Safe Use and Maintenance of Tools
Tools and equipment may be as simple as hammers or as complex as computers. Whatever they are, however, workers must use them safely and employers must reduce any risk that tools and equipment pose in the workplace.
Safe UseThese risks can vary greatly. Above all, what matters is that whoever has to use any tool or piece of equipment as part of their job does so with care. To ensure safe use, employers must train staff and provide suitable information. They must also check that staff have the appropriate qualifications to use intricate tools and equipment. In addition, as part of their health and safety strategy employers should offer refresher training. This isn’t necessary for basic items, but when certain tools and equipment change, refresher training improves skills and reminds users of safety procedures.
Correct Maintenance of Tools and EquipmentA further part of a health and safety strategy is to maintain tools and equipment regularly. This helps to identify safety problems before they become a serious hazard. Only qualified people should carry out the maintenance. They should also keep records of their inspections.
The Law on Tools and MaintenanceThese requirements appear in work equipment law. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) gives procedures on a range of topics. Employers must assess the suitability of tools and equipment for given tasks; they must operate a maintenance scheme and training programme; and they must ensure they keep equipment secure and safe.
PUWER also has specific rules about the safe use and maintenance of mobile equipment and power presses.
The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) apply to equipment that lifts objects and people. Employers must meet all the use and maintenance rules that LOLER contains.
ManagementThere is one important way to follow the rules and to manage the safe use and maintenance of tools and equipment. This is to assess and control the risks.
Employers should conduct Risk Assessments that cover the setting up, use and maintenance of tools and equipment at work. The risk assessment process must identify the environments in which workers will use the tools and equipment; any local conditions that may affect safety; and how the workers will actually use each item in practice.
Risk assessments such as these let employers know what training they need to run. The assessments also show what information employers must make available in the form of posters, user guides and Safety Signs.
By limiting risks in this way, employers have some control over potential hazards. Specifically, employers should:
- Place guards on machinery to protect fingers and limbs
- ensure that system controls have appropriate warning devices
- insist staff wear personal protective clothing as necessary
- arrange for maintenance when equipment is safely shut down and not in use
Measures such as these keep the issue of safe use and maintenance to the front of everyone’s minds. After all, employees also have a duty to handle tools and equipment safely and to stop using any item immediately if it requires maintenance or repair.