Safety first

18 March 2010

Safety is obviously taken extremely seriously in the workplace, and especially where machinery is concerned. Some may say that ‘health and safety’ has got out of hand, and that the rules and regulations surrounding the initiatives that are now necessary are extremely onerous. However, non-compliance can have severe consequences, so it is essential to be aware of what the new Machinery Directive contains, and how to comply with it.

The new Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) came into force on 29 December 2009, and is an amalgamation and revision of 98/37/EC and 89/392/EEC. It refers to almost all categories of machinery and accessories, with a few exceptions such as military machines, machines that are covered by other, more specific directives, and some equipment that falls within the scope of the Low Voltage Directive. Its purpose is to provide the regulatory basis for the harmonisation of the essential health and safety requirements for machinery at EU level, and also promotes the free movement of machinery within the single market. Being a ‘New Legal Framework’ Directive, it promotes harmonisation through a combination of mandatory health and safety requirements and voluntary harmonised standards. Such directives only apply to products that are intended to be placed (or put into service) on the EU market for the first time.

In case you were wondering what a machine is, the European Commission has offered a definition: machinery can be described as ‘an assembly, fitted with or intended to be fitted with a drive system other than directly applied human or animal effort, consisting of linked parts or components, at least one of which moves, and which are joined together for a specific application’.

Bear in mind, however, that a ‘machine’ can also refer to a whole production line. By linking existing machines, you are creating something new, so the whole assembly must comply with the Directive.

Good news for those wishing to use exhibitions to demonstrate new machinery: compliance is not necessary for these purposes, and safety guarding, etc, can still be removed to display the workings of machines at shows, provided that this does not put anyone at risk.

The vast majority of machinery may be self-certified by the manufacturer or its authorised representative within the EU. What this means is that so long as the administrative and protection requirements of the Directive are properly completed, the manufacturer can perform all of the assessment and documentation procedures in-house and does not need to submit any form of external test or approval. A list of hazards can be found in the Directive itself.

The administrative provisions of the Directive require manufacturers to produce a Technical File, sign a Declaration of Conformity and label the product with certain markings, for example the CE mark. The person who is authorised to compile the Technical File must be established in the EU.

Before reaching a Declaration of Conformity, it is important to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out for the machinery that is intended for the market. Any risks identified must be reduced to ‘as low a level as is reasonably practicable’.

The fact that machinery is to be self-certified does not mean that anyone should be lax about conformity. The penalties are severe: in the UK, for example, the maximum penalty for the supply of non-compliant machinery is two years’ inprisonment and/or a hefty fine. More importantly, the regulations also give the authorities the power to force manufacturers to recall or replace faulty product.

A Guide to the application of Directive 2006/42/EC can be found on the EC website: – but be warned, it’s 335 pages long!

Maureen Byrne,


Maureen Byrne

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