This page gives advice on safe and healthy use of work equipment.

You will also find details of legal duties and obligations, and links to further information.

Quick links:

What is work equipment?
Why manage the risks of work equipment?
Legal duties and obligations around work equipment
Assessing risks from work equipment
Controlling risks from work equipment
Equipment selection
Maintenance and inspection
Training and instruction
Mobile work equipment
Power presses
Further information on work equipment

What is work equipment?

Work equipment generally is any equipment used at work and includes the following:

hand tools, such as hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, spanners, knives, meat cleavers, saws, scissors, etc.
machines, such as drilling machines, portable power tools, floor polishing machines, power presses, circular saws, photocopiers, dumper trucks, motor vehicles, excavating equipment, etc.
lifting equipment, such as fork-lift trucks, vehicle hoists, lifting slings, patient bath lifts, etc.
other equipment, such as ladders, kick stools, water pressure cleaners, etc.

Why manage the risks of work equipment?

All work equipment has the potential to cause problems in the workplace. If we fail to manage the risks associated with the use of work equipment, we could be putting the person using that piece of equipment and others at risk.

Everyone uses work equipment to a greater or lesser degree as part of his or her work. We must make sure that we manage the risks associated with the use of work equipment.

By selecting suitable equipment, maintaining it properly, and training people to use the equipment correctly, risks to employees and others can be minimised.

Legal duties and obligations around work equipment

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
These Regulations include provisions relating to all aspects of work equipment, from ensuring that employers identify and purchase appropriate work equipment, to maintenance and training on safe use.

Many previous requirements relating to the guarding of machinery are included in these Regulations.

The Regulations also detail specific requirements in relation to power presses and mobile equipment.

To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998
These Regulations make specific requirements with regards to lifting equipment, including equipment used to lift people.

For more information on LOLER, please see our page on Lifting Operations and Equipment.

Assessing the risks from work equipment

A Risk Assessment should be carried out in order to identify any control measures needed to eliminate or reduce the risks presented by activities relating to the use, maintenance and installation of work equipment.

Where possible, risk assessments should be part of the purchasing process at the earliest possible stage. Consider the risks associated with the equipment, the work and the people who will be carrying it out.

The risk assessment process should take into account the working environment, location, local site conditions and how the work equipment is likely to be used.

Considering who will use the equipment will help to identify what information, instruction and training will be required to ensure that the equipment is used safely.

Download Healthy Working Lives' Risk Assessment Form

Download Risk Assessment Form ­- Worked Example

Controlling risks from work equipment

Any risks created by the use of the equipment should be eliminated where possible, or controlled.

A combination of measures may be necessary depending on the circumstances, your assessments of the risks involved, and how practical the control measures are.

These could include suitable guards, protection devices, markings, warning devices, system control devices (such as Emergency Off (EMO) buttons), safe systems of work, training and personal protective equipment.

Guards must be of sound construction and adequate strength. They also need to be kept in good repair and not be easily defeated. Guards must be a sufficient distance from the dangerous part(s) of the machinery and must not increase the risks by making it more difficult to see whether the equipment is operating safely.

Protective devices, system controls, warning devices and markings need to be safely located, prominent and easily identifiable. Start, stop and emergency stop controls may be required in some cases. Wherever possible, controls should allow the equipment to fail to safety in an emergency.

Personal Protective Equipment must be provided where guards, safety devices or other controls cannot eliminate risks such as noise, vibration and hazardous substances.

Safe systems of work must be used along with using appropriate procedures (e.g. ensuring maintenance is only performed when equipment is shut down, etc.) and providing adequate information, instruction and training.

Equipment selection

You should make sure that when you select work equipment you select equipment that is suitable for its intended purpose. Correctly selecting equipment will reduce the chances of loss, damage or injury to plant, equipment and people.

It is important to note that items suitable for home may be unsuitable for use as work equipment.

A good example of this is stepladders. A set of stepladders suitable for occasional use at home are unlikely to be strong enough for daily use at work.

Similarly, some hand or power tools that would be acceptable for occasional DIY use will not be robust enough to be used on a construction site. Indeed, most power tools for home use will be 240v but should be 110v for use on a site.

Maintenance and inspection

Work equipment should be maintained in a safe condition. This includes any routine or preventative maintenance and or repairs carried out to equipment. It is important that records are kept of all maintenance.

Equipment should be inspected to ensure that it is, and continues to be, safe for use. There may be circumstances where deterioration of the equipment could lead to a dangerous situation developing.

Where this is the case a competent person should inspect the equipment. Once again, it is important that records are kept of these inspections.

Training and instruction

Anyone using work equipment must have received adequate training, instruction and information for the particular equipment.

It may be necessary to provide instructions in writing, and to consider certain groups in more detail, such as young people, fork lift truck drivers, or plant operators, etc.

Refresher training may be required in certain circumstances to ensure that the users are using the equipment as they were originally trained to do so.

Mobile work equipment

Regulations (i.e. PUWER) require that where mobile work equipment is used for carrying people, it is suitable for this purpose.

Measures should be taken to reduce the risks (e.g. from it rolling over) to the safety of the people being carried, the operator and anyone else.

This could include providing suitable seating, barriers and guards, and restraining systems such as seat belts, etc.

In some circumstances, the need for roll over protection will also need to be considered. This should be based on a risk assessment and fitted where it will not pose any additional risk to the operator.

Power presses

Under PUWER, there are specific requirements relating to power presses.

In particular, power presses and associated protection devices should be thoroughly examined at specified intervals. These are often referred to as statutory inspections.

Presses should also be inspected daily to ensure that they are safe. Inspections should only be performed by a competent person and records should be kept of all inspections.

The Health and Safety Executive has produced free guidance on power presses:

Download or order Power Presses: A summary of guidance on maintenance and thorough examination INDG375 (external site)

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