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Getting the PUWER factor right

13 June 2024

When is comes to machine safety it is imperative that you understand your legal responsibilities. Darren Hugheston-Roberts looks at the legislation

MACHINERY SAFETY is one of the most significant issues facing organisations today. It is equally as important as productivity and is essential for the wellbeing of everyone involved.

According to the Machinery Directive (EU) or the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 (UK), machinery is defined as:

1. An assembly, fitted with or intended to be fitted with a drive system other than directly applied human or animal effort, consisting of linked parts or components, at least one of which moves, and which are joined together for a specific application.

2. An assembly referred to in the first indent, missing only the components to connect it on site or to sources of energy and motion.

3. Assemblies of machinery or partly completed machinery which, in order to achieve the same end, are arranged and controlled so that they function as an integral whole.

The Directive also states that a manufacturer is: Any natural or legal person who designs and/or manufactures machinery covered by this Directive and is responsible for the conformity of the machinery with this Directive with a view to its being placed on the market, under his own name or trademark or for his own use.

So, whether you are designing, manufacturing or importing machinery to place onto the market or for your own use, you must understand what your legal duties and responsibilities are. And for end-users of machinery, it is imperative that you understand what is expected from the machinery supplier.

Beyond compliance

Machinery safety is much broader than compliance with the EU Machinery Directive or the UK regulation. The Work Equipment Directive, implemented in the UK by The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) must also be considered.

For machinery owners and those providing machinery for work, PUWER applies to all work equipment regardless of its age or if the equipment carries a CE or UKCA mark. PUWER describes what an employer needs to do to protect and inform employees in the workplace. It is therefore the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the provision, use and management of all machinery complies with PUWER. While many machinery end-users may think that they have PUWER compliance covered, we continue to see common hazards and issues where the regulatory requirements within PUWER and for lifting equipment, the additional regulatory requirements of LOLER have not been met. While meeting the requirements of these regulations can be complex, if a logical and reasonable approach is adopted it doesn’t have to be unworkable.

The primary objective of PUWER is to ensure the provision of safe work equipment and its safe use. This has several components which are interlinked:

- The Regulations are made under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSW Act), and apply to all users and the self-employed covered by that Act in Great Britain except the crews of sea-going ships.

- The Regulations implement European Community (EC) Directive 89/655/EEC, amended by the non-lifting aspects of the Work Equipment Directive (AUWED).

- These regulations place a requirement to carry out a Risk Assessment on all existing equipment.

- Work equipment should not give rise to risks to health and safety, irrespective of its age or place of origin.

- The regulations ask that the electrical system, the control system, guarding and other possible hazards be assessed and corrected if required.

PUWER requires users of work equipment to carry out a risk assessment and provide work equipment that is suitable for its intended use, and which can be used without putting persons at risk. The PUWER Regulations cover any machine, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not).

PUWER assessment is an ongoing process that must be repeated at appropriate intervals, and the assessment should always refer to the latest standards, not the standards that were applicable when a machine was first brought into service.

Regulation 6 of PUWER also requires that inspections must be repeated ‘at suitable intervals’ if machines are exposed to conditions that may lead to deterioration. In reality every machine is exposed to conditions that may lead to deterioration, so the requirement effectively means that all machinery must be periodically inspected.

As an overview, it requires that inspections are carried out:

- After installation and before being put into service for the first time; or after assembly at a new site or in a new location to ensure that it has been installed correctly and is safe to operate.

- After work equipment has been exposed to any conditions causing deterioration, which is liable to cause a dangerous situation.

- At suitable intervals; and

- Each time that exceptional circumstances have occurred that are liable to jeopardise the safety of work equipment.

The results of these inspections must be documented and kept.

CE and UKCA marking

PUWER also requires machine users to ensure that the CE or UKCA conformity and marking process has been properly carried out. Regulation 10 of PUWER, “Conformity with European Community Requirements”, requires that an employer must ensure that any equipment subject to a supply regulation complies with all the applicable Essential Health and Safety Requirements (ESHRs) of the regulations that apply to it. If a machine is ‘significantly modified’ then the machine owner should review if the original conformity assessment is still valid, or if there needs to be a new conformity assessment of the machine which takes account of the ‘significant modification’, if so, this should be done before putting the machine back into service.

In total, there are 39 PUWER regulations. While some of them are rather lengthy tomes, for example Regulation 6 (inspection), its associated guidance notes and Approved Code of Practice is approximately 2500 words, it is possible to construct a simple checklist to determine the necessary actions for compliance. If this process reveals that a potential hazard exists, then a risk assessment must be carried out, with the implementation of appropriate control measures recorded.

In conclusion, risk assessments ensure that machinery meets the requirements of both the Machinery Directive/Regulation and PUWER. A thorough and correct risk assessment should therefore be completed before any new machinery goes into operation and if substantial modifications are made. As PUWER assessments are an ongoing process they should be done periodically or if there is a change or a near hit, assessments must always refer to the latest standards and not to the standards that were applicable when a machine was first brought into service top ensure ‘the state of the art’ is maintained.

Software is available to help you automate this checklist process, and the suppliers of the best packages will be happy to adapt them as necessary, to deal with special requirements. It should also store results locally or in the cloud and produce appropriate reports to confirm that the work has been carried out with due diligence, as well as generating a list of any outstanding action points.

While machinery safety is a complex process, the guidance that is widely available means that there is no excuse for getting PUWER wrong. If in doubt, seek expert advice as the safety of your employees and the reputation of your business may depend upon it.

Darren Hugheston-Roberts is senior manager, digital and industry solutions at TÜV SÜD