Health and Safety legislation imposes a number of duties on employers when providing equipment for employees. This is true whether it’s the “usual” type of equipment you would see in any office or practice or something more specialist, like an orthopaedic chair. Let’s start by examining those duties:
(1) Basic Duty
Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a duty on every employer “to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) means that employers must ensure that any equipment they provide for employees is –
- Suitable for the job it’s going to be used for
- Safe – properly maintained and inspected (before first use and then at regular intervals)
- Properly used by those who have been trained to do so
- Used with any suitable health and safety measures (for example, using a shredder with any fitted guards)
It’s a common misconception that PUWER only applies to equipment you might find in a factory, warehouse or on a construction site. However, according to the Act, the term “work equipment” is very wide and means any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work.
(3) Specific equipment and jobs
There is also a wealth of other legislation which tends to either apply to specific:
- Jobs/ industry sectors (such as construction) or
- Equipment, such as the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 dealing with assessing and controlling the risks from working with display screen equipment, such as monitors, laptops and touch screens.
Remember that the employer has a duty to be aware of what applies to them and the equipment they use. Ignorance is not usually an excuse.
(4) The individual employee’s needs
The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ The Act requires an employer to make “reasonable” adjustments – steps which are “reasonable in all the circumstances” to ensure that a disabled employee is not “at a substantial disadvantage as a result of any:
- Provisions, criteria or practices, (so including Practice policies)
- Physical features (such as access to areas of the practice)
- Provision of auxiliary aids
What is considered ‘reasonable’ will depend on a number of factors, but whatever steps an employer agree to take must also comply with their other health and safety duties.
These duties can feel quite onerous but one of the most straightforward ways to deal with them is to devise or use a simple checklist based on your legal duties. Therefore, when you are considering obtaining equipment to be used by your employees you will be able to work through what’s important and cover those requirements.
You can also add on any practice budget and buying protocols to form a really comprehensive method of dealing with a consistent, transparent supply of equipment, which both fulfils your obligations and makes life that little bit easier.