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What trades need to know about PUWER

PUWER protects tradespeople using work equipment. Find out in this article how to work more safely and meet the PUWER rules.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) were introduced by the government in 1998. PUWER regulations affect people and businesses that own, operate or use a range of work equipment.

PUWER regulations apply to anyone working with equipment. That includes sole traders and self-employed tradespeople as well as limited companies.

A business doesn’t have to own the work equipment to be responsible for people using it. PUWER also covers any equipment belonging to a tradesperson or their employees that they use for work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets and oversees the rules on using work equipment. It provides useful information on using work equipment safely.

Accordingly, HSE can fine businesses that fail to meet PUWER regulations.

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What are the PUWER regulations?

PUWER regulations are extensive. Their scope is pretty broad. That means most trades that use equipment are likely to need to know their responsibilities.

What work equipment means

This is quite a wide category. Examples include:

  • Machinery
  • Appliances
  • Tools
  • Vehicles used for work
  • Computers, printers, copiers and display screens

What using work equipment means

Similarly, the use of work equipment covers lots of operational aspects. It can cover the following:

  • Starting
  • Stopping
  • Programming
  • Setting up
  • Transporting
  • Repairing
  • Modifying
  • Maintaining, servicing and cleaning

What should go in a PUWER checklist?

A checklist is a handy way to make sure you know what you are doing before starting to use equipment.

Work equipment must be:

  • Suitable for what you use it for
  • Safe to use
  • Properly maintained
  • Regularly inspected

People using work equipment must:

  • Receive training and instructions on using the equipment
  • Understand the relevant health and safety measures related to using the work equipment

Keep accurate records

Good record-keeping about work equipment is essential. It helps ensure tradespeople aren’t taking unnecessary risks.

Accurate records can also help a business should things go wrong. That could mean equipment has to be returned because it is faulty. Or if someone is injured using equipment that involves an insurance claim.

What to include in a work equipment PUWER checklist:

  • Make and model number
  • Where the equipment is usually kept
  • Names of people authorised to use the equipment
  • Details of training provided to equipment users
  • Does using the equipment require personal protective equipment
  • Are there areas where the equipment can’t be used, for example, in wet weather
  • Are the start/stop controls easy to see and operate
  • Does the equipment need ventilation or extra space around it
  • Dates of equipment inspections and who carried them out
  • If a fault has been reported on the equipment and how it was dealt with
  • Details of repairs and upgrades to equipment

Safety for equipment users

As well as checking work equipment, businesses also need to safeguard people using it. Some trades, such as construction, require a lot of personal safety.

Working at height with equipment is another high-risk area. Buying PPE for people using work equipment can be expensive, but it’s a cost that shouldn’t be avoided. There are ways to save money on PPE.

How do PUWER inspections work?

HSE can fine businesses for failing to maintain equipment safely. All equipment used for work should always be safe to use.

However, HSE says that not all equipment needs formal inspections, a visual check is usually considered sufficient.

Some businesses choose to commission expert inspectors to carry out the work for them. This is often the approach of larger businesses or those with a lot of equipment to check. Bringing in outside experts could also be useful if the equipment is complicated or poses a high risk to users.

What to look for in a PUWER inspection

  • Can the equipment be operated safely?
  • Can it be adjusted and maintained safely?
  • Has the equipment been properly installed?
  • Is the equipment wearing out or in need of repair?

The thoroughness of inspections should increase with the risk to safety when using it. The frequency of inspections should also increase with older equipment.

Who should carry out a PUWER inspection?

HSE recommends that the person should be someone who knows what equipment to look at. They should know what to look for. And they should know what to do if there is a problem with the equipment.

Useful information to help carry out a PUWER inspection includes:

  • Manufacturer’s recommendations and operational guides
  • The latest industry advice and best-practice recommendations

How often you carry out a PUWER inspection will depend on your risk assessment of the equipment.

What is a PUWER risk assessment?

A PUWER risk assessment aims to identify the risks and hazards of using work equipment. That is, the risk assessment helps determine how often an inspection needs to be conducted.

Things to consider in a PUWER risk assessment include:

  • The potential hazards of using the equipment
  • Whether the hazards pose a risk to equipment users

Once a risk assessment has been completed, you can provide details of what safety measures are required for the equipment. Chiefly, that means wearing PPE.

It’s a good idea to repeat a risk assessment regularly to make sure your working practices are as safe as possible


What trades have to meet PUWER regulations?

Any business using work equipment has to meet PUWER regulations. That includes sole traders and self-employed tradespeople.

What should go in a PUWER checklist?

A checklist provides a handy summary that work equipment is being properly maintained and people know how to use it safely. As a result, it needs information relevant to your trade.

Why is a PUWER inspection important?

A PUWER inspection is a regular, detailed examination of work equipment to ensure it is still safe to use. Once actioned, HSE can fine businesses for failing to meet PUWER regulations.

What is a PUWER risk assessment?

A PUWER risk assessment looks at the potential hazards of using work equipment and assesses the risks these pose to people. You need to carry out a risk assessment to ensure the right level of inspection is carried out.

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This is information – not advice or recommendation. The content and materials featured or linked to on this blog are for your information and education only and are not intended to address your particular personal requirements. The information does not constitute business advice or recommendation and should not be considered as such. Always do your own research and seek independent advice when required. Any arrangement made between you and any third party named or linked to from the site is at your sole risk and responsibility. Checkatrade blog and its associated writers assume no liability for your actions.

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