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02 Sep 2016

PUWER: a quick guide to seeing the wood for the trees

Sometimes rules and regulations can seem overwhelming. Invariably, there’s a fair bit of reading to do. It can often be helpful to have a quick ‘precis’ of the document, to help you establish who it applies to, and what’s covered, before you commit to reading the whole darned thing. Even better, approaching it with an idea of what’s inside helps you home in faster on the bits most important to you.

So here’s a quick key to PUWER and what it means to you.

What is it?

PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) came into force alongside the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) - see our simple guide to LOLER here. Both of these were created to implement the EU’s changes to the Use of Work Equipment Directive (AUWED).

Who does it apply to?

  • If you’re an employer, or self-employed, and provide equipment for use at work, then PUWER applies to you.
  • If you supervise, manage or control the use of equipment, then PUWER applies to you.
  • PUWER also applies to equipment being used by people working from home.
  • It doesn’t apply to equipment in the public domain, like the compressed air at your local petrol station.
  • It doesn’t apply to the seller of equipment – it’s the responsibility of the buyer make sure that the equipment is installed and used correctly.

What equipment does it apply to?

  • Essentially everything, from hammers, wrenches and ladders, right up to the complex stuff like vehicles, lab apparatus and machinery. Lifting equipment is covered by PUWER, but in addition, has its very own set of regulations, which we will cover in another post.
  • If employees provide their own equipment, beware: these then are also covered by PUWER.
  • It’s worth noting that PUWER applies to the ‘normal use’ of equipment, as well as repairing, modifying, servicing, cleaning and transporting it.

How do other regulations impact upon it?

  • PUWER works in tandem with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which places a duty on all to take care of themselves and other affected by their actions, as well as to cooperate with others in the pursuit of safety. Where this Act applies, so does PUWER.
  • The Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999 requires that risk assessments are carried out to identify the potential risks of any work situation.

Where does PUWER apply?

  • Wherever the Health and Safety at work Act applies, so does PUWER.
  • This can be anywhere within Great Britain, including off shore sites.

So what do I have to do?

Take care of the following three points, and then get ready for some reading!

  • You must ensure that the work equipment you provide is suitable for the user, the job they’re doing and the environment in which they’re working.
  • Equipment must be maintained in a safe condition for use. This means that risk assessments should identify appropriate maintenance frequency and techniques. In some instances, you’ve a duty to maintain a log too.
  • Equipment should be inspected in certain circumstances. These circumstances include: before any equipment is used, and after assembly at a new site or location. Equipment should also be inspected when its normal use, or the environment it’s in, is likely to cause deterioration. Inspections should be carried out by someone who is competent to do so. 

So how do I get going?

Now that you know how PUWER impacts upon you, you’re in a good place for an informed read of the full guidelines – especially the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which is first up in this list and can be downloaded in full for free.