What Is the Purpose of a PUWER Inspection?

puwer inspection

What does an office photocopier have in common with a bulldozer on a construction site? Nothing at all? Think again. Both are classified as work equipment under the PUWER regulations. And both will need to undergo a PUWER risk assessment.

It’s not always clear-cut if a piece of equipment needs a PUWER inspection, and navigating the complexities of PUWER isn’t easy. The range of work equipment that PUWER covers is huge. The whole business is a bit complicated, to be honest.

But inspections are essential for workplace health and safety. As well as helping you stay on the right side of the law, they ensure that all work equipment is safe.

We’ve compiled this quick guide to help you better understand what you must do. Keep reading to learn why a PUWER inspection is required and how to proceed.

What is PUWER?

PUWER is an acronym for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This legislation defines duties for anyone operating, owning or controlling work equipment.

The primary purpose of PUWER is to ensure that all work equipment is fit for purpose, in good working order, and safe to use. PUWER also mandates that anyone who uses work equipment must have the proper training to do so safely.

Almost every type of machinery or equipment you can imagine falls under PUWER. Officially, the regulations cover

‘any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not).’

As you can see, this definition is pretty broad. PUWER applies to everything from photocopiers to bulldozers, computers, hammers, lighting, and air conditioning systems. Everything that falls under PUWER has to undergo a PUWER risk assessment and have a PUWER inspection. That’s covered under regulation 6, which we’ll look at now.

PUWER Assessor Training

Our PUWER Assessor training provides a complete understanding of how a competent person under Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 can accomplish their responsibilities. It covers important areas such as the legal responsibilities of manufacturers, employers, and equipment appropriateness with safety standards.

What Are the Regulation 6 Inspection Requirements Under PUWER?

Regulation 6 of PUWER is one of the most important. Under this regulation, all employers must complete a proper PUWER risk assessment and an inspection of all equipment used in the workplace.

A ‘competent person’ must do the risk assessment, inspection and maintenance work. This is someone who has the training, experience, qualifications and certifications to do the job correctly. The results of all inspections must be recorded and kept until the next time a PUWER inspection is done.

What’s the Difference Between a Pre-Use Check, Visual Inspection and Thorough Inspection?

Not all inspections are the same. The type of PUWER inspection depends on the type of equipment, when it’s being used and how it’s used. You may need to complete:

  • A pre-use check
  • A visual inspection
  • A thorough examination

What is a Pre-Use Check Under PUWER?

This one is pretty easy, really. A pre-use check is precisely what it says on the tin: an inspection that occurs before a piece of equipment is used. The pre-use check ensures all safety features are working as they should be and the equipment is in good working order.

Pre-use checks are done by the equipment operator each time the equipment is used. Despite not being an official inspection, pre-use checks are listed as best practice in the associated PUWER guidance.

Pre-Use Check Under PUWER

Anyone required to operate work equipment should be trained to conduct a pre-use check if it is needed.

What is a PUWER Visual Inspection?

A visual inspection is an inspection that involves looking over a piece of equipment to check for:

  • Defects
  • External damage
  • Deterioration
  • Hazards that are not suitably controlled

Visual inspections ensure that safety measures like machinery guards are still doing their job. The frequency of visual inspections will depend on the level of risk involved: the potential consequences and likelihood of a fault occurring. They should be recorded.

What is a Thorough Examination?

A thorough examination is a systematic and detailed inspection of a piece of work equipment that goes beyond a visual inspection.

Thorough examinations involve a comprehensive assessment of equipment:

  • Fitness
  • Structural integrity
  • Safety features
PUWER thorough examination

PUWER legislation outlines specific areas the inspection must cover, such as the stability of the equipment and whether or not specific specified hazards have been adequately controlled.

The frequency of thorough examinations is again determined by the level of risk involved, considering factors such as equipment type and usage intensity. The findings of thorough examinations must be recorded, including any faults found and remedial actions required.

What About Equipment with Specific Legislation and Additional Inspection Requirements?

Some types of work equipment have additional regulations that apply to them. The inspection requirements under these regulations must be met to fulfil the requirements of Regulation 6 of PUWER.

Examples of this are any equipment covered by LOLER and PSSR, like power presses. If you use this type of equipment, it’s highly recommended to closely examine the PUWER Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and the PUWER ACOP guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

How Often Should a PUWER Inspection Be Carried Out?

Employers must also provide PPE and instruct workers on its proper use if required. It’s also necessary for employers to replace or repair any PPE in poor condition.

Again, this isn’t a straightforward question to answer. How often a PUWER inspection must be done depends on when the equipment is used and the conditions in which it is used.

PUWER explicitly states that all equipment must be inspected before its first use.

PUWER also requires that if a piece of equipment is exposed to conditions that may cause it to deteriorate, it must be inspected at regular intervals so that

any deterioration can be detected and remedied in good time.

This also applies if

exceptional circumstances which are liable to jeopardise the safety of the work equipment have occurred.’

This means that new or modified equipment inspections must be scheduled at regular intervals. Future checks must be done according to other legislation or regulation requirements and following any PUWER risk assessment findings.

Can the Frequency of PUWER Inspections be Extended or Reduced?

It’s possible to extend the frequency of PUWER inspections and, in some rare cases, even stop them entirely. But this can only be done if the inspection records show that there have been no recorded defects or deterioration in the equipment for a significant amount of time.

The opposite is also true. Suppose a piece of equipment is regularly found to have faults or is deteriorating. In that case, the frequency of inspections must be stepped up. All faults found and the actions taken to address them must be recorded.

PUWER Inspection Training

Using faulty equipment at work can cause serious injuries or even cost someone their life. PUWER inspections ensure that all work equipment is in good condition and safe for use. But not just anyone can perform a PUWER inspection. You must have the proper training.

Our PUWER Assessor Training course teaches you the skills you need. You can learn how to conduct a PUWER risk assessment and use a bespoke PUWER inspection checklist to perform a PUWER inspection properly.

Learn More About PUWER Compliance

PUWER compliance is a frequent concern for health and safety managers, with PUWER inspections and risk assessments common pain points. For additional guidance, download PUWER: Avoiding Prosecution Nightmares – our free white paper collecting expert insights on handling PUWER compliance confidently.

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