Thursday, March 22, 2018
PUWER remains overlooked in too many cases and it should be referenced alongside LOLER more readily in industry, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
First, let’s meet the players:
Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment.
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) place duties on people and companies who own, operate or have control over work equipment.
Importantly, there are times when both apply and there is some overlap. LOLER applies over and above the general requirements of PUWER in dealing with specific hazards / risks associated with lifting equipment and lifting operations. In other words, it builds on the requirements of PUWER. It won’t suffice however to live in a LOLER bubble, even in the lifting sector where I go to work every day.
As the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) says, work equipment is any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work, including equipment that employees provide for their own use at work. The scope of work equipment is vast and the use of work equipment is widely interpreted.
As it pertains to PUWER, it means any activity involving work equipment, including starting, stopping, programming, setting, transporting, repairing, modifying, maintaining, servicing, and cleaning.
LOLER covers a wide range of equipment, including cranes, forklift trucks, lifts, hoists, mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), and vehicle inspection platform hoists; PUWER also covers lifting equipment such as hoists, lift trucks, MEWPs, etc. A mobile crane is perhaps a better example of a piece of equipment that must meet the requirements of LOLER and PUWER. I frequently use it as a reference point because of the easy distinction between the components that lift and others that move it around.
There are many other instances where a comprehensive knowledge of both codes of practice is paramount to safe operation. And in most workspaces, equipment covered by either or both is commonplace. Where a crane or hoist is in operation, for example, there is often another item of equipment nearby. Maybe the same personnel use both tools throughout the course of their shift. An overhead crane might move a load to a part of the production facility, where another tool (work equipment) is used upon it.
Some people isolate LOLER and don’t consider the importance of PUWER. Did you know that the latter places duties on employers, the self-employed, and people who have control of work equipment? It also places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not.
It is not a competition about which is more important, but it is folly to overlook PUWER.
Knowledge is PUWER
It goes without saying that a fundamental requirement of both codes of practice is to ensure that all people using, supervising or managing the use of equipment are provided with adequate, clear health and safety information and have received adequate training. Think about that in the context of a jobsite; it means that the cranes, MEWPs, grinders, presses, etc. must only be operated by personnel properly equipped to do so. Even for a crane business, knowing LOLER inside out will almost certainly not be enough.
It’s important to note that other more specific legislation may also apply, such as the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations and the Electricity at Work Regulations, which must be met alongside PUWER. The aim of this blog isn’t to go into detail on those regs but the references serve a purpose to outline the breadth of knowledge that needs to support the applications of tools in the workplace.
If a team needs to work at height on an installation, it’s not sufficient to understand that everyone needs to wear a safety harness. If a device is fitted incorrectly—say, with too much or too little slack—it can result in equally distressing injuries than a fall from height without one. Each harness needs to be inspected and fitted by a competent person who has been properly trained to do so. Like a crane or hoist, the right harness needs to be selected for the application in hand.
Someone might have been using a piece of equipment for many years but this isn’t necessarily the same as competency. Perhaps an individual has been using an item of machinery with a certain attachment or accessory and then has a need to upgrade or change it for a different application. This could change the speed, weight, behaviour, and more about the tool, meaning the operator is in unfamiliar territory. Renowned training content will likely cover such alterations and ensure no personnel are getting by on experience alone.
If you are an employer (whether as an individual, partnership or company) you have a duty to ensure that items of work equipment provided for your employees and the self-employed working for you comply with PUWER. You have a legal duty to consult with your employees on matters relating to health and safety in the workplace. A culture should exist at all businesses accordingly, whereby that is upheld. Keep repeating it to yourself: nobody should operate any piece of work equipment without being properly trained.
In my opinion, certain poor practices leave some businesses more exposed than others. If a workforce is understaffed and / or work equipment is left lying around, unmarked and inappropriately stored, it is more likely that someone will be tempted to put something to work that they are not equipped to use. Anyone asked to operate equipment they feel they aren’t trained to use should approach their supervisor to get booked onto a training course.
If you are an employee you do not have any specific duties under PUWER, but you do have general legal duties to take reasonable care of yourself and others. That’s an important point on which to close, as ultimately we should all be doing everything in our power to ensure everyone goes home safely to their families after work. LOLER is just a starting point to making sure that happens.
Do you need to familiarise yourself with PUWER?
Thank you for reading.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd