Purchasing new equipment or machinery is a critical decision that, if not effectively planned for, can negatively affect health and safety in a workplace.
In particular, this is illustrated by the fact that in the past five years, 8,513 PUWER breaches have resulted in prohibition and improvement notices.
Following the findings of an accident investigation, an HSE notice, or changes to work practices/processes, we may realise that our equipment is no longer safe to use and that further adjustments are required. Often this is because organisations buy new equipment by focusing primarily on performance and cost.
When considering the purchase of new equipment, organisations must be aware that CE marking alone is not a sufficient condition to guarantee safety.
Indeed, the CE mark guarantees that the manufacturer is placing a piece of equipment on the market that meets certain requirements, such as Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs), the provision of a technical file, and a declaration of conformity.
However, the CE mark doesn’t consider the specific conditions or environment in which the equipment will be operated as well as its specific use.
This is when the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (also known as PUWER) come into play as they require employers to ensure that the risks originating from the use of equipment are eliminated where possible and controlled as far as reasonably practicable.
The legal framework surrounding equipment suggests that suppliers and purchasers share responsibilities during the life cycle of equipment. However, in practice, most of the responsibilities lie with the purchaser, namely, the employer.
This is demonstrated, in particular, by the fact that PUWER offences, in the last five years, triggered 335 prosecution cases versus only nine cases for breaching the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.
So how can an organisation successfully and effectively introduce new equipment to its workplace?
The key is to carry out a specific risk assessment in consultation with the relevant interested parties, such as the end users, health and safety representatives, supervisors, procurement representatives, maintenance and cleaning personnel, etc.
Consultation can be a challenging process, during which a variety of opinions, concerns, and needs are identified and discussed.
However, proactively identifying future risks and addressing concerns at an early stage will save time and money, decrease equipment downtime and maximise productivity in the long run as fewer adjustments to the new equipment will be required.
Our dedicated and experienced consultants can help you during the procurement phase to assess the suitability and safety of your equipment.