Guidance Note 35 – Work equipment

This Guidance Note gives practical information about the safe use of work equipment.

Download Guidance Note

A sample template of an inspection and maintenance record has been included in Appendix 1. If you wish to use this template to construct your own documents, you must ensure that all references to Alcumus SafeContractor Accreditation have been removed and the final documents are clearly incorporated into your existing safety management system.

What is work equipment?

Anything provided for use at work constitutes work equipment. It includes computers, photocopiers, fax machines and other office equipment. It also includes vacuum cleaners, floor cleaners, compactors, generators, ladders and machinery such as abrasive wheels. Equipment owned by employees but used at work, e.g. tool kits could also become a responsibility of the employer.

Who has responsibilities?

All persons who have control over work equipment including employers, self-employed persons and hire companies have legal obligations. Even if an employer provides work equipment for use at work where they do not control its use or the premises where it is to be used, they should still ensure that the work equipment complies with appropriate legislation. Where multiple parties are involved cooperation and co-ordination of activities is required.

Suitability, maintenance and inspection

All work equipment must be constructed or adapted so as to be suitable for its intended use. Attention must be paid to the working conditions (e.g. if it is to be used inside or outside), the risks posed by the use of the equipment (noise, dust, radiation etc.) and the risks existing in the premises (explosive or flammable atmospheres etc.)

Work equipment must be maintained in good repair and safe working order. Where work equipment is issued with a maintenance log you are legally obliged to ensure that it is kept up to date. There is nothing else within the regulations that require formal maintenance records to be kept, however, a record of maintenance is the only suitable means of proving compliance with the regulations and would therefore satisfy the enforcing authority. An example of a maintenance log can be found in Appendix 1.

Where the installation of equipment can affect the safe operation of that equipment, then the equipment should be inspected after the installation.

Also, where deterioration of the equipment can affect the safe operation of the equipment (e.g. window cleaning cradles), it should be inspected on a frequent basis.

Maintenance operations should be planned so as not to pose a risk to the health and safety of those carrying out the maintenance activities or any other person.

Risk assessment should identify the risks posed from maintenance activities, and an appropriate safe system of work should be devised.

Specific risks

Employers need to ensure that, where work equipment presents a particular risk that cannot be eliminated, only specified competent personnel can gain access to the equipment.

Only specially designated competent persons, who have received adequate training to ensure their safety when performing such operations, should carry out maintenance tasks.

Information, instruction and training

Every employer shall ensure that all persons who use work equipment have received adequate training for purposes of health and safety. Employers should:

Conformity with EC requirements

If work equipment is subject to one or more European Product Directives, it must comply with these before it can be used.

For machinery, this means that equipment first supplied after the start of 1995 must comply with the Machinery Directive and carry a CE mark before it can be put into service.

It is illegal to supply equipment that does not comply and it is illegal to use such equipment at work.

Dangerous parts of machinery

Measures must be taken to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery. A hierarchy of measures are outlined below to achieve this. The measures are ranked in the order they should be implemented, where practicable, to achieve an adequate level of protection:

There are identified specific hazards that should be eliminated, or where that is not practicable, should be adequately controlled. Measures must be taken to prevent against injury from very hot or very cold parts of work equipment.

Control systems

Specific requirements for machines with control systems include:

Isolation from sources of energy

It must be possible to isolate the equipment from energy sources for cleaning and maintenance operations.

Stability and lighting

Equipment must be stable and ambient lighting conditions must be sufficient so as to avoid risks.

Markings and warnings

Any markings must be clear and unambiguous. After all the risks have been addressed, as far as is reasonable, any remaining dangers should be highlighted with audible or visible warnings to ensure that the equipment can be used safely.

Mobile equipment

Mobile equipment is any work equipment which is transported between locations, or carries out work whilst moving. It includes towed and self-propelled equipment and any attachments.

In addition to general requirements, specific measures are to be taken when using mobile equipment.

Maintenance or work equipment

There are four main questions to consider when preparing a maintenance regime for your work equipment, these are:

The answers to these four questions will determine how often the equipment needs to be checked. The extent and complexity of maintenance can vary substantially from simple checks on basic equipment to an integrated programme for a complex plant. In all circumstances, for maintenance to be effective it needs to be targeted at the parts of work equipment where failure or deterioration could lead to health and safety risks.

A number of maintenance management techniques could be used:

Appropriate techniques should be selected through risk assessment and used independently or in combination to address the risks involved.

Simple hand tools usually require minimal maintenance, but could require repair or replacement at intervals. More complex powered equipment will normally be accompanied by a manufacturer’s maintenance manual, which specifies routine and special maintenance procedures to be carried out at particular intervals. Some of the procedures will be necessary to keep the equipment in working order; others will be required for safety reasons.

It should be remembered that different maintenance management techniques have different benefits.

Where safety-critical parts could fail and cause the equipment, guards or other protection devices to fail and lead to immediate or hidden potential risks, a formal system of planned preventative or condition-based maintenance is likely to be needed.

Remember maintenance procedures should be carried out in accordance with any manufacturer’s recommendations which relate to the equipment, e.g. periodic lubrication, replacement and adjustment of parts. Additional maintenance measures may be required if particularly arduous conditions of use are expected or have been experienced.

Maintenance log

There is no requirement for you to keep a maintenance log. However, it is recommended that you keep a record of maintenance for high-risk equipment. A detailed maintenance log can provide information for future planning of maintenance activities and inform maintenance personnel and others of previous action taken. If you have a maintenance log, you should keep it up to date.

An example of a work equipment maintenance and inspection form can be found in Appendix 1.


Further Guidance