Health & Safety – when is equipment covered by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations?

legal updates

In many cases this is clear cut and the vast array of tools and equipment around the workshop and offices will fall into this category.

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It is a requirement under Health and Safety law to provide and maintain the equipment necessary for an employee to carry out his work.

In many cases this is clear cut and the vast array of tools and equipment around the workshop and offices will fall into this category. 

In some cases, however, it is not so clear. What about a particular ‘pet’ tool an employee brings in because he/she always finds it useful to do a particular job, eg a pocket knife or say, a block of wood to go under a jack?  Alternatively, when you do ‘off site’ work, what if a customer supplies a trolley jack or another specialist tool?

The question was considered in a recent appeal case (Smith v Northamptonshire County Council 2009 UKHL 27).  In that case it related to a County Council employee using a ramp supplied by the NHS previously at a persons home in order to assist access from the home to a minibus.  The employee damaged her foot when the ramp collapsed.  Because the council had not provided the ramp, nor had responsibility, or a right to repair it, then it was held that is should not be liable for the upkeep and repair of it.  The Court went on to say that the Regulations applied if the employees use of the equipment was known to or authorised by the employer and the employer could assess the equipment and reasonably instruct the employee not to use it.

In the cases above much depends on the regularity of use and how much the use is ‘seen’ by the business owners/managers.

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