PUWER, Work Equipment and Construction Safety
PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It is all about the application of work equipment by employees. The current regulations replaced the original ones that began in 1992. Mobile, woodworking, and power press equipment are now included.
Whenever you provide workers with equipment, it has to be suitable for its purposes: safe: have all the legally-required controls, guards, interlocks and other stopping devices and warnings: and those who use it must be properly trained.
Other health and safety requirements that also apply include LOLER for lifting devices, Pressure Systems safety regulations and PPE regulations for personal equipment.
Bear in mind that even if you have not supplied it, you are responsible for the use, servicing, maintenance, cleaning and repair of work equipment even if your workers or subcontractors have brought their own tools and machines to your workplace. Quite a responsibility.
Equipment Hiring Risks
If your firm hires work equipment out, you must also manage the risks from it, and make sure the equipment is built or adapted to be fit for purpose. Given that the users will be out of your sight, it is especially crucial to carry out risk assessment on each item, taking into account how and where it might be used, and take any necessary action.
Other issues that must be addressed in any situation include:
- where a machine has a maintenance log, keeping this up to date
- where the manner of its installation is important, it must be inspected after installation and before being used
- if its deteriorating condition may cause dangerous situations, it must be inspected to ensure faults are detected in good time so the risk to health and safety is managed
- where the use of work equipment is likely to involve a specific risk to health and safety, a good example being circular saws where the blade cannot be completely shrouded, ensure that the use of the equipment is restricted to those people trained and appointed to use it
- using fixed guarding and, where routine access is needed, interlocked guards (sometimes with guard locking) to stop dangerous parts moving before an operator can reach the danger area. Where this is not possible you must protect as much as possible and adopt a safe system of working
- managing risks from equipment that gives rise to very hot or cold temperatures
- providing protection if machinery routinely has parts or waste falling from or being ejected from it
- ensuring work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise, to avoid injury
Most equipment used by contractors or subcontractors on a construction site is caught by this PUWER legislation. New work equipment must conform to the European Community Machinery Directive. You must check it has a CE mark, a Declaration of Conformity and has English instructions.
If this is equipment that carries people, the risks from rolling over must be minimised, and any person being carried must be protected against being crushed or otherwise injured in a fall or roll over.
If you are in any doubt about these wide-ranging requirements, seek advice from a qualified firm of Health and Safety Consultants.
The ACOP acronym stands for Approved Code of Practice. The Health & Safety Executive issues these on a large number of topics, including PUWER. They are not mandatory but will often be used against you in any enforcement action if you have not complied. Other related ACOPs cover:
- Using metal Power Presses
- Woodworking machinery
- Lifting equipment
Just to make things more complicated, the regulations overlap with other legislation including LOLER in the case of lifting equipment, Electricity at Work, and PPE for equipment that protects the individual.
For help and practical solutions concerning PUWER or all the other challenges that the construction industry faces, such as where to find an experienced CDM Coordinator or how to complete risk assessments, consult McCormack Benson Health & Safety.