The law relating to work equipment is found in specific statutory regulations, which impose duties on all employers. These duties relate to the suitability, selection, maintenance and use of work equipment, as well as training to be provided for those using work equipment.
In addition to statutory regulations, employers have common law duties in respect of work equipment. Work equipment is defined as any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work (whether exclusively or not).
This is a wide definition and extends to almost all equipment provided for use or used at work, including, for example, parts of machinery, desks, chairs, pens, trolleys and large machine presses. It may also include tools provided by the employee himself, provided they are used at work and provided the employer expressly or impliedly permits the use or is deemed to have permitted the use. This might include knowing about but turning a blind eye to an item of equipment being used.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) form the core obligations concerning work equipment. PUWER is intended to cover all work equipment (except a ship’s work equipment, which is, generally, excluded from the Regulations) and to impose general duties. The Regulations apply to all employers. This includes the self-employed, for the purposes of equipment that they use at work. The Regulations also apply to anyone who has control of work equipment, control of any person who uses or supervises the use of work equipment or control over the way such equipment is used.