What is PUWER and does it apply to my business?

PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) is another set of regulations introduced to ensure that people and businesses who operate or have control of work equipment are responsible for ensuring the equipment’s upkeep, safety, and maintenance.

It places responsibility on the company whose employees use the equipment and are there to keep all individuals safe while making sure it is clear who is responsible for maintaining safety standards. 

PUWER and LOLER are often linked due to the similarities between both regulations. However, it is critical not to get these two regulations confused. LOLER applies to lifting equipment, whereas PUWER applies to all equipment. PUWER’s primary goal is to make working life safer for everyone using or coming into contact with any machinery or equipment that is kept within the workplace. It applies to employers, employees, contractors, suppliers and anyone else who can come into contact with machinery within your business.

PUWER requires that equipment used at work is suitable and safe for intended use, is maintained and inspected correctly, stored in an appropriate location preventing it from becoming damaged or parts deteriorating due to weather conditions and are used only by individuals who have received the proper training and are experienced and competent in using the equipment. It is also vital that all equipment has regular and accurate health and safety checks. This includes checking the emergency stop on devices, checking all controls are in working order and positioned in a safe and stable location. 

PUWER mustn’t be confused with LOLER, another regulation with different laws and requirements. A simple way to remember the difference between the two is by understanding that LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations) does exactly what it says. It applies to lifting equipment and the correct procedures to ensure that any lifts performed by machinery in a workplace are done safely and follow the regulations of LOLER. LOLER is in place to ensure all lifts are completed safely, whereas PUWER is in place to ensure that all equipment, not just lifting equipment, is used correctly and safely. It covers anything from drilling machines and circular saws to ladders and photocopiers.

PUWER regulations apply to workplaces across the whole of Great Britain and even to offshore installations such as; oil rigs and gas supply platforms. Covering employers, self-employed people and those employed to supervise or manage the use of equipment, it’s no wonder PUWER is one of the most essential regulations enforced today. However, it doesn’t stop there. Although most regulations sound very corporate and appear to only apply to more significant businesses, PUWER applies to all. If you use equipment, are self-employed, operating for profit or not, you have a legal obligation to comply with the regulations put in place. 

Regulations can get slightly confusing on where, when and who they apply to. For example, PUWER does not refer to equipment used by the public. Any equipment that is used by the public comes under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that most of us are familiar with. In the event of equipment being supplied or sold, it is up to the buyer or leaser of the equipment to ensure that all equipment is installed and used so that it complies with the required regulations and does not pose any risk to those at work or those surrounding.

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Does PUWER apply to my business?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Unlike LOLER, which, as we have covered, only applies to lifting equipment, PUWER applies to all equipment. So if you run a business that has access to or uses any form of equipment, you can guarantee it has to meet the regulations set by PUWER. Not doing so is breaking the law and could result in severe consequences.

PUWER is in place to ensure the safety of individuals. It was not introduced to inconvenience or add expenses to a company, but to keep all employees, contractors, members of the public and you as a business owner safe. Accidents at work are not uncommon, with thousands occurring each year. However, due to regulations, these incidents can be resolved within the workplace, preventing companies from being involved in legal proceedings due to not following the correct regulations.

PUWER also enables you to keep an organised and on-track record of when equipment has been serviced or when it needs to be. It’s easy to overlook certain things when running a company; however, with all inspections documented and equipment correctly labeled, you will find yourself spending less time trying to remember when the equipment was last inspected and instead be able to refer to the correct documents that will give you an exact date and state the results of the inspection.

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to protect your employees and yourself when using machinery or equipment. This should be done by carrying out risk assessments. Identify any hazards and make a note of anything that could potentially cause harm. This will help eliminate the risk as it will have already been identified and dealt with. When assessing risk, always consider the level of damage that could actually happen. Could it be minor or fatal? Either way understanding the different levels will help you reduce the risk by asking yourself how to minimise it and eliminate it. If a risk can’t be eliminated, having a plan to minimise and mitigate any potential risks can allow you time to deal with any incidents that may surface in the future. 

To summarise, PUWER, if you are a business owner, most definitely does apply to you. It is your responsibility as the employer to provide a safe working environment to everyone on site. You are required to ensure all the relevant inspections have been completed, that all work equipment is maintained and in good working order, keep an up-to-date maintenance log, take all necessary measures to prevent risk and ensure that all employees are adequately trained in using equipment safely and correctly.

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