Posted by Andy Kidd on 20-Oct-2016 09:21:09

What is a PUWER inspection and how often should it take place?


The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 place duties on people who own, operate or control work equipment and machinery used in everyday workplaces.  The aim of the regulations are to keep people safe whenever they use machinery or equipment at work and inspections determine if the work equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration can be detected.

The definition of work equipment under Regulation 3 is very wide and covers any machine, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work.  However, the frequency of inspection under PUWER will depend on the type of equipment involved and the associated risks.  There are various codes of practice and HSE guidance notes that determine the frequency of inspection.  Some machinery and equipment will have additional duties over and above the general provisions of PUWER, such as lifting equipment and power presses.   

We will take a look at the general inspection requirements under PUWER and the frequency of engineering inspection required for various types of equipment under the codes and guidance.

[For an easy, at-a-glance to your inspection obligations for PUWER, why not download our guide? The essential guide to fulfilling your PUWER work equipment inspection duties ]

Inspections are no longer industry specific

Unlike previous legislation, which applies to specific industry sectors, PUWER and LOLER apply to all places of work.  Our advice is therefore applicable for all types of business, from bakeries and laundrettes to manufacturers and construction sites.

The general inspection requirements of PUWER

PUWER Regulation 6 requires that where the work equipment is exposed to conditions causing deterioration which is liable to result in dangerous situations it must be inspected at suitable intervals. The intervals will depend upon the risk and the rate of deterioration. The extent of the inspection will also depend on the potential risks and must be carried out by a person competent for the task.

Additionally, an inspection may be required where the safety of the work equipment depends on installation conditions.  This is to ensure that the equipment is installed correctly and is safe to operate.

The inspection may be a simple visual or functional check but may include an element of testing to ensure the equipment is safe and fit for continued service.

Examination frequency

The type and frequency of inspections required is not defined within the regulation but should be based on the anticipated rate of deterioration and associated risks.  This will take into account the way the equipment is used, who is using it and the environment it is operating in.

Guidance can be sought from a variety of areas such as HSE information leaflets, Trade Associations and British Standards.  These may identify a suitable inspection frequency for specific items of equipment or can be used as best practice for similar groups of items.

Equipment with similar functionality to items of lifting equipment such as loading shovels, dock levellers and earth moving equipment would generally be inspected at twelve monthly periodicities.

Escalators are not classed as lifting equipment and in many cases not work equipment either as the primary use is not for people at work.  However, industry guidance is quite clear and recommends a six monthly inspection.

Injection moulding machines and hydraulic press brakes do not fall within PUWER part 4 but generally similar principles would apply with a six or twelve month inspection periodicity dependant on the guarding arrangement

Where there is no suitable industry guidance a suitable inspection periodicity can be derived from a risk assessment of the equipment which will take into account the equipment condition, the operating environment, the duty cycle, the skills of operators etc.

Power presses inspection requirements under PUWER

Power presses are power driven mechanical presses which have a flywheel and clutch and are used wholly or partly to work cold metal.  Interlocking Guard Systems prevent actuation of the press until the guard screen is fully closed or, in the case of a photo-electric guard, the screen has been cleared of any obstruction.

Examination requirements for power presses are within the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).  They are excluded from the general inspection requirements under Regulation 6. Instead, Part IV of PUWER deals specifically with these requirements and is supported by an Approved Code of Practice.  There is little difference between PUWER part IV and the Power Presses Regulations 1965 & 1972, which PUWER 1998 Part IV revoked.

The regulations require users of power presses to appoint a person to set tools and carry out a simple inspection of the press during every working shift.

There is no flexibility in the regulations to apply a risk based approach to power press examinations. Hydraulic presses do not fall into the scope of PUWER part IV but are treated as such for best practice.

The inspection frequencies are set out below:

  • Power press with fixed guards -  12 monthly inspections
  • Power presses with interlocking guards (including light guards) -  6 monthly inspection

Competence of the inspector

Inspection needs are extremely varied and as such the competency of the inspector required will vary considerably from one type of machine to another.

The HSE state that work 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.

In many cases the inspection can be completed in house by experienced staff taking into account

  • Manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Industry advice
  • Their own experience of the equipment and workplace including the type of people using the equipment

Where the equipment is complex or the owner does not have the necessary experience and expertise a suitable independent third party such as British Engineering Services Ltd. can complete the inspections. If you require help then why not get in touch for our PUWER inspections and assessments service.

To discover more about your duties and the courts' approach to safety breaches download our guide:  The essential guide to fulfilling your PUWER work equipment inspection duties



Topics: Inspections, PUWER

Andy Kidd

Written by Andy Kidd

Chief Engineer