SHP Online recently released the alarming results of a survey undertaken by safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE, which showed a worrying amount of ignorance and even disobedience, of employees in respect to health & safety rules.
We explore the survey results and how those responsible for ensuring compliance with workplace equipment regulations under PUWER can help guard against the issues uncovered.
The results: cause for concern
A staggering 60% of employees surveyed indicated that they do not fully adhere to health & safety practices, whilst 33% believed that their workplace did not have any health & safety rules in place. There was also another troubling trend of respondents confusing safety symbols designed to protect them: 70% mistook the ‘flammable’ symbol for meaning ‘naked flame’ and 54% believed that a prompt to wear a safety harness was a warning to be aware of overhead workers.
How to improve your PUWER compliance strategy in light of the findings
Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), employers are obliged to ensure that any work equipment used by employees is suitable for its intended purpose and safe to use. There are several factors that clarify how to fulfil this duty, which include:
- Ensuring that any work equipment is selected after consideration of working conditions and the health and safety of the people using it
- Maintaining equipment in a safe and efficient state and ensuring it is only used for its intended purpose
- Providing employees with adequate and clear information on how to use the equipment safely
- Ensuring training and familiarisation is provided for those operating, supervising or managing use of work equipment; and
- Equipment must be CE marked and clear of any obvious defects.
Reducing risks: adequate training
The survey results suggest that, in some instances, there was a lack of adequate health & safety training, as one in every three people surveyed did not believe that their company had any health & safety policies in place.
Adequate training and instruction on use of work equipment should include providing manufacturer’s instructions and operating manuals, as well as training on how to use the equipment and avoid risks.
However, as the HSE points out in Using work equipment, it is not enough to simply provide the training; you should also check that employees understand instructions and risk avoidance measures. Your policies should ensure that vulnerable and inexperienced users are accounted for. As 70% of those surveyed indicated a misinterpretation of a key safety symbol, it would be wise for employers to exercise extra caution in checking their employees’ level of knowledge and understanding.
Ensuring that safety measures are fool-proof
60% of employees surveyed indicated that they do not fully adhere to health & safety practices. It is important that employers take all necessary steps to guard against negligence, or wilful disobedience, to ensure PUWER compliance. This includes:
- Guarding dangerous parts or machinery - The appropriate guards should be used to prevent accidents (fixed guards are preferable, but interlocked or automatic guards can be used where regular access is required). A key point to bear in mind is that users are likely to bypass inconvenient guards, reducing their safety effectiveness. Guards should, therefore, be ergonomically designed to account for this and other working conditions.
- Choosing the right controls - Employees should be able to turn off equipment quickly in case of emergency & controls should be both easily accessible and a safe distance from danger areas. Employers must ensure that they have accounted for all possible user and machine errors.
- Ensuring that there is an adequate escape plan in place - It is mandatory to have an escape plan as well, which takes into account what needs to be done in the case of an accident.
- Guarding against specific mobile work equipment dangers - Guard rails, barriers, seat restraints and PPE should be fitted when required to prevent falls and accidents arising from instability or falling objects.
Foster a great health & safety culture
Companies with the strongest health & safety culture often find that they have a lower rate of accidents, which in turn can also give them a competitive advantage by making them a more preferable choice.
Employees are not the sole cause of accidents
All of these measures should help guard against accidents arising from employees not following the appropriate health & safety procedures. However, accidents can also result from equipment being unsafe for use, which is why Regulation 6 of PUWER places an obligation on employers to carry out regular inspections (and sometimes testing) to reduce this risk.
The frequency of inspections depends on the governing legislation and not all work equipment is covered by PUWER. We have, therefore, put together a handy, at-a-glance guide to help you quickly establish which regulations apply for your work equipment and when you need to carry out inspections & testing: Engineering Inspection Guide.