Buying work equipment

When you purchase work equipment you are responsible for ensuring it complies with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. Before purchasing work equipment you need to:

  • Ensure its initial integrity and conformity with European safety requirements
  • Consider where and how it will be used and any risks from its installation, commissioning, use or maintenance (including exposure to electricity, noise, vibration, radiation, hazardous dusts and emissions and poor ergonomic working conditions).

Prior to purchase, please take time to read HSE guidance on buying work equipment or seek advice from your Departmental Health and Safety Officer (DHSO) or the Health and Safety Advisory Service (HSAS). Also ensure you follow your departmental procedures for the approval of new or secondhand equipment purchases.

Buying online or from overseas

If you purchase equipment online from an organisation that is not known to you, it may be more difficult to resolve problems with goods sourced this way. This is particularly the case for products purchased from overseas sites or via online auction sites.

If you purchase items from overseas you may not be protected by UK product safety legislation or it may not meet standards expected in the workplace. Items aimed at the general public may also not meet the same safety standards as are expected by law in the workplace. There are also a number of non-safety related concerns which should be considered, so advice should be sought from Procurement.

CE marking and Certificate of Conformity

Most work equipment must conform to essential requirements for safety applicable through European product supply law. Such equipment will have a CE mark on the product or its packaging and the supplier should provide a Declaration of Conformity to their buyers. Ask the seller for the declaration and keep this safe, it may need to be referred to if the work equipment is not fit for purpose or becomes faulty.

Some work equipment, that is not powered or used to lift (e.g. hand tools, racking and ladders) does not currently come within the scope of any product safety Directive and so must not be CE marked.

Please note; the CE mark is not a guarantee of safety, only that its design meets European product safety law requirements. CE marks may also be incorrectly applied. Experience has shown that a number of new items that are CE marked have failed portable electrical appliance tests (PAT). Also the CE mark on some equipment is incorrectly applied or the product may be counterfeit (see below). If you have any doubts about the safety of a CE marked product, contact your DHSO or HSAS. If necessary HSAS will refer it to the HSE or Trading Standards for investigation.

Importing work equipment from a Non-EU Country, building or modifying work equipment

CE marking is the responsibility of the person who places the product on the market, or puts it into service, for the first time. In law this duty rests with the Responsible Person, which in most cases is the manufacturer or their representative. It can also include anyone who imports non CE marked products into Europe, those who makes a product for their own use, and those who modify existing products already in use to such an extent they must be considered "new" products.

So, if the University imports directly from a non-EU country, the University would be the Responsible Person and so must check that it meets EU requirements for conformity, CE mark the equipment and provide the Declaration of Conformity. The equipment can be CE marked by the supplier but the University would be responsible for ensuring they did it properly. This applies even if the equipment is for the University’s own use.

If you import, build or modify work equipment you must seek competent advice on CE marking. Please read the HSE guidance on the law on CE Marking and product safety for more information.

Electrical safety

Brand new electrical equipment should not require Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) on purchase if purchased from a reputable UK supplier, but will need to go onto your PAT inventory. If equipment is secondhand (e.g. purchased through an auction site) or is purchased directly from a supplier outside the UK (e.g. through an online site) it should undergo Portable Appliance TestingPortable Appliance TestingPortable Appliance Testing (PAT) before being put into use (in accordance with the University's PAT Policy). If you do not have competent staff within the department, PAT can be arranged through the Estate Management SectionEstate Management SectionEstate Management Section (there may be a charge for this service).

Check whether the electrical equipment is 220-230v or 110v. If it is 110v it may not be suitable for use in the UK, or may require a transformer to prevent it being damaged when connected to the UK mains supply.

Secondhand equipment

Secondhand equipment can be particularly problematic. Suppliers of secondhand equipment for use at work must supply it in a safe condition. They should also provide the original instruction manual, or a copy of it. However experience has shown that it is difficult to guarantee safety and the associated paperwork is rarely correct or complete. If you buy a secondhand product from an auction site you will have little comeback if it is subsequently found to be unsafe, particularly if it came from a country outside the European community.

Electrical equipment should be provided with a record that it has passed a recent PAT. Certain equipment (such as complex dangerous plant, pressure vessels or lifting equipment and accessories) requires periodic inspection and thorough examination. Copies of the last record of inspection/thorough examination should also be provided. Laboratory equipment (eg vacuum pumps) will require a decontamination certificate. You must confirm these are available before completing a purchase.

Never accept waivers that relieve the seller of liability for the safety of the product being sold.

