Every year, there are numerous accidents to employees, carers, and service users from using work equipment in health and social care. Many are serious and some are fatal. Using the right, well-maintained equipment operated by trained staff can help prevent accidents and reduce the personal and financial costs.
This page provides information about how the law applies to the wide range of work equipment used in health and social care and signposts you to further information on how you can comply with these requirements.
What the law says
The two main sets of regulations for the safe use of work equipment are:
However, you should also consider the requirements of:
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
These Regulations (often abbreviated to PUWER) place duties on employers and equipment providers who own, operate or have control over work equipment. Essentially the Regulations require that work equipment is:
- right for the job;
- used safely by trained people; and,
- maintained so it remains safe.
Generally, any equipment, used by an employee at work, attracts the requirements of PUWER. In health and social care, this can include equipment provided for patient care, where this is used by employees. Examples include bedrails, hoists, electric profiling beds and medical equipment.
Further information can be found on our PUWER web pages.
Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER)
These Regulations (often abbreviated to LOLER) place duties on employers and equipment providers who own, operate or have control over lifting equipment. Essentially, the Regulations require that lifting equipment is:
- strong and stable enough for the particular use and marked to indicate safe working loads;
- positioned and installed to minimise any risks;
- used safely, ie the work is planned, organised and performed by competent people; and
- where appropriate subject to thorough examination and inspection by competent people.
The fact that equipment is designed to lift does not automatically mean that LOLER applies. It must be 'work equipment' and it must lift or lower loads as a principal function.
HSE's information sheet, How the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations apply to health and social care provides detailed guidance on how LOLER applies to health and social care equipment, including the need for thorough examination. HSE also provides further general information on our LOLER web pages.
Provision of community equipment
Where equipment has been loaned by an employer or community equipment provider for private use, ie solely to be used by individuals, family or unpaid carers, LOLER does not apply as it is not defined as work equipment during the loan period.
However in practice, LOLER will apply to the majority of loan equipment provisions, as you may not be able to determine whether it is being used solely for private use. Also, the loan period for private use may only be for a few weeks, before the equipment is loaned to another individual who has paid carers.
If you decide it is not defined as work equipment, as the owner and provider of the equipment you will still have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Section 3, to provide and maintain safe equipment. This can usually be satisfied by following the principles of LOLER and PUWER.
Community Equipment Code of Practice Scheme (CECOPS)
The community equipment code of practice developed by CECOPS is aimed at any organisation whether, public, private, or third sector, who commission or provide community equipment. It sets out a framework to maximise the efficiency of services, in delivering good quality and safe services, and in fulfilling their legal duties with regard to community equipment.
CECOPS is a not for profit community interest company (social enterprise) set up to administer the code. HSE recognises the need for guidance for the provision of community equipment and welcomes the code. HSE believes that referring to the code along with other health and safety guidance will help organisations who commission or provide community equipment make health and safety improvements in their businesses.Other regulators and stakeholders in health and social care also support the code, including the Care Quality Commission, Royal College of Nursing and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
The role of other regulators
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
Equipment classed as 'medical devices', falls under the authority of MHRA. Medical devices include assistive equipment, for example hoists and bedrails.
MHRA enforces the Medical Devices Regulations and the General Product Safety Regulations to ensure medical devices are acceptably safe. The MHRA Medical Device Bulletin "Managing Medical Devices" (DB 2006(05)) outlines a systematic approach to the purchasing, deployment, maintenance, repair and disposal of medical devices. Other MHRA guidance, safety alerts on specific equipment, and details of how to contact them can be found on the MHRA website .
Care Quality Commission (CQC) and devolved regulators
These regulators may also have an interest in ensuring that equipment used for moving and handling people is safe. Our web page, who regulates health and social care, provides further information on the role of these organisations.