Relying on CE marking to satisfy some of the requirements of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) may seem a logical step for some. However, there’s a catch – PUWER requires machine users to ensure that the CE marking process has been properly carried out. Paul Laidler of safety and compliance consultants, Laidler Associates, explains

To properly assess the implications of this issue we must first ask what CE marking actually means? The answer ought to be as simple as the question – when manufacturers apply the CE marking to products and provide the associated Declaration of Conformity, they are confirming that the products meet the requirements of all relevant EU directives and UK regulations.

Now let’s move on to the Work Equipment Directive which is implemented in the UK by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which is usually referred to simply as PUWER. These regulations apply to all work equipment regardless of its age, including equipment that carries the CE marking. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that all equipment they provide meets the requirements laid down in PUWER.

In this instance, Regulation 10 of PUWER, ‘Conformity with European Community Requirements’, is of particular interest. It requires that an employer must ensure that any equipment subject to European directives complies with all applicable Essential Health and Safety Requirements (ESHRs) of the directives that apply to it.

Possibly that sounds a little familiar. Isn’t that the same as the requirement for CE marking? And if it is, surely all that employers need to satisfy Regulation 10 is to make sure that all equipment they provide carries the CE marking. Unfortunately, things are not quite so straightforward.

PUWER pitfalls

Let us first of all consider the situation where the equipment supplier has applied the CE marking incorrectly, and the equipment does not, in reality, meet the requirements of the relevant EU directives. Note that cases of this type don’t necessarily involve malpractice or deliberate intention to mislead – the supplier may simply have misunderstood or misinterpreted the requirements. Whatever the reason, however, the supplier can be pursued in law for making a false declaration.

However, what we need to know is where this leaves an employer who has acquired the equipment and put it into service. The answer is that the employer has a problem, because it is their responsibility to ensure compliance with PUWER and, if they have relied on a CE marking that has been incorrectly applied, they have not discharged this responsibility. In other words, employers can rely on a CE marking only if they confirm that it has been applied correctly.

This is something of a problem as it could be argued that the only way to be sure that the CE marking has been correctly applied is to repeat the whole of the CE marking process. Fortunately, in practice it is rarely, if ever, necessary to go to such lengths. Nevertheless, when purchasing or otherwise acquiring machines, there are several important points that should always be checked on the Certificate of Conformity that supports the CE marking.

An essential checklist

The first is that the certificate lists all of the relevant directives. In relation to an item of machinery, for example, it would be rather obvious if the Machinery Directive had been omitted and probably likewise for the Low Voltage Directive. But what about the EMC Directive? This is perhaps, a less obvious requirement, but it will be needed for all machines that incorporate electrical or electronic components. And of course, there are many other directives that may be relevant in particular circumstances.

Next, it’s essential to check that the standards referred to in the Declaration of Conformity are the latest versions. This is a particularly easy trap to fall into because there is a fundamental difference between the requirements for CE marking and those for PUWER.

CE marking is a snapshot in time – it is applied on the basis of the standards in force on the date that the declaration of conformity was issued. In contrast, PUWER always references the latest versions of the standards so, even if the CE marking has been correctly applied, if the standards have subsequently changed, it cannot be relied on as a way of meeting Regulation 10.

The Declaration of Conformity should also be checked for completeness. Does it contain the name of the responsible person, for example, and are any external documents it references readily available?

These are, of course, just the basic steps that should be followed, but in some cases, particularly with dangerous or safety critical equipment, it may be necessary to go further to check on the validity of the CE marking. As might be expected, the decision on exactly how far to go should, in all cases, be determined on the basis of a risk assessment.


As we have seen, the decision to rely on CE marking as an aid to meeting the requirements of PUWER is one that must be made with considerable caution. Nevertheless, there’s no suggestion that the enforcement authorities expect machine users to routinely repeat the CE marking process, rather that they take steps to satisfy themselves that the process has been carried out correctly.

However, determining the right steps to take is not always easy and professional advice from an experienced consultant may well prove invaluable. After all, failing to comply with PUWER, whether knowingly or unknowingly, can have serious and far reaching consequences for employers, so a little money spent on expert guidance may well prove to be an excellent investment.