UK companies are failing to comply with PUWER requirements

21 October 2010

UK-based safety and compliance consultant, Laidler Associates, (division of TÜV Product Services Ltd and part of the TÜV SÜD group, has discovered that many companies disposing of unwanted work equipment are failing to comply with the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), which cover such disposals. As a result, they are leaving themselves open to the risk of prosecution and the potential imposition of heavy penalties.

According to Laidler Associates, companies frequently assume that if they are selling or otherwise disposing of work equipment it is the responsibility of the person or organisation that acquires the equipment to take care of the requirements relating to PUWER. This is, however, not the whole story.

While the new owner of the equipment must, of course, carry out a PUWER inspection before it is put into service, the former owner also has a legal obligation to supply evidence of the last PUWER inspection carried out on it prior to transfer of ownership. This is made clear in Regulation 6 of PUWER, which also states that the evidence must be physical – that is, in printed form. Non-physical evidence, such as a verbal assurance or an email message, is not acceptable.

The same Regulation also states that all employers who acquire second-hand work equipment have an obligation to ensure that they receive the appropriate physical evidence of the last PUWER inspection.

“When you dispose of an item of work equipment, it’s all too easy to assume that it’s the end of the story,” said Paul Laidler of Laidler Associates., “However, the reality of the situation is rather different. If you haven’t provided the correct documentation with the equipment and someone is injured using it, you could find yourself facing prosecution, months or even years after you disposed of it.”

“Note that same rules apply even if you send the equipment for scrapping,” he continued. “PUWER talks only about equipment ‘leaving the undertaking,’ it doesn’t make any exceptions for particular circumstances, such as sending equipment to be scrapped. To support this, the New Machinery Directive states that manufacturers must address all phases of the machine lifecycle from transportation to scrapping”.

Implementing the requirements of PUWER completely and correctly can be a complex and time-consuming task. Advice from specialists such as Laidler Associates is, therefore, an invaluable aid to help users of work equipment understand and fully meet their obligations, thereby ensuring that they do not expose themselves to the risk of prosecution.

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