Ongoing cleaning, inspection, maintenance and repair

You are required by law to maintain work equipment in a safe condition. Check what the ongoing cleaning, inspection and maintenance requirements are, as well as the life expectancy of the equipment and its associated parts. Consider how maintenance will be arranged and whether there are parts that require regular replacement (eg filters). Who will do the maintenance, are they appropriately trained, how will replacement parts be obtained and what costs do you need to budget for? You will also need to ensure that maintenance can be carried out safely and cover it in your risk assessment.

Hazardous and dangerous substances

Hazardous substances

Safety data sheets provide information on chemical products that help users of those chemicals to make a risk assessment. They describe the hazards the chemical presents, and give information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of an accident. If a substance is dangerous for supply, the supplier must send you a safety data sheet when the product is first ordered, if the formulation changes, or if you ask for a safety data sheet. If it is not dangerous for supply the supplier should include instructions for safe use with the package. If a supplier refuses to provide safety information, please inform HSAS who will advise the HSE.

Check that the packaging of the substance is labelled with the appropriate hazard warning symbols in line with the hazards identified on the safety data sheet. Find out more about working with hazardous substancesworking with hazardous substancesworking with hazardous substances and HSE's guidance on the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH). Experience has shown that when substances are purchased online they often come with missing, incorrect or out of date safety data sheets.

Dangerous substances

Some substances are extremely dangerous and may also be prohibited from importation by UK Authorities, such as asbestos containing materials. There may also be restrictions on the holding of certain substances for security reasons. Never purchase any item which presents a high risk to health or safety, unless prior written authorisation has been obtained from the Head of Health and Safety and the Head of Department.

Never open or accept any substances with packaging or containers which are not appropriately marked or which show signs of damage. If a substance is purchased and turns out to be unsuitable or unsafe considerable costs may be incurred disposing of it as hazardous waste. For the reasons above some departments (eg School of Biological Sciences) will not accept shipments of hazardous substances brought outside their normal purchasing system. Find out more about working with dangerous and explosive substances working with dangerous and explosive substances working with dangerous and explosive substances and HSE's guidance on the dangerous substances.

Laser products

It is possible to purchase a range of high-powered laser pointers through the internet which can be extremely hazardous. Products containing laser pointers (eg some measuring devices) must be purchased from reputable suppliers. They should be low powered (1mW) and marked Class 1 or 2, under the current British Standard for lasers. If you are planning to purchase a product containing a laser with a class rating greater than 2 you must first consult your departmental or the University’s Non-Ionising Radiation Protection Advisersdepartmental or the University’s Non-Ionising Radiation Protection Advisersdepartmental or the University’s Non-Ionising Radiation Protection Advisers.

All laser products should include the laser hazard label and its classification under the BS EN 60825-1. Secondhand lasers (and some new) may have the old classification. Find out more about laser and laser pointer safetylaser and laser pointer safetylaser and laser pointer safety.

Radiation sources

The University has permits for the holding and use of sources of radiation which must be strictly adhered to. For this reason, you must not purchase radioactive substances or equipment containing or generating radiation sources without first obtaining the approval of your Departmental Ionising Radiation Protection Supervisor (DIRPS) or the University’s Ionising Radiation Protection Officer (UIRPO)Departmental Ionising Radiation Protection Supervisor (DIRPS) or the University’s Ionising Radiation Protection Officer (UIRPO)Departmental Ionising Radiation Protection Supervisor (DIRPS) or the University’s Ionising Radiation Protection Officer (UIRPO). Find out more about the University's local rules for use of ionising radiationionising radiationionising radiation.

Biological agents

Prior approval for the purchase of biological agents must be obtained from the Departmental Biological Safety Officer (DBSO) and University Biological Safety Adviser (UBSA).

Biological agents are classified into four hazard groups (HG) according to their risk to humans. There are also categories of containment level (CL) required to control risk when handling biological agents. Working with HG2 biological agents requires a minimum of CL2, HG3 agents being handled at a minimum of CL3 and HG4 at CL4.

Biological agents classified as HG3 or HG4 must not be purchased or brought onto the premises as the University does not have laboratories of a sufficient containment level to handle them.

Find out more about the University's biological safety local rules.

Counterfeit goods

Some items that appear to be CE marked can turn out to be counterfeit. When you receive the goods, check the packaging, CE marking and other certifications and associated paperwork carefully. Is the quality and labelling what you expect? If you have any doubts seek further advice from your DHSO or HSAS.

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Health and Safety Advisory Service
Telephone: 01206 872944