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A PUWER Guide for Machinery Owners

This guide will help machinery owners understand the PUWER regulations in more detail and further support knowledge regarding requirements and assessment / inspection. 

If you need support with PUWER inspections please contact us, we can provide an in depth and compliant PUWER inspection. 


What is PUWER

PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. These came into force in 1998 and commonly referred to as PUWER98.

The aim of these regulations is to ensure the provision of safe work equipment to employees, through the entire life of the work equipment. So it’s not just about guards.

The scope of ‘work equipment’ is extremely wide. It covers almost any equipment used at work.

PUWER requires that machinery is:

  • Suitable for intended use

  • Safe to use

  • Only used by trained and competent persons

  • Suitable safety measures are in place

What equipment does PUWER cover?

PUWER applies to all workplaces and work situations where the Health and Safety at Work Act applies, which is basically most businesses which have employees.

It covers almost any equipment used at work, including:

  • Toolbox tools, such as hammers, knives, handsaws, meat cleavers etc;

  • Single machines such as drilling machines, circular saws, photocopiers, combine harvesters, dumper trucks etc;

  • Apparatus such as laboratory apparatus (Bunsen burners etc);

  • Lifting equipment such as hoists, lift trucks, elevating work platforms, lifting slings etc;

  • Other equipment such as ladders, pressure water cleaners etc;

  • An installation such as a series of machines connected together, for example a paper-making line or enclosure for providing sound insulation or scaffolding or similar access equipment (except where CDM imposes more detailed requirements).


The following are not classified as work equipment:

  • Livestock;

  • Substances (for example acids, alkalis, slurry, cement, water);

  • Structural items (for example walls, stairs, roofs, fences);

  • Private cars

Who is responsible for PUWER?

PUWER places duties on those in control of work equipment. This could be the employer, self-employed or for example someone who hires out equipment to others (As they are in control of it). Throughout this handbook we will refer to those with responsibilities as the employer, for simplicity.

This is a legal requirement; employers must actively ensure work equipment is safe. Even if you are self-employed and will be using it yourself.

PUWER is an end user requirement – it’s not the suppliers task, it’s yours!

Who is not affected by PUWER?

  • Anyone who supplies work equipment by way of sale, agreement for sale or hire purchase (as stated this is an end user requirement).

  • Work equipment provided for use by the general public such as escalators, public tyre pumps etc.

Who can carry out a PUWER inspection?

There isn’t actually a requirement under PUWER to perform an inspection. Instead the requirement to carry out a risk assessment is contained in the Management Regulations, which have general provisions relating to the safety of work equipment.

A PUWER inspection should be conducted by someone who has the sufficient knowledge, skills and experience to identify:

  • What the inspection should include

  • How it should be done

  • When it should be carried out

  • Knowledge of machinery and industry

  • What to look for (knowledge of machinery and faults)

  • Suitable reporting and record making skills

PUWER inspections should not be carried out by anyone, inspectors must have the correct competence to complete a suitable and sufficient inspection thoroughly, considering all elements of the regulations and associated standards.

LESH use PUWER inspectors who are skilled in advanced PUWER inspections.

How often should a PUWER inspection be done?

Work equipment machinery should be inspected:

  • At first installation

  • Following any move of location of the equipment

  • Following any significant change

  • Following an accident on the machine

  • Following any unusual conditions of the machinery (e.g. roof leaked on to it / flooded)

The PUWER Regulations don’t stipulate any set frequency for review. Instead, this is left to the competent person to define a suitable frequency. When doing so, consider that a failure in a safety critical part may cause serious injury or a fatality. So suitable inspection periods relative to the risk of the equipment failure should be established. You could consider:

  • How often its used?

  • Its environment?

  • Is it multifunctional?

  • Severity of a failure?

What to consider to ensure my machines are safe and compliant?

Structure of PUWER regulations:

Reg 4   Suitability of work equipment

This regulation deals with the safety of work equipment from three aspects:

  • its initial integrity;

  • the place where it will be used;

  • the purpose for which it will be used.

“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided.” (PUWER98)

So, employers must consider all operating modes such as start, stop, cleaning, breakdown, changeover, transporting etc.

The guidance in Reg 4 goes into some detail regarding suitability, considering risk assessment, ergonomics, managing safety, ventilation and CoSHH.

