Work Equipment

Work equipment is defined as any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work whether exclusively or not. As a result work equipment comes in a wide variety of forms all of which have risks attached to their use.

Find out about Suitability, Maintenance and Inspection of Equipment, Statutory Examination of Plant, Machinery and Equipment, Training, Dangers and Maintenance and References

For example:


  • Circular saws
  • Drilling machines
  • Photocopiers
  • Mowing machines

Hand Tools

  • Screwdrivers
  • Knives
  • Hand saws
  • Meat cleavers

Lifting Equipment

  • Fork lift trucks
  • Elevated platforms
  • Vehicle hoists
  • Lifting slings


  • Pressure hoses
  • Ladders
  • Air compressors

A number of accidents can arise from the use of work equipment, however, the risk of this occurring is dependent on the correct use, design and maintenance of the equipment, for example:

  • Lack of guarding or poor guarding can lead to a variety of accidents, such as:
    - Contact with moving machinery - abrasive wheels
    - Trapping between moving parts and fixed parts - mincing worms
    - Struck by material in motion, for example, lathe
    - Struck by ejected material or ejected machinery parts, such as grinders, cutting blades, compressors
    - Entanglement in or by the machinery
  • Use of the wrong equipment 
    - Use of unsuitable ladders
    - Use of wrongly sized circular saws
  • Inadequate controls
    - To allow equipment to be turned off quickly
    - To allow equipment to be started safely
  • Failure to maintain guards, safety devices and controls
  • Failure to ensure that those using the equipment have been suitably trained

There are a number of pieces of legislation which apply to the safe use of work equipment. The main piece of legislation is the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations which covers the majority of equipment used in the workplace.

Suitability, Maintenance and Inspection of Equipment

It is essential that equipment provided is suitable for the work for which it is intended taking into consideration:

  • Working conditions
  • Risks to persons in the vicinity of the equipment

If it is found that a piece of equipment poses a particular risk then it must be ensured that it is only used by those with suitable training and experience. In addition it must be ensured that equipment is maintained to ensure that it is in safe working order.

The frequency at which maintenance activities are carried out should take into account:

  • the intensity of use
  • operating environment
  • variety of operations
  • the risk to health and safety from malfunction

Indication as to whether equipment conforms to health and safety legislation can be indicated on machinery by a CE marking in accordance with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations.

Employers must ensure that where the safety of work equipment depends on the installation conditions that it is inspected by a competent person to ensure that it has been installed correctly and is safe to operate:

  • After installation and before being used for the first time
  • After assembly at a new location

Work equipment that is exposed to conditions causing deterioration liable to result in dangerous situations must be inspected to ensure that health and safety conditions are maintained and that any deterioration can be detected and remedied in good time.

This has to be done at suitable intervals and each time that exceptional circumstances have jeopardised the safety of the work equipment. Employers must ensure that the results of inspections are recorded and kept until the next inspection is recorded.

Low risk equipment used for low risk activities will not require a formal inspection. A visual check may be required by the operator. There is no requirement for the visual checks to be recorded but this is good practice.

Statutory Examination of Plant, Machinery and Equipment

There are a various pieces of legislation that relate to the examination of equipment used on premises and these are summarised in the table below.

Plant, Machinery, Equipment Legislation Certificate
of Test
Required Period between Examination
Chains, ropes, lifting tackle and hoists used for equipment only - forklift trucks, car hoists. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations Yes - The certificate must specify the safe working load. A written scheme of examination must be drawn up by a competent person at least every 12 months.
Hoists and lifts used for moving people such as bath hoist, passenger lifts. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations Yes A written scheme of examination must be drawn up by a competent person at least every 6 months.
Air receivers Pressure Systems Safety Regulations Yes A written statement of examination detailing the length of time between inspection, for example, 18 months.
Gas appliances and installations (including portable gas heaters) The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations No - It would be recommended that a written record be obtained At least every 12 months by a CORGI registered engineer.


