The provision and use of work equipment regulations 1998 – Offshore aspects


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Target audience:
OSD Inspectors


1  The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) bring into effect the non-lifting aspects of the Amending Directive to the Use of Work Equipment (AUWED). The primary objective is to ensure that all work equipment, including mobile and lifting equipment, should not give rise to health and safety risks, regardless of its age, condition and origin.

2  An approved code of practice and guidance booklet has been published, L22.

3  PUWER's main new requirements concern mobile work equipment, lifting equipment and inspection of work equipment. They include hardware and management provisions. The lifting requirements have been implemented through the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER). The inspection requirements are in both PUWER and LOLER.



4  PUWER applies offshore by virtue of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (Application outside Great Britain) Order 2001 (AOGBO).

5  It does not generally apply to a ship's work equipment, but does apply to ships which are offshore installations, such as mobile offshore drilling units and flotels. Thus PUWER applies to all work equipment provided for use or used on offshore installations. When an installation is stacked, it is no longer an installation, and becomes a ship for the purposes of PUWER. PUWER then only applies to work equipment used for a 'specified operation' as defined in regulation 3. PUWER also applies to work equipment used for a 'specified operation' for activities in connection with offshore installations or wells, such as activities carried out by heavy lift vessels.

6  PUWER applies to work equipment used for 'pipeline works', for example on pipelaying barges. It does not apply to work equipment on pipelaying barges provided for use or used in loading, unloading, fuelling or provisioning the vessel, unless the work equipment is used by persons other than the master or crew, or where persons other than the master or crew are liable to be exposed to a risk to their health and safety from its use. In these cases only regulations 7 to 9, 11 to 13, 20 to 22 and 30 apply.

Relationship with other regulations

7  Some of AUWED's provisions are not implemented by PUWER, as they are covered by the HSW Act s.2. Further guidance is in the ACOP.

8  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations also have provisions relating to safety of work equipment, including risk assessment.

9  The following onshore legislation, relevant to diving inspectors, overlap with PUWER:    

  • the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (on lighting),
  • the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (on maintenance) and
  • the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (on standards for scaffolding and other work equipment).


10  An improvement notice is appropriate for:

  • using badly maintained or damaged work equipment,
  • inadequate systems of control for work equipment,
  • no risk assessment, or
  • inadequate inspection or examination of work equipment.

A prohibition notice should be considered for any piece of work equipment unfit for use, which is being used and is or will be liable to involve a risk of serious personal injury to persons at work.


11  PUWER implements EC Directives and exemptions cannot be granted.

Application (regulation 3)

12  In addition to duties on an employer, there are duties on a person who has control to any extent of:

  • work equipment (including plant hire),
  • a person at work who uses, supervises or manages the use of work equipment, or
  • the way in which work equipment is used at work.

These duties also apply to a self-employed person, in respect of work equipment they use at work. For example, a self-employed person bringing and using their own work equipment onto an installation would have duties under all three parts above. No duties are placed on employees.

Work equipment

13  The definition of work equipment is very wide. 'Installation' does not include an offshore installation but does include any equipment attached or connected to it.

Maintenance of work equipment (regulation 5)

14  Regulation 5 builds on the general duty in the HSW Act for work equipment to be maintained so that it is safe. Maintenance is about ensuring that work equipment is in an efficient state, in efficient order and in good repair, rather than the process by which that is achieved.

Inspection of work equipment (regulation 6)

15  This requirement audits the effectiveness of operator and user checks that should be carried out as part of maintenance procedures under regulation 5. Inspection is necessary when equipment may deteriorate and lead to significant risks, rather than everyday risks. It will not therefore apply to all machinery, equipment or parts. The depth of inspection needs to be adequate to identify deterioration leading to risk and the action necessary to rectify this. For high-risk equipment this could involve dismantling as well as functional or physical testing.

16  The inspection and testing required should be determined by a competent person, who need not be the person who carries them out. The level of competence for both activities will vary with the equipment and how it is used. In-house personnel may be competent to carry out all the duties required, or employers may use another competent body. The competent person may also carry out inspections under LOLER if they are competent in both aspects.

17  Load-bearing equipment not classified as lifting equipment under LOLER is work equipment, and subject to inspection under PUWER.

18  Inspection under this regulation is not the same as thorough examination of lifting equipment under LOLER. 'Thorough examination' means a thorough examination by a competent person and where it is appropriate to carry out testing, then the testing must be carried out by a competent person.

Specific risks (regulation 7)

19  Where risks from the use of work equipment can only be controlled to a limited extent by hardware measures, there is a greater reliance on procedures and systems of work to control the remaining risk. This is particularly relevant during repairs or modifications to equipment when the risk of injury is high.

Conformity with EC regulations (regulation 10)

20  This regulation aims to ensure that work equipment is designed and constructed in compliance with essential safety requirements. Those who supply work equipment, and those who provide it for use, have a part to play to ensure it is safe.

21  The effect of the wording of regulation 10(2) is to disapply regulations 11-19 and 22-29 where essential health and safety requirements of EC Directives are applied at the time of supply. In most cases proceedings cannot be taken under the hardware requirements of PUWER, unless the equipment was supplied before the corresponding requirements of the supply legislation, for example 'The Supply of Machinery Regulations 1992', applied.

Control systems (regulation 18)

22  Unlike regulations 14-17, where the requirements are qualified by 'where appropriate' the requirements of regulation 18 are qualified by 'so far as is reasonably practicable'.

Mobile work equipment (regulations 25–30)

23  These regulations deal with risks from mobile work equipment covering employees carried on mobile equipment, rolling over of mobile equipment, overturning of fork-lift trucks, self propelled/remote-controlled self-propelled work equipment and drive shafts.

Further information

24  Further information can be obtained from the OSD Legal and Operational Strategy team, 01224 252603.

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Updated 2020-12-09