply platforms). Groups covered by PUWER include:
- Self-employed people and the equipment they use or control
- People who are employed to manage or supervise the use of equipment operated by others
PUWER regulations apply to all businesses, not just the large ones. If you use or control work equipment of any type or if you are self-employed, then you have a legal requirement to follow PUWER regs.
When does PUWER not apply?
- For equipment that is used by the public – this comes under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
- Those who have supplied or sold equipment – it is the duty of the purchaser to make sure that the equipment is specified, installed and used so that it does not present a risk to those at work
The PUWER regulations focus on the knowledge, training and experience of the user. For example when using high risk machinery (such as power presses) there is a legal obligation that the equipment is examined and tested by a “competent person” before being put into use for the first time and then again every six or twelve months, depending on the type of safety guard fitted.
Machine users are also required to carry out inspections and test the safety devices every day that the equipment is used to ensure that it stays safe to use.
PUWER legally requires that all equipment used in the workplace should have been constructed or adapted so that it does not post an unacceptable risk to health and safety in the conditions in which it is used.
When using equipment – there are two questions to ask yourself before you start:
- Will it work and be safe as it is?
- Will it need to be adapted in order to ensure safety?
Employers have a legal obligation to protect their workers and themselves when using machinery or equipment and this involves carrying out a risk assessment to:
- Identify hazards and make a note of anything that may cause harm
- Eliminate and reduce any risks by asking whether it is possible to do things in a different way
- Assess risks by considering the chance of any harm actually being done (this enables you to work out what action you need to take in order to reduce or eliminate the risks)
If eliminating all risks is not possible, it’s necessary to reduce the risks and identity any precautions which should be taken.