What are the PUWER regulations and why do I need them?


PUWER? What’s it all about?

There are so many acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms in the health and safety world that it can be easy to switch off and lose the plot on exactly what we should be looking at or what rules we should be abiding by. The world of regulations is constantly changing, but as we learn lessons from industry, especially accidents which can be preventable, we should embrace these rather than resist.

PUWER is something we should definitely take heed of as it places responsibilities on businesses who employees work with, sometimes dangerous, equipment. It also doesn’t matter if that equipment is owned by that business; the same rules apply if their employees are operating it.

Standing for “Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations”, it explicitly states that any equipment used in the workplace must be:

  • Suitable for its intended use
  • Is safe for that use, and maintained and inspected to ensure it is safe and doesn’t deteriorate
  • Is used only by people who have received adequate training and the correct information to use the equipment safely
  • Is accompanied by suitable health and safety measures. For example, the regulation protective equipment, devices and controls are used.
  • Is used in accordance with specific requirements

PUWER doesn’t replace other health and safety legislation; some work equipment may require other regulatory control.

What is ‘Equipment’?

The scope of the regulations are broad, in fact, it’s probably easier to say what isn’t covered by them. Even if an employee brings their own equipment in, that is also covered by the regulations. In fact, it’s fair to say that anything that an employee has to use in order to complete a job is included.

So what must a business do in order to comply?

The bottom line is that risks need to be managed for any equipment used by an employee. This means you must check it is suitable for purpose, well maintained, people are well trained and safety equipment is available.

Some equipment will also need other safety precautions such as cut-off switches and safety trips. It’s essential that all of these are well maintained and operable, too.

Of course environmental factors also play a role. For example, on a hot and sunny day, it may be uncomfortable, but a worker must use all the protective equipment they have to ensure safety. If the safety is compromised because of temperature, then the equipment shouldn’t be used.


The regulations also focus on the knowledge and experience of the operator. It often suggests that machinery is only used by a “competent person”, the measure of which will obviously depend on the equipment being operated.

Risk Assessment

As with most regulations, there’s a heavy dependency on risk assessment, and this should will be a focus for any health inspection.

It’s critical that hazards are identified, and any potential causes of harm are investigated and mitigated against. The reduction of risk is of course preferable to dealing with actual incidents, but plans for both are required.


Of course, the underlying point to make here is that nothing is really more than the application of common sense. If equipment is generally dangerous, then it needs to be made less so. Risks need to be reduced and the potential for harm mitigated.