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A few years ago, Make UK’s Health, Safety and Sustainability Director, Chris Newson, wrote a comprehensive article on LinkedIn regarding the complex and, often, misunderstood area of machinery safety, CE marking, and PUWER.

If you want to read the original article, you can do so here: (1) Machinery Safety & CE Marking, Simple Right? | LinkedIn.

At the time of its publication, the article garnered a lot of attention and was extremely well received. In fact, the piece continues to generate interest; a sign, perhaps, that there is still confusion surrounding machinery safety law? This would certainly seem to be the case as the Make UK Health and Safety team respond to increasing volumes of consultancy in this area, and Machinery Safety training course bookings increase - Machinery Safety | Make UK.

With this in mind and considering that a lot has happened since early 2019, we thought it might be useful to provide an update.

Informing future purchasing decisions concerning equipment

In March 2019, I wrote an article on the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 and the process of CE marking.

Well, a lot has changed since then. We’ve been through the “UKCA cycle” and ended up exactly where we were before, now that The Department for Business & Trade (DBT) have indefinitely extended the recognition of CE marking in the UK.

While that is good news for all UK businesses, it does bring back another issue I touched on in my original article. That being, the misalignment between the “Supply Regulations” and the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations, 1998 (PUWER).

So, let’s assume you buy a brand-new machine from a supplier within the EU for use in the UK…

Simply, your legal obligation as an employer is to comply with PUWER. This means ensuring the equipment can be safely used by your employees and covers suitability, training, information, guarding (for machinery), etc. It also means that the equipment must be CE (or UKCA) marked; in other words, conform to the relevant agreed standards.

All straightforward so far. However, there is a common assumption that this CE mark is a quality stamp that guarantees safety.

Stop me if you’re heard this before, but it isn’t.

The letters CE stand for “Conformité Européene”, which means “European Conformity,” but it could equally mean “Check Everything”! Let’s look at why this is and, in doing so, it will become clear why “Check Everything” might be more apt.

One of the most common agreed standards that MANUFACTURERS can use is ISO12100:2010. Within that standard, clause covers guarding, which says that the manufacturer has a choice between Fixed Guards OR Movable Guards - either are acceptable. 

This is significantly different to PUWER that stipulates Fixed Guards wherever it is Practicable. Note, it says Practicable, not Reasonably Practicable, in other words, possible, regardless of cost.

So, your new machinery bought from within the EU may comply with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 or its equivalent national version, but, may still not comply with PUWER. This puts additional cost at the end of the supply chain for you - assuming you wish to comply with UK law!

So, what’s the solution?

Simple, really…

When buying machinery, specify exactly what you want. This means more than what the machine can lift and how fast it goes. Why not stipulate that the supplier provides it in-line with PUWER, in particular Regulation 11 on guarding?

This WILL cost more, but it will be cheaper than having to retrofit it later when it doesn’t pass a PUWER compliance check or, worse, when you’re told to by the HSE.

Admittedly, your supplier might not like that request, and they might complain that it’s not a legal requirement but remember who’s in charge of the procurement process.

Reviewing and risk assessing current work equipment

If you’ve already purchased, or are using, machinery, we would highly recommend assessing equipment to ensure all work equipment is accompanied by suitable health and safety measures.

Although there is no specific requirement within the PUWER Regulations for Risk Assessment to take place, the precedent is set through both the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (reg.3) and the Health and Safety at Work Act, in Section 2, Employer Duties to Employees.

If you haven’t evaluated against the regulations contained within PUWER, how can you state you have risk assessed your equipment and highlighted reasonably foreseeable risk?

This is a complex and time-consuming process but an important one with an array of benefits, such as improving the safety of employees, reducing the of injury, increasing workplace morale, and ensuring legal compliance, and avoiding costly fines.

Recently, there have been headline prosecutions, totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, for companies failing to risk assess, specifically around PUWER.

Recent Make UK PUWER Projects

With our unique understanding of the manufacturing sector, Make UK have several in-house experts who can help organisations ensure that their work equipment is not only fit for purpose but safe to use by employees. Here we explain two recent projects, which highlight the extensive support Make UK’s health and safety consultants can provide:

Lush, the well-known manufacturer and high-street retailer of pioneering beauty products, engaged Make UK to undertake their PUWER assessments. The assessment included over 250 individual items of equipment, such as mixing vessels, waste recycling lines, manufacturing lines warehousing equipment and conveying systems. Every item was given a residual risk rating and an action plan was produced to reduce risk inherent to that equipment. Additionally, managers and supervisors were trained on how to carry out PUWER Assessment. This project was carried out over a six-month period at Lush’s manufacturing facility in Poole, Dorset.

Make UK have supported IDEAL Standard, one of the leading manufacturers of products and solutions for private and public bathrooms, after they identified the control of work equipment risks as an area for improvement as they progress towards ISO 45001. A full inventory of work equipment was provided and Make UK have embarked on a 30-day project to assess hazards and inherent risk across the organisations’ production facility.

If you need support in this complex area, please e-mail [email protected] or call 0808 168 5874, quoting PUWER, and we will develop a solution for your business.

Blog / Make UK