For those in the manufacturing sector a quick look at the HSE latest statistics pack makes worrying reading.
The headline figures are disappointingly similar to previous years:
- 144 Workplace deaths in 2015/16
- 78,000 significant injuries in 2015/16
- A total cost to UK industry of £4.8M
But the real message is, EEF believe, hidden in the detail. The HSE say that serious injuries in manufacturing are significantly above the UK average of 1,920 cases per 100,000 workers. This is a designation given to only 5 other sectors.
The trend is also moving in a worrying direction, specifically around machinery. In 2015/16 there were 14 fatalities directly related to Machinery, that’s 10% of all deaths. In 2016/17 there were 16 or 11%.
Yet, the law here is surprising simple & doesn’t suffer from any of the ambiguity bought about by the term “Reasonably Practicable” where employers must calculate the cost versus the risk & make the right decision.
The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulation 1998, Regulation 11 should be interpreted with three simple questions:
- Is the part of the machine dangerous? So just ask yourself, could it lead to harm, but be honest with your answer because the HSE will go to great lengths to check.
- Can I put a fixed guard around it? That’s can I, not should I. This duty is PRACTICABLE, not reasonably practicable & so employers cannot use cost as a mitigating factors. If you are able to put a fixed guard around it & still use the machine, then that’s what you have to do.
- If I can’t use a fixed guard, I have to consider another type of guard, e.g. Interlocked, Moveable etc. Again this duty is practicable, so don’t move onto step 4 unless there’s no way you can use a guard.
- In the unlikely event that I get to here, I must consider Safety Devices like light-curtains & pressure mats.
- The last part of Regulation 11 says that you can use Training to keep people safe, it’s very rare that this would be acceptable on its own & should be in conjunction with something higher up the hierarchy.
Despite this law being one of the straightforward in Health & Safety legislation, the understanding of it in some areas of manufacturing is still very poor. EEF regularly visits manufacturing sites as we advise HSE managers on everything from risk assessments to safety competence. During these visits, we often spot PUWER problems and often speak to manufacturers who say, “We can’t afford to do that” or “Is that really reasonably practical”?
These arguments will simply not be listened to by virtue of the practicable nature of this law. For manufacturers, the best solution is to have a third party health and safety consultant conduct a thorough assessment of your safety systems, including PUWER considerations to ensure you’re prepared for a visit.