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All at sea? You can’t afford to be

A raft of legislation applies to the provision and use of work equipment both on and off shore – and it’s vital that those who supply such equipment are fully aware of their responsibilities, says Andrew Oliver, partner and head of renewable energy at Andrew Jackson.

Whether working on land, an offshore structure or on board a vessel, the provision and use of work equipment is regulated under both European and UK law. Whilst different legislation and guidelines are in place for the use of equipment on ships as opposed to on land or fixed structures, the principles are the same and a breach of the relevant legislation can result in criminal prosecution, as well as having the potential to invalidate any insurance policy that may be in place.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, commonly known as PUWER, apply whether on land or at sea. They refer to work equipment and machinery used every day in the workplace and can include small appliances and work tools through to larger appliances, such as lathes, machine tools and cleaning equipment – in fact any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work.

On land, the regulations are known as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and came into force on 5 December 1998. At sea they are known as the Merchant Shipping and Vessels (Provision and Use of Work Equipment (Regulations 2006)) and came into force on 24 November 2006. Grants for the terrestrial environment can be obtained from the Health & Safety Executive website and in the marine environment, reference should be made to Marine Guidance Note 331(M + F).

In accordance with the EC Directive, the regulations do not prescribe exact measures to be taken by employers but place the onus on the employer to ensure that all work equipment is appropriate for its intended purpose and is safe to use. At the same time, the employer must also have regard to the general provisions of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 or in the marine environment, the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997, which set out the general requirements for health and safety at work.

In addition, there are further regulations, namely, the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), with specific legislation in respect of LOLER on land and again at sea. Appropriate guidance can be obtained from the HSE website or in the marine environment, under Marine Guidance Note 332.

The basic principles of PUWER include appropriate inspection of work equipment at regular intervals; frequent maintenance; appropriate training for its use; suitable marking as to safe working loads or particular work uses; and, the appropriate planning and risk assessment of operation or considerations. All of the above should, of course, be properly recorded so that evidence of compliance can be demonstrated.

Increased penalties and sentences as a result of new sentencing guidelines will mean that breaches of health and safety legislation including PUWER and LOLER are likely to result in increased penalties, such as personal liability for directors and in the most serious cases, imprisonment of such individuals. It is therefore vital that those who supply work equipment are not only fully aware of their responsibilities but carry those responsibilities through.

This article was first published in Wind Energy Network magazine, October 2016

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