Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 - What it Means to You and Your Business

Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 - What it Means to You and Your Business

author

James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.

Date

31 August 2023

Updated

15 July 2024
3 min read
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Work Equipment Regulations

 

A recent legal case involving Johnsons Textile Services Limited, a leading workwear company, serves as a compelling wake-up call for employers. The company faced a staggering £400,000 fine and £5,919.63 in legal costs for breaching safety measures under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. So, what does this mean for your business?

Who Needs to Know This Information?

If you're an employer, a manager, or an HR representative in the UK, you need to familiarise yourself with PUWER. Not only is it your legal obligation, but it's also crucial for the well-being of your employees. If you're involved in any sector that uses work equipment or machinery, this is directly relevant to you.

What Is Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998?

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 is a set of legal requirements in the United Kingdom that aims to make work equipment safe for use and to protect employees from risks to their health and safety when using equipment. It applies to all workplaces and work situations where the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is relevant. This includes factories, offices, shops, hospitals, construction sites, and many other settings.

Key Requirements of PUWER 1998:

  1. Suitability of Equipment: All work equipment must be fit for its intended purpose and must not be used for tasks it's not suitable for.
  2. Maintenance: Work equipment should be maintained in good working condition, with regular checks and repairs as needed.
  3. Inspections: Regular inspections of work equipment should be carried out to ensure that it remains safe for use.
  4. Information and Instructions: Employers must provide adequate information and instructions on how to use the equipment safely.
  5. Training: Workers must be adequately trained in the use of work equipment.
  6. Safety Measures: Employers must put appropriate safety measures in place, including protective barriers or warning signs, to reduce the risks associated with using work equipment.
  7. Risk Assessment: Employers must conduct a risk assessment to identify hazards associated with the equipment and take appropriate steps to minimise these risks.

Who Is Responsible for Compliance?

Employers are primarily responsible for compliance with PUWER 1998. However, it is also applicable to those who have control of work equipment, including self-employed individuals, equipment suppliers, and those who hire out equipment.

Penalties for Non-Compliance:

Non-compliance with PUWER can result in severe penalties, including fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment. Regulatory bodies like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have the authority to enforce these regulations and may conduct inspections to ensure compliance.

By understanding and adhering to the guidelines set forth by PUWER 1998, employers can create a safer work environment and minimise the risk of accidents, injuries, and legal repercussions.

Why Is This Important?

In the case of Johnsons Textile Services, an employee named Sharon Chaplin suffered a horrific hand injury due to inadequately guarded machinery. Her ordeal highlighted several deficiencies:

  1. Inadequate Machine Guarding: The machinery was not sufficiently guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts.
  2. Poor Risk Assessment: The company failed to adequately assess the risks involved with the machinery.
  3. Lack of Safety Systems: There were ineffective health and safety management systems in place.

This case illustrates that gaps in health and safety protocols can lead to severe human and financial consequences.

Consequences of Ignoring PUWER

Ignoring PUWER doesn't just endanger your staff; it also puts your company at risk of:

  • Substantial fines.
  • Legal costs.
  • Reputational damage.
  • Lowered productivity due to injured employees.
  • Possible jail time for the most serious offences.

Benefits for Your Business & Employees

Benefits for Your Business & Employees

Implementing proper safety measures isn't just about avoiding negative outcomes; it also brings positive benefits:

  1. Increased Productivity: Employees work better when they know their safety is a priority.
  2. Reduced Legal Risks: By complying with PUWER, you're less likely to face lawsuits or fines.
  3. Improved Reputation: A strong safety record can make your company more appealing to customers, partners, and potential hires.
  4. Employee Retention: Safe workplaces are conducive to long-term employment.

How to Ensure Compliance with PUWER

  1. Regularly Update Risk Assessments: Circumstances change, and your risk assessments should too.
  2. Safety Audits: Periodically conduct safety audits to ensure all equipment is up to code.
  3. Employee Training: Regularly update your staff on the proper use of equipment and what to do in case of an emergency.

Summary

The PUWER 1998 is not just a legal requirement but an essential element of responsible business practice. The cost of non-compliance, both in human and financial terms, is too high to ignore so always work to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to protect your employees and your business.

If you need professional assistance in navigating these regulatory waters, Neathouse Partners can help you simplify employment law, health and safety, and HR services for your business, irrespective of its size. Contact us today for expert guidance.

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