Choosing Safe Workplace Equipment
Whilst maintaining work equipment, keeping it in good working order and ensuring it is always safe to operate is an ongoing legal requirement, choosing the equipment in the first place will also greatly reduce any safety risks.
Buying Work EquipmentBefore buying any work equipment, consider:
- What the equipment will be used for.
- Who will use it.
- Where will it be kept
- What training others may need to use it.
- What risks may occur as a result.
Find out what the manufacturer has done to reduce the risks and get them to specify that in writing if possible. When buying new equipment it is worth considering:
- Whether there are any dangerous parts and, if so, whether any guards are supplied with the equipment
- How any emergency-stop buttons work
- Whether the environment in which you plan to operate the machinery will be able to cope with the levels of Dust and Fumes, noise or vibration it may cause, or whether you'll have to implement any additional measures
- Whether there are clear instructions and/or manuals for installation and maintenance
Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) you have legal responsibilities when you buy new machinery - typically defined as equipment with moving parts and some kind of drive unit. Examples include:
- Fork-lift Truck
- Metal working drill
- Paper making machine
- Circular saw
- Combine harvester
- Lifting equipment
- Meat mincing machine
- Baling machine
There are, of course, many others.
You must make sure that equipment:
- Is safe to use
- Conforms to EU standards
- Is provided with clear instructions
- Carries CE marking which shows that key health and safety standards have been met. However, CE marking is not a 'guarantee' of safety, it is simply a manufacturer's claim that the manufacture of the machinery complies with the law. You still need to check the machine is safe before being used.
There are a number of checks you should carry out and questions you can ask both before and after purchasing new equipment.
What to Ask Yourself Before Purchase:
- Do any parts look dangerous, e.g. exposed gear wheels, cutters.
- Are there guards and are they in place.
- Can the machine operate with the guards removed.
- Do I understand the controls.
- Can dust or fumes escape from the machine.
- Is it Excessively Noisy.
- Are any exposed parts likely to be extremely hot or cold.
- Are there any live electrical parts which are exposed or easy to get at.
- Are the manufacturer's instructions clear and comprehensive?
And What to Check When Your Equipment Arrives:
- Check that the equipment has CE marking (where necessary) and ask for a copy of the EC Declaration of Conformity if you've not been given one.
- Check that the supplier has explained what the machinery has been designed to be used for and what it should not be used for.
- Make sure a manual has been supplied which includes instructions for safe use, assembly, installation, commissioning, safe handling, adjustment and maintenance.
- Make sure the instruction manual is written in English. If you have specialised maintenance staff who speak another language but who are going to be responsible for the equipment, ensure you have a manual in their native language also.
- Make sure information has been provided which outline any remaining risks from the machine and any precautions you may need to take to deal with them.
- Check that data about noise and vibration levels have been provided and, where necessary, explained to you.
- Ensure that any Warning Signs are visible and easy to understand.
- Make sure any early concerns about the safety of the machine are reported to the manufacturer.
- Trust your judgement - as well as legal obligations, check to see if YOU feel the machine is safe.