Suitability of work equipment can be established by conducting a risk assessment in line with ISO 12100 (Risk Assessment / Reduction). This standard follows a process in performing a assessment and reducing risk.

Reg 5   Maintenance 

The employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, working order and good repair.

It’s a good idea to keep a maintenance log, if you have one, it must be kept up to date.

Key things to consider:

  • planned preventative maintenance (PPM)

  • condition based maintenance

Reg 6   Inspection

Work equipment machinery should be inspected at suitable intervals and after exceptional circumstances, consider:

  • At first installation

  • Following any move of location of the equipment

  • Following any significant change

  • Following an accident on the machine

  • Following any unusual conditions of the machinery (e.g. roof leaked on to it / flooded)

The inspections should be carried out to establish if all the safety critical features are still suitable and operational. These could include:

  • guarding distances are still relevant

  • light curtains are still offering suitable protection and a suitable distance

  • Reach over / under distances

  • Etc

Reg 7   Specific hazards

Employers shall ensure that work equipment is:

  • restricted use to operators given task of using it.

  • Repaired and maintained by those responsible to do so (not operators unless trained to do so)

  • Planned to consider manual handling when loading, unloading etc.

  • Planned to consider dust, fumes, noise, HAVS etc.

Reg 8 and 9 Information, instruction and training

“Every employer shall ensure that all persons who use work equipment have available to them adequate health and safety information and, where appropriate, written instructions pertaining to the use of the work equipment.” (PUWER 98)

Instructions should be provided to:

  • The operators of equipment

  • Those maintaining the equipment

  • Supervisors and Managers

Information should be available and accessible to these groups at all times. Information provided should be easy to understand.

Any information and written instructions you provide should cover:

  • The conditions in which the work equipment can be used;

  • The way in which the work equipment can be used;

  • Any foreseeable difficulties that could arise, and instructions on how to deal with them;

  • Using any conclusions drawn from experience using the work equipment, you should either record them or take steps to make sure that all appropriate members of the workforce are aware of them

Refresher training should be considered to maintain knowledge on safe operation

Reg 10 Conformity with community requirements (CE / UKCA)

Employers shall ensure that work equipment conforms at all times, with any essential requirements other that the requirements which at the time of being first supplied or put into service did not apply to work equipment of its type.

In this regulation, essential requirements mean requirements relating to the design and construction of work equipment of its type in any of the instruments which give effect to the community directives concerning the safety of products e.g. the supply of machinery (safety) regulations 2008.

Look at the declaration of conformity. In the UK we should now be looking for the UKCA mark which has replaced the CE mark on new equipment. (Existing pre-Brexit CE marked items are still acceptable and valid).

Reg 11 Dangerous parts of machinery

This is the juicy part that everyone wants to know!

This regulation covers measures and requirements for guarding or preventing access to dangerous parts. A key source of good information is appendix 1 of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L22 Appendix 1, which gives examples of good guarding practices.

The standard BS EN ISO 13857 (which is actually referred to within the ACOP) also provides very good information regarding guard design, size, position, distance, mesh size etc. for upper and lower limb access, it’s a vital document if you are designing or modifying guarding.

The PUWER regulations require employers to put in place effective measures to:

  • Prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery or rotating stock bars, or

  • Stop movement of dangerous parts of machinery or rotating stock bars before any part of a person can enter the danger zone

It sounds pretty simple, right? But now imagine a band saw, it has a blade, which is exposed. If it were to be fully guarded, it would render the machine useless. A portion of the blade needs to remain exposed in order to perform cutting tasks. But then we have the issue and risk of the blade and it wouldn’t be compliant with the above statement.


That’s where the regulations use a sensible hierarchical approach.


The 2 points above can be achieved by:

  • “The provision of fixed guards enclosing every dangerous part or rotating stock-bar where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then

  • The provision of other guards or protection devices where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, but where or to the extent that it is not, then

  • The provision of jigs, holders, push-sticks or similar protection appliances used in conjunction with the machinery where and to the extent that it is practicable to do so, and the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary.” (PUWER98):

It’s worth noting here the language used in the regulations, “practicable”. Not the reasonably practicable we may be used to seeing. So let’s quickly take a look at what this means before we go any further.

A quick note on qualified duties

In law there are absolute and qualified duties.

