Selection and conformity of work equipment
The UK has left the EU, and some rules and procedures have changed from 1 January 2021.
Work equipment must be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided, and used only for operations for which it is suitable. In selecting work equipment, employers must take account of:
- the working conditions and risk to health and safety from the premises it will be used in
- who will use the equipment
- the work equipment itself
New work equipment should conform to any essential requirements for safety applicable to it through product supply law.
What you must do
You must select suitable work equipment and consider:
- its initial integrity and conformity with product supply requirements
- where it will be used, and
- the purpose for which it will be used
You should also take account of:
- ergonomic factors, to avoid undue strain on the user
- the need for adequate space and safe access, including maintenance activities (especially if working at height)
- the forms of energy used or produced (eg radiation, vibration, noise)
- the substances used or produced (eg fumes)
Information produced by the work equipment manufacturer can greatly help in selecting suitable work equipment. Risk assessment will also help in this process, identifying where hazards can be avoided or reduced by selecting suitable work equipment (such as those with lower noise or vibration levels), or in determining the specification of bespoke equipment.
Most new work equipment should comply with common minimum product safety requirements but, before putting it into use, you should still make simple checks:
- that the equipment is not obviously unsafe, comes with all features necessary for safety (eg guarding for machinery) and is suitable for the purpose to which it is to be used or provided
- that it comes with user instructions in English
- if machinery, that information on noise and vibration emissions is provided
- that it has appropriate conformity marking, is correctly labelled and accompanied by a Declaration of Conformity, unless these are not required because:
- no specific product supply regulation applies (mainly non-powered access equipment and non-powered hand-held tools)
- it is partly completed machinery, in which case it should come with a Declaration of Incorporation and assembly instructions
- it is electrical equipment, which does not need to be accompanied by the Declaration of Conformity, but must still be appropriately marked and labelled
Information on noise and vibration emissions should be sought early on in the process of selecting new work equipment. By selecting low vibration and lower noise equipment, you can significantly reduce the risks from exposure to these hazards during its use (eg with hand-held power tools and other machinery, such as mobile ride-on plant or static noisy machinery).
If you are buying new machinery, you may find the checklists within the HSE leaflet Buying new machinery helpful when considering the machinery's health and safety characteristics, suitability and conformity with essential requirements for health and safety.
What you should know
PUWER regulation 4 requires that work equipment is:
- suitable for its intended purpose
- selected so that the risks to the health and safety of users can be managed
- used only for the operations for which it is suitable
This builds on the general obligation employers have under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act to provide safe equipment and manage the risks in its use, handling, storage and transport.
In selecting new work equipment, employers also need to be aware of their duty under PUWER regulation 10 (as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendment) Regulations 2002). This requires employers to ensure that work equipment conforms at all times with any essential requirements relating to its design and construction, by virtue of product supply law.
While you are not expected to assess the detailed design of work equipment, there are certain basic checks which users can and should make when selecting and obtaining new work equipment, including looking for any obvious health and safety issues.
New products subject to product supply requirements should be:
- appropriately marked and labelled
- accompanied by information, including user instructions
- (in most cases) have a Declaration of Conformity (though NOT required for most electrical equipment)
Partly completed machinery should be accompanied by assembly instructions, and a Declaration of Incorporation instead of a Declaration of Conformity. Employers need to keep work equipment in conformity, which means that it is maintained so it remains safe.