2. The Selection of Plant and Equipment

It is very important that correct items of plant and equipment are selected for all work tasks.  (See also the section on Task Safety). 

Too many accidents are caused by incorrect selection of equipment.  Sometimes, this is because of trying to “persuade” a tool to do a job it wasn’t designed for because it’s easier, cheaper and quicker than going out to buy the right piece of equipment.  Sometimes it’s because of errors at the planning stage, where the person in charge of the job has assumed that the organisation’s existing equipment is sufficient, and it turns out not to be.

The law requires every work operation (or job, to you and me) to be carefully considered and the appropriate work equipment to be selected to carry out that job.  The language used implies that only equipment for physical work (construction, farming, mining and so on) is covered by the legislation, but this is not the case.  Electrical equipment is included and that covers computers, printers, photocopiers, franking machines, kettles and much more, so low-risk and office-based organisations must also make sure they are selecting the right items for their workers to use.

Monitoring of accident and incident reports will help to identify whether incorrectly selected equipment is causing problems, although, to be honest, it is likely that such problems will be obvious to everyone without having to resort to reviewing accident records.

Technological Advances

New items of plant and machinery come on to the market all the time.  Sometimes, this results in wholesale change in the workplace, for example the introduction of computers to offices.  Sometimes, an industry-specific machine revolutionises a single work process, for example automated greenhouses which can perfectly tailor the growing environment.  Whatever the innovation, if a new piece of equipment is introduced into the workplace, you must make sure it is fit for purpose and that the workers who will be using it are fully and properly trained.

Health and Safety Myth

Provide clear information about equipment being repaired

 A father and his disabled daughter intended to use the lift in a DIY store.   When they reached the lift, they found it was displaying an 'out-of-order' sign.  The father asked the duty manager why another 'out of order' sign was not put at the beginning of the passageway to the lift, so that customers, especially disabled ones, would not have to walk about ten metres to the lift, only to have to turn back.  The duty manager replied that health and safety reasons dictated that no such sign should be displayed.

There is no conceivable health and safety reason why the store cannot put up a notice/sign to save disabled customers the obvious inconvenience of making the effort of getting to a lift, which is then found to be out of order.  This is another example of health and safety being used as a thin disguise for very poor customer service.