  1. Employers shall (Absolute)

  2. Employers shall do XYZ, so far as is practicable (Qualified)

  3. Employers shall do XYZ, so far as is reasonably practicable (Qualified)

With absolute duties, employers must achieve the required standard, with no exceptions

With practicable duties, employers achieve the requirement if it is physically possible to do so, regardless of any time, trouble or cost incurred.

With reasonably practicable duties, employers are allowed to consider those time, trouble and cost factors to form a balanced. i.e. it wouldn’t be reasonably practicable to invest £100,000 to prevent a paper cut.

Back to Reg 11

So, now back to the regulations, you can see it carries a “practicable” duty, which means if it is physically possible to fit a guard or safety measure, it must be done.

PUWER inspectors should have an in depth understanding of the below standards in order to decide if equipment is suitable and safe:

  • EN 13857 – Guarding distances and sizes

  • EN 13855 – safety distances and stopping times

  • EN 14119 – machinery interlock requirements

  • EN 14120 – design of guarding

  • EN 62046 – electro sensitive equipment

  • EN 13849-1 – Safety of machinery

When considering guarding, employers needs to ensure that:

  • The guard itself does not give rise to risk of health and safety

  • It is no easily bypassed or disabled

  • Guarding be situated a sufficient distance from the danger zone. Consider reach over, reach through, and stopping / run down times.

Consider an interlocked guard, it has a fast rotating hazard behind it. If the operator opens the guard door, the hazard may still be rotating due to inertia, even though the power to its drive is no longer present. Employers need to consider if the operator could access the danger before its stopped moving. A similar consideration needs to be given to the use of electro sensitive devises such as light curtains, how fast is the operator approaching the device? And will the hazard stop before or after the operator reaches the danger zone?

Reg 12 Protection against specified hazards

“Every employer shall take measures to ensure that the exposure of a person using work equipment to any risk to his health or safety from any hazard specified in paragraph (3) is either prevented, or, where that is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled” (PUWER98)

The measures used to comply need to be those other than PPE, instruction, training, supervision so far as is reasonably practicable. And, include measure to prevent the hazard and minimise the effects of the hazard.

The specified hazards listed in the ACOP are:

  • Any article or substance falling or being ejected from work equipment;

  • Rupture or disintegration of parts of work equipment;

  • Work equipment catching fire or overheating;

  • The unintended or premature discharge of any article or of any gas, dust, liquid, vapour or other substance which, in each case, is produced, used or stored in the work equipment;

  • The unintended or premature explosion of the work equipment or any article or substance produced, used or stored in it.


For example:

The use of abrasive wheels, Reg 11 focuses more on general use in normal conditions, such as preventing access to the rotating wheel due to entanglement and cutting hazards. Reg 12 considers the abrasive wheel’s other hazards such explosion when rotating. It will require the guarding to be sufficient enough to withstand the impact of wheel fragments, maximum rotating speeds should be labelled on the wheel or in the work area and PPE may be considered along with proper handling and storage procedures for the abrasive wheels.

Reg 13 High or very low temperatures

There must be protection against very high or low temperatures, to prevent injury to any person by burn, scald or sear. The PUWER regulations do not specify what is considered a very high or low temperature, however there are two standards which go into some depth on this topics:

  • EN ISO 13732-1 – hot temperatures

  • EN ISO 13732-3 – cold temperatures

Employers should aim to have an engineered solution to prevent access to parts that will cause harm due to extreme temperatures (i.e. put a guard on it)

Reg 14 Controls for starting or significantly changing operation

“Every employer shall ensure that, where appropriate, work equipment is provided with one or more controls for the purposes of—

(a) starting the work equipment (including re-starting after a stoppage for any reason); or

(b) controlling any change in the speed, pressure or other operating conditions of the work equipment where such conditions after the change result in risk to health and safety which is greater than or of a different nature from such risks before the change” (PUWER98)

These controls must be actioned by means of a deliberate action, for example machines should not restart after closing an interlocked gate, it should require a deliberate press of the restart button.

Automatic control sequences are permitted for normal running programs, however must never be used to restart. Controls for operator intervention (i.e. accessing the machine / work area to retrieve sample / parts) must only be done by deliberate operator action on manual controls and never automatically.

Control design should also be considered, buttons with shrouds etc. to prevent accidental activation.

