Employees using equipment? You need to know PUWER

Wes Barker

December 20 2019

Two recent health & safety cases in Northern Ireland have drawn attention to PUWER.

Now, you may be asking what PUWER is exactly. In brief, they’re regulations that place a duty on employers to protect employees’ health & safety ─ regulations you need to understand.

What is PUWER?

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 (PUWER), place a duty on employers to protect employees’ safety through the proper selection and use of work equipment.

Equipment used by employees at work is covered by the PUWER regulations. This includes knives, drills, power presses, circular saws and lifting equipment.

The PUWER regulations aim is to ensure that equipment is:

  • Suitable for its intended use.
  • Regularly maintained and inspected by a competent person to ensure safety.
  • Only used by those who have received adequate information, instruction and training.
  • Accompanied by suitable safety measures.

Does PUWER apply to me?

It does if you’re:

  • An employer
  • Self-employed
  • Those employed to supervise or manage the use of work equipment

What do I need to do?

Risk assessment

Risk assessments will aid you in selecting work equipment and assessing its suitability for particular tasks. Consider the type of work equipment and the hazards people may be exposed to e.g. electrical or mechanical hazards.


The regulations also focus on the knowledge, training and experience of the user. That means you need to ensure that training is provided and is adequate for the work activities being undertaken. In some cases, formal training may be required e.g. using a fork lift truck.

When providing training, consider the following:

  • The task or activity
  • Competency of the workers
  • The supervision involved/required for the task
  • The work equipment

There are several Approved Code of Practice and guidance (ACOP) documents that support PUWER. These include the safe use of work equipment, rider-operated lift trucks, power presses and woodworking machinery. These documents provide further information on what’s needed to comply with the regulations.

Maintenance, inspection & testing

Maintenance requirements can vary from a simple check on basic equipment to an integrated program for complex plant. The frequency of service intervals will normally be found within the manufacturer’s manual. Where safety critical devices such as guards and safety curtains may fail, a formal, planned, preventative maintenance schedule is required.

When work equipment is first installed, moved or relocated, it must be inspected to confirm that it has been installed correctly and is operating safely. Likewise, any safety-related parts such as interlocks and protection devices must be tested to ensure they’re working as intended. You should also ensure that the person carrying out the inspection is competent to do so. Examples of thorough examinations include those of forklift trucks and power presses.

NI firm fined after worker loses arm in rotating screw auger

A Co. Antrim man has been ordered to pay £20,000 after an employee had his arm amputated by a screw auger conveyor at an animal feed manufacturing site.

On the day of the incident, the injured employee was working in McGuckian Milling Company’s blending plant when he noticed a blockage had occurred at a holding bin.

While attempting to rectify the defect, his arm was drawn into an unguarded rotating screw auger. This resulted in the amputation of his left arm below the elbow.

The investigation found that Brian McGuckian failed to provide adequate information, instruction and training for the operation. Investigators also found there was a lack of adequate guarding on the screw auger conveyor.

Two firms fined after metal panel hits worker

A Londonderry farmer and building contractor have each been fined £10,000 after a metal shuttering panel fell on an employee.

On November 16th 2018, a 23-year-old employee of S Higgins Construction was assisting with the preparations for the construction of a concrete reinforced wall at McClure Farm in Coleraine. During this work, a large metal shuttering panel fell onto the employee as he was working close to its base. The worker sustained numerous fractures and injuries as a result of the accident.

A Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland) investigation revealed that the shuttering panel was not properly secured to prevent it falling over. 

Richard McClure, a farmer trading as McClure Farms, was fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to Article 4(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order and reg 13 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (NI). S Higgins Construction admitted breaching the same Article, as well as reg 19 of the CDM NI Regulations. He was also fined £10,000.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on PUWER from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

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