Safety Signs Blog

How Safety Signs are used to help businesses comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

18th November 2011 | Health and Safety Signs

Posted by David Arnold

Instantly the reader of today’s article will know from the title that they are not in for an easy ride! However, it is a subject that so far these regular blogs have avoided due the extremely far reaching nature of the Regulations. However, we cannot put it off forever!!

Firstly the background: The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations or PUWER came into force on the 5 December 1998. This swept up the previous Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 with some European amends. PUWER ‘98 introduced for the first time new requirements for mobile work equipment. Through the Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) that was introduced at the same time, lifting equipment was also covered by PUWER ‘98.

UK Regulations relating to Power Presses (The Power Presses Regulations 1965 and 1972) were revoked. So too were the remaining sections of the Abrasive Wheels Regulations 1970 and the Woodworking Machines Regulations 1974.

That’s the dull bit out of the way, but what are the implications?

PUWER relates to any workplace equipment, including machinery, appliances, apparatus and tools. Critically, it insists that all employers ensure that equipment is suitable for the purpose for which it is provided, taking into account the working conditions and risks posed by the use of the equipment.

The PUWER Regulations outline a number of key steps that must be followed. For completeness a full list is provided below, however it is the last two bullet points that are particularly relevant to safety signs:

  • Ensure new and second hand mobile work equipment complies with requirements and where applicable, carries the CE mark.
  • Ensure that all dangerous parts of machinery are adequately guarded to prevent access to dangerous parts.
  • Check to ensure that work equipment is adequately protected against other hazards and that lighting is suitable and sufficient
  • Implement regular maintenance procedures by authorised personnel. Maintain a log. Develop inspection programmes where required
  • Ensure provision of sufficient start, stop and emergency stop controls
  • Ensure that arrangements for purchasing equipment and machinery includes a check that is compliant with the regulations, this is particularly pertinent when it is sourced from outside the European Union
  • Provide adequate information, instruction and training to persons operating and maintaining machinery.
  • Ensure that adequate warning signs are clearly visible

Essentially, as the final bullets suggest, adequate training and instruction must be given to all on the equipment provided, relaying any dangers and warnings through the use of static signs.

As it may be some time since the training was given to the staff member, safety signs should be used in areas to reinforce safety criteria and restrictions on who can and cannot use the equipment. Building on this point I feel in some ways safety signs are more important to those that are not authorised to use equipment than to those that are. The untrained/unauthorised member of staff who is willing or perhaps just little carefree could easily expose themselves to unknown dangers without the aid of safety signs.

To convey these message all three safety sign types should be used:

Prohibition Signs

Arguably the most important of the three sign types are those that restrict the use of equipment to authorised and trained personnel. Certainly post incident these signs may well be the best way a business has of demonstrating to the enforcing authorities that it informed untrained staff not to use the equipment.

Warning Signs

Hazard and warning signs stating the dangers are also a key way of ensuring all employees and visitors are aware of the risks. This could be anything from welding in progress to battery charging, to danger of electrocution.

Mandatory Signs

Finally mandatory signs are also key, as there inevitably will be workers or visitors who may not be working in that area that may still be affected by the activity. For example, ensuring protective boots are worn in an area where there is a risk of large loads being dropped or ensuring high visibility jackets are worn if there is a forklift truck operating.

Much like other health and safety legislation in the UK, PUWER is a far reaching piece of legislation that can affect every workplace. Through previous prosecutions it is also seemingly a piece of legislation with real teeth. Although this article could and perhaps should have been far more comprehensive in fully conveying the far-reaching impact of PUWER, it perhaps will make some employers think about it implications. Undoubtedly signs can be an important way of protecting businesses against legal action from staff and compensation claims.


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