Reg 15 Stop controls

These are normal operational stop functions.

Stop controls should bring the machine to a safe condition in a safe manner.  The stop function should switch off all sources of energy, unless a source of power is required to hold a position -  see ISO 61800-5.

Stop controls must take priority over any start functions. You can test this by holding down a stop button and then pressing the start, the stop button should take priority.


Reg 16 Emergency stop controls

Where appropriate, work equipment shall be fitted with 1 or more readily accessible emergency stop.

Emergency stops should be positioned where the operator is likely or expected to be. And have the following features under ISO 13850:

  • Have an activator (button, chord)

  • Red button against a yellow background

  • Be mechanically latching

  • Brings equipment to a complete stop quickly in a controlled manner

  • Emergency stop has priority over other functions

Emergency stops should not be fitted in lieu of more appropriate features, e.g. a guard.

The number of emergency stops should be considered in a risk assessment.


Reg 17 Controls

Controls need to be clearly visible and clearly identifiable, including marking.

Controls should be located outside any dangerous areas.

Control label markings are described in ISO 60204

If the operator positioned at the start control area, cannot see the machine danger zones entirely, start warnings should be used, these can be audio / visual warnings, to warn operators of the impending start.

Reg 18 Control systems

Regulation 18 deals with control systems. A control system can be defined as: ‘a system or device which responds to input signals and generates an output signal which causes the equipment under control to operate in a particular manner. (PUWER 98 L22)

  • Taking realistic and practical allowances into account when choosing or specifying control systems;

  • Not increasing risk when the control system is operating, either directly or indirectly, by impeding the operation of other safety measures; not increasing risk if a control system fails or loses its power supply.

This section is with regards to the design of control systems, and ensuring any machinery control systems work as one with any safety control systems. ISO 13849 goes into some details on this topic.

Control systems must not stop or impeded the operation of any stop or emergency stop functions.

Reg 19 Isolation from energy sources

“Every employer shall ensure that where appropriate work equipment is provided with suitable means to isolate it from all its sources of energy” (PUWER 98)

Isolators should be clearly identifiable and readily accessible.

Isolators should be lockable.

The resupply of energy should not automatically restart machinery; it should require a deliberate action to restart. LOTOTO systems are a good way of controlling maintenance activities.

Reg 20 Stability

“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment or any part of work equipment is stabilised by clamping or otherwise where necessary for purposes of health or safety”

Stability can be achieved by bolting equipment down or clamping to work benches for example. Mobile lifting equipment could be fitted with lockable castors to prevent instability when lifting.

Items like scaffolding structures can adopt outriggers to improve stability.

The environment and use of the equipment should be considered during an assessment to establish suitable stability measures.

Reg 21 Lighting

“Every employer shall ensure that suitable and sufficient lighting, which takes account of the operations to be carried out, is provided at any place where a person uses work equipment”

There are other regulations which already address this issue, however ensure that consideration is given to specific tasks such as inspection, precision measurement, or working within machinery where lighting may not be fixed, remember to consider all operating modes of the equipment – cleaning, maintenance etc. This could be achieved by hand or portable lighting in areas where infrequent access is required.

Reg 22 Maintenance operations (access for maintenance)

Every employer shall take appropriate measures to ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted that, so far as is reasonably practicable, maintenance operations which involve a risk to health or safety can be carried out while the work equipment is shut down, or in other cases—

  • Maintenance operations can be carried out without exposing the person carrying them out to a risk to his health or safety; or

  • Appropriate measures can be taken for the protection of any person carrying out maintenance operations which involve a risk to his health or safety


Additional measures can be used where maintenance tasks require access to areas where safeguards may not be provided:

  • Temporary guards

  • Limited movement control

  • Crawl speed settings

  • Hold to run functions

  • Administrative controls (training)

  • PPE

Reg 23 Markings

All markings must be clearly visible:

  • Start / stop controls

  • Max speeds

  • Max loads

  • Machine identification names / numbers

  • Pipe work (colour indicating content and direction of flow)

Reg 24 Warnings

Warning signs or devices must be used where appropriate. They must be:

  • Unambiguous

  • Easily perceived

  • Easily understood (picture warnings can be better than written warnings)

Warnings should be considered after all engineering controls have been implemented, warnings should indicate residual signs.

PUWER regs diagram 1-37.png

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