Inspection of work equipment
The purpose of an inspection is to identify whether work equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely – with any deterioration detected and remedied before it results in a health and safety risk. Not all work equipment needs formal inspection to ensure safety and, in many cases, a quick visual check before use will be sufficient. However, inspection is necessary for any equipment where significant risks to health and safety may arise from incorrect installation, reinstallation, deterioration or any other circumstances. The need for inspection and inspection frequencies should be determined through risk assessment.
What you must do
You should inspect work equipment if your risk assessment identifies any significant risk (for example, of major injury) to operators and others from the equipment's installation or use. The result of the inspection should be recorded and this record should be kept at least until the next inspection of that equipment. Records do not have to be made in writing but, if kept in another form (eg on a computer), these should be held securely and made available upon request by any enforcing authority.
Work equipment that requires inspection should not be used, unless you know the inspection has taken place. Where it leaves your undertaking, or is obtained from another (eg a hire company) it should be accompanied by physical evidence of the last inspection, such as an inspection report or, for smaller items of equipment, some form of tagging, colour coding or labelling system.
What you should know
PUWER regulation 6 specifies the circumstances where inspection is required to ensure healthy and safe conditions are maintained:
- where the safety of work equipment depends on the installation conditions, it should be inspected after installation and before first use, and after reassembly at any new site / location
- at suitable intervals, where work equipment is exposed to conditions causing deterioration liable to result in dangerous situations
- each time exceptional circumstances (eg major modifications, known or suspected serious damage, substantial change in the nature of use) are liable to have jeopardised the safety of the work equipment
What should the inspection cover?
This will depend on type of work equipment, its use and the conditions to which it is exposed. This should be determined through risk assessment and take full account of any manufacturer's recommendations. The advice of others, such as trade associations and consultants, as well as other sources like published advice on health and safety, may also be helpful.
An inspection should concentrate on those safety-related parts which are necessary for the safe operation of work equipment and, in some cases, this may require testing or dismantling. However, not all safety-critical features on a particular item of work equipment may require inspection at the same intervals.
An inspection can vary in its extent, as the following demonstrate:
- quick checks before use (eg electric cable condition on hand-held power tools, functional testing of brakes, lights on mobile machinery)
- weekly checks (eg presence of guarding, function of safety devices, tyre pressures, and the condition of windows, mirrors and CCTV on mobile plant)
- more extensive examinations, undertaken every few months or longer (eg general condition of a ladder, close examination of a safety harness, portable appliance testing)
Records are not normally required to be made for the simplest pre-use checks.
The use of checklists can assist but these, and the records made, should be tailored to the particular type of work equipment to minimise the burden to what is strictly necessary for safety. Requiring too much detail too often can lead to inspection activity becoming burdensome with the risk of a superficial 'tick box' approach or even, in some cases, the inspection activity ceasing altogether. You only need to inspect what is necessary for safety.
When should work equipment that needs inspection be re-inspected?
Work equipment which is exposed to conditions causing deterioration that could result in a dangerous situation should be inspected at suitable intervals, and after every event liable to jeopardise its safety. The frequency of inspection may vary, depending on environmental conditions (eg equipment subject to harsh outdoor conditions is likely to need more frequent inspections than if used in an indoor environment).
The frequency of inspection should be determined through risk assessment, taking account of the manufacturer's recommendations, industry advice and your own experience. It may be appropriate to review the frequency of inspection in the light of your experience. Intervals between inspections can be increased if the inspection history shows negligible deterioration, or shortened where experience shows this is necessary to prevent danger.
Who should carry out the inspection of work equipment?
Equipment can be inspected by anyone who has sufficient knowledge and experience of it to enable them to know:
- what to look at
- what to look for
- what to do if they find a problem
The necessary level of competence will vary for inspections, according to the type of equipment and how / where it is used. The nature of these inspections does not have to be determined by the same person who undertakes them, provided the person determining them is competent. This can often be done in-house by experienced staff, taking account of:
- the manufacturer's recommendations
- industry advice
- their own experience of the equipment, its use, the particular factors of the workplace and the people using the work equipment