Wright Safety Solutionsestablished 2006

providing Health and Safety for Coventry and Warwickshire medium/small businesses

Equipment Safety

Making sure equipment is appropriate

You have to make sure any equipment you provide to employees - or which they provide themselves - is suitable and safe to use under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998) (PUWER) and where appropriate Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998) LOLER.

These regulations cover all equipment used by employees at work - from hammers, knives, ladders and drilling machines, to circular saws, photocopiers, IT equipment, lifting equipment and motor vehicles.

All equipment must be:

  • suitable for its intended use
  • maintained in a safe condition
  • accompanied by suitable safety measures such as guards, protective devices, markings and warnings
  • used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training in the use the equipment.

When conducting risk assessments consider if the equipment is really appropriate for the job. If the operator has to perform several repetitive movements every few seconds, for example, he/she may develop a musculo-skeletal disorder or suffer from strains.

Does the tool vibrate? An assessment is needed to determine the hand/arm exposure to vibration, otherwise serious ireversible injury can occur.

Is the tool/equipment noisy? An assessment is required with noise measurements to determein if employees' hearing is at risk.

Equipment Maintenance

Do you have a maintenance manager or a competent engineer and electrician? Has he introduced a planned maintenance programme for all equipment? Are portable electrical items tested regularly?

If you can't answer any of these questions then Wright Safety Solutions can help

What machine guards and controls do I need?

The work equipment regulations cover subjects like suitability, maintenance, instruction manuals, start/stop controls, portable tools, robotics, CE marking etc. and of course are particulary concerned about the hazards of machinery, and how users/employees can be protected from injury.

Machine guards are important protection devices. New equipment will likely be manufactured with appropriate controls and guarding around moving parts and hot surfaces. Older equipment may not. If your equipment was made before 1998 it might not meet the current regulations. A properly conducted risk assessment should determine if your machines have good enough guarding.

I'll briefly mention here some of the types of guarding used on machinery. They all have advantages and disadvantages; their aim is to protect the user from the machine although they can make using the machine more difficult - but remember the safety of the user is the priority.

Fixed guards - these are fastened permanently around a part of a machine, e.g. around a belt drive, moving blade or a gear mechanism - moving parts which are not normally accessed during normal use. They protect the user from getting fingers or clothing trapped.

Example: fixed guard around the upper part of a hand-held circular saw protects the user who is unlikely to touch the underside when cutting wooden board.

Interlocking guards - these allow a guard or screen to be opened. Usually linked to the operation of the machine, they cause the machine to stop when opened. They are designed to allow safe access to a dangerous part of equipment to allow the adjusting of a tool or work piece, or for example to allow cleaning of a mixing machine or a lathe.

Trip devices - sometimes it is not practical to install fixed or interlocking guards; they would just get in the way of the machine work. Use of trip devices can protect users by switching off when a person, or his hand, or a tool enters a hazardous area. These devices can make use of light beams, infra-red beams, pressure pads, tripwires or a simple mechanical trigger which switches off the machine when touched.

Adjustable guards - these are used where any of the other types of guard make the job impractical. These sytems allow the operator to manually adjust the guard and should only be used where there is good lighting and by a properly trained operator. They are commonly used on wood-working machines, grinders and drills.

Example: adjustable guard fitted around the chuck of a bench drill. This guard can be moved away while changing the drill. The purpose of the guard is to protect the user from flying swarf which can happen if the drill becomes loose in the chuck.

Safe use of computers and IT equipment

You have a duty to ensure that you and your employees use computers and other IT equipment safely under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations (1992). This is to reduce the risk of strains and musculo-skeletal disorder (what used to be referred to as repetitive strain injury - RSI ), headaches and other aches and pains.

In particular you must:

  • ensure workstations and workplace layout include adjustable chairs, suitable lighting and a clear sreen image
  • provide training on safe use of IT workstation
  • ensure staff receive a Display Screen Equipment risk assessment and that any arising problems are resolved
  • give staff regular breaks away from display screens or allow them to switch to a different activity
  • pay for IT users' eye tests on request

Contact Wright Safety Solutions for full guidance on equipment, machine guards and use of computers at work.

Wright Safety Solutions
John A. B. Wright
B.Sc. (Chem), TechIOSH
safety qualification: NEBOSH (Gen.Cert.)

Tel: (024) 76618235
Mobile: 0779 3880597



this page first published 12 January 2007
last updated 8 March 2020

Health and Safety for Coventry and Warwickshire medium/small businesses

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