Employers must ensure that persons using equipment have received adequate training to allow them to use the equipment safely. This includes ensuring that employees are aware of all of the safety information relating to a piece of equipment. In particular:

  • Conditions and methods in which the equipment may be used
  • Any conclusions drawn from experience with the equipment
  • Any risks associated with use and the precautions to be taken

Dangers and Maintenance

Dangerous Parts of Machinery

Employers must ensure that measures are taken to:

  • Prevent access to any dangerous parts of machinery or rotating stock bars
  • Stop movement of any dangerous parts of machinery or rotating stock bar before any person enters a danger zone

This may be achieved by:

  • Provision of fixed guards enclosing dangerous parts
  • Provision of other guards:
    - Interlocked guards for example, mechanical, electrical
    - Automatic guards
    - Trip guards
    - Two-handed controls
  • Provision of jigs, holders, push sticks or similar appliances
  • Provision of information, instruction training and supervision

Guards and protection devices must be:

  • Suitable for use
  • Of good construction, sound material and suitable strength
  • Be maintained
  • Not increase the risk to health and safety
  • Not be easily bypassed or disabled
  • Not restrict use or viewing of the machinery as required

Protection against Specified Hazards

Employers must ensure that persons are not exposed to hazards or, if this is not possible, they must ensure that exposure is adequately controlled. The protection is not to be by provision of personal protective equipment.

The specified hazards are:

  • Any article or substance being ejected from work equipment
  • Rupture or disintegration of parts or work equipment
  • Work equipment catching fire or over heating
  • Unintended or premature discharge of any article, gas, dust, liquid, vapour, or other substance
  • Unintended or premature explosion of the work equipment of any article of substance produced, used or stored in it

Equipment Controls

Specific requirements relate to the provision, location, use and identification of control systems and controls on work equipment.

They relate to controls for:

  • starting or making a significant change in operating conditions
  • stop controls
  • emergency stop controls
  • controls in general
  • control systems

Isolation from Sources of Energy

All work equipment is to have a means to isolate it from all its sources of energy. The means is to be clearly identifiable and readily accessible and reconnection of the equipment to any energy source must not expose any person using the equipment to any risk to health and safety.


Employers must ensure that work equipment is stabilised where necessary for health and safety.


Places where work equipment is used have to be suitably and sufficiently lit taking account of the kind of work being done.

Maintenance Operations

Any maintenance must be carried out in such a way as to protect the health and safety of both themselves and others. As far as is reasonably practicable maintenance operations are to be done while the work equipment is stopped or shut down.

Markings and Warnings

Any markings on work equipment must be clearly visible and appropriate. Any warnings or warning devices must be appropriate for health and unambiguous, easily perceived and easily understood.

Mobile Work Equipment

No employee can be carried on mobile work equipment unless it is suitable for carrying passengers and it has features for reducing to as low as is reasonably practicable risks to their safety including risks from wheels or tracks.

Employees should be protected against falling out of the equipment and from unexpected movement. The risk of mobile work equipment rolling over must be minimised by:

  • Stabilising the work equipment
  • Providing a structure that ensures the work equipment does no more than fall on its side
  • Providing a structure giving sufficient clearance to anyone being carried if it overturns further than its side
  • A device giving comparable protection
    Where self-propelled work equipment in motion could involve a risk to anyone's safety it must have:
  • Facilities for preventing it being started by an unauthorised person
  • Facilities for minimising the consequences of a collision (where it is rail mounted)
  • Physical means of braking and stopping
  • Appropriate aids where necessary to assist the driver's field of vision
  • lighting for use in the dark
  • Fire-fighting appliances depending on the circumstances of use


  1. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (LEGUK)
  2. L 22: Safe Use of Work Equipment: Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER): Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (HSC)
  3. HSG 6: Safety in Working with Lift Trucks (HSE)
  4. HSG 17: Safety in the Use of Abrasive Wheels - Revised in line with the Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) (HSE)
  5. INDG 68: Do You Use a Steam/Water Pressure Cleaner - You Could be in for a Shock (HSE)
  6. INDG 229: Using Work Equipment Safely (HSE)
  7. INDG 282: Safety at Power-Operated Paper Cutting Guillotines - Your Responsibilities (HSE)
  8. INDG 291: Simple Guide to the Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) (HSE)
  9. INDG 317: Chainsaws at Work (HSE)
  10. INDG 338: Power Tools: How to Reduce Vibration Health Risks - Guide for Employers (HSE)