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How can I ensure that the equipment I use meets the statutory regulations?

 25/11/2015    Last Modified: 04/02/2016

Work Equipment

Legal requirements

The primary objective of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) is to ensure that work equipment should not result in health and safety risks, regardless of its age, condition or origin and that it should be suitable for its intended use and fit for purpose.

What is Work Equipment?

The scope of ‘work equipment’ is extremely wide. It covers almost any equipment used at work, including:

(a) ‘tool box tools’ such as hammers, knives, handsaws etc,

(b) single machines such as drills, chainsaws, chippers etc,

(c) apparatus such as laboratory apparatus (Bunsen burners etc),

(d) lifting equipment such as hoists, elevating work platforms, slings etc (the lifting/lowering requirements are mainly dealt with under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998),

(e) other equipment such as ladders, pressure water cleaners etc.

New or used?

Items of work equipment first provided for use from 5 December 1998 will need to meet all the requirements of PUWER 98. Pre-used equipment is treated as new when brought into use and so will also need to meet the provisions of PUWER 98 before it is put into use.


Work equipment must be suitable for the purpose that it is intended to fulfil in the conditions it is likely to be used. Issues such as ergonomics, vibration, fumes etc should all be considered in selecting the correct equipment, e.g. the correct chainsaw for the job in hand.

Inspection and Maintenance

Intervals of inspection will depend upon the type of equipment, where it is used and how it is used. An inspection will vary from a simple visual external inspection to a detailed comprehensive inspection. Inspections should always include those safety-related parts which are necessary for safe operation of equipment (see relevant AFAG/FISA Guides etc.).

Work equipment must be maintained so that it is safe. Maintenance should ensure that the equipment’s performance does not deteriorate to the extent that it puts people at risk. It is not concerned with productivity. Some parts of equipment such as guards, ventilation equipment, emergency shutdown systems and pressure relief devices have to be maintained to do their job at all times. Equipment may need to be checked frequently to ensure that safety-related features are functioning correctly as these may not be as obvious as productive features, i.e. chainsaw anti-vibration systems as opposed to chain cutters. Frequency of checks should take into account the intensity of use, the operating environment and the risk to health and safety from malfunction or failure. Guards, controls, stop mechanisms, safety decals and any other safety-related feature must work at all times or the equipment must be withdrawn from use and clearly identifiable as ‘out of service’.

Simple hand tools usually require minimal maintenance, but could require repair or replacement at intervals. More complex powered equipment will normally be accompanied by a manufacturer’s maintenance manual, which specifies routine and special maintenance procedures to be carried out at particular intervals (possibly by specialist contractors). Records should be kept of inspection and maintenance as appropriate.

Information and Training

Information, instruction and training relating to the safe operation of any equipment supplied for use at work must be given by the employer to enable operators to be competent. Where chainsaws are used at work there is a specific requirement for a competence certificate, over and above evidence of adequate training.

Further information:

health & safety, regulations, working equipment