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Machines and banana skins.

Despite the way things may sometimes seem, the committees that develop regulations and directives relating to machinery work very hard to make them unambiguous and easy to apply. Nevertheless, in such complex documents, it's almost impossible to avoid leaving a few "banana skins" for the unwary to slip on. Paul Laidler of Laidler Associates provides useful guidance on a selection of these.

You have a piece of equipment - let's be careful at this stage about calling it a machine, for reasons that will become apparent later - and you're thinking about applying CE marking to it and issuing a Declaration of Conformity to confirm compliance with the Machinery Directive. But do you need to do this? Indeed, are you even allowed to do it? Most of the time, coming up with the right answer is straightforward, but let's look at a few cases where it's not.

Is an electric motor a machine?

As any engineer will tell you, an electric motor is a machine. So it seems obvious that motors must comply with the requirements of the Machinery Directive. But in fact they don't need to comply, because a motor is not intended for a "specific application". For the purposes of the Machinery Directive it is, therefore, not a machine, as the Directive defines a machine as "An assembly ... of linked parts ... which are joined together for a specific application." Note, however, that if you fit the motor with a pulley it may well fall within the definition of a machine, in which case it will need to comply with the Machinery Directive. And, in all cases, motors have to comply with the requirements of the Low Voltage Directive.

Are gas struts machines?

Gas struts certainly aren't machines, even in terms of the Machinery Directive, which talks about machines as assemblies fitted with or intended to be fitted with a drive system other than directly applied human or animal effort. It might therefore seem safe to assume that they are not covered by the Directive, but once again that would be incorrect! Safety components have been brought within the scope of the latest version of the Machinery Directive, if their malfunction can cause an injury. Gas struts used, for example, to support heavy lids fall into this category and must, therefore, comply.


Are cars machines?

It would seem entirely logical that cars should be considered as machines and should, therefore, comply with the Machinery Directive. Except that the Directive specifically excludes road-going vehicles. It's worth noting, however, that certain types of vehicle - some types of farm tractor, for example - may not be intended for on-road use, and these are covered by the Directive. In simple terms, if you do not have to tax your vehicle then it will need to carry CE Marking.

How does the Machinery Directive apply to self-built machines?

If you build a machine yourself to use in your own factory, it's treated just like any other machine, and it has to comply with the Machinery Directive. The key phrase from the Directive is "placing on the market" which is defined in the Directive as "making available for the first time with a view to distribution or use, whether for reward or free of charge". There are no special exemptions!

Linking up a couple of old machines is not a problem, surely?

Actually, linking together two or more old machines could be a really big problem, as they then form a "complex assembly" in the terms of the Machinery Directive. As a result, the whole assembly must be shown to comply with the Directive. Note that it's not good enough to say that the machines, before they were linked, individually complied with the Directive - the whole assembly must now be fully assessed for compliance. This applies regardless of the age of the machines. In some case with old machines, the documentation needed to confirm compliance may simply not exist. In these circumstances, the machine will probably have to be scrapped even if it can apparently be made safe.

Is it OK to save money by self-certifying equipment?

For the most part, the Machinery Directive does allow self-certification, but it's doubtful whether this will save money. Those who are unfamiliar with the certification and CE marking process may well find it confusing and time consuming, with the result that they end up spending more money than if they'd used the services of an expert third party. Also, it's essential to bear in mind that there are some types of equipment, defined as dangerous machines, for which self-certification is never acceptable. These are listed in Annex IV of the Machinery Directive.

The machine I'm buying has a CE Mark so it must be OK?

The CE Mark is really only the manufacturer's claim that the machine is safe and that they have complied with the Directive. The end user still needs to check the machine to make sure that they are happy that it is safe. Regulation 10 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) requires that the end user checks to ensure that any machinery they are buying and/or using complies with all relevant legislation. In the worst outcome, if an accident happens, the end-user will be prosecuted before the machine builder.


Who's responsible?

As part of the process of confirming that an item of equipment complies with the Machinery Directive, a technical file must be put together, but who is responsible for doing this? It can be and often is the manufacturer or supplier of the equipment, but it doesn't have to be. They are free to appoint an authorised representative, who must be European, to assemble the technical file and sign the Declaration of Conformity on their behalf. Note, however, that this authorised representative is not necessarily the same as "the person authorised to compile the technical file", no matter how confusing this may seem. The role of the "person authorised to compile the technical file" is simply to store the file at an address within Europe, and to make its content accessible to anyone with a good reason to see them. It can be the same person or organisation as the authorised representative, but it doesn't have to be.


Let's be fair. This article has highlighted some of the more confusing aspects of working with the Machinery Directive. It has to be said, however, that these are just a few of the 'banana skins' lurking in the depths of European and UK directives and regulations. Avoiding them all is no trivial matter, but it's a task that can be made much easier with a little help from an expert. It's worth remembering, therefore, that spending a little money on buying expertise is always preferable to spending a lot of money trying to remedy a costly mistake!

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Title Annotation:HEALTH & SAFETY
Publication:Plant & Works Engineering
Article Type:Interview
Date:Nov 1, 2010
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