NEW GUIDELINES FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE MACHINERY DIRECTIVE

NEW GUIDELINES FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE MACHINERY DIRECTIVE



Only a specialized company is able to guarantee CE certification and relieve the machinery manufacturer from product responsibility
Last July the European Commission issued the 2.1 revised edition of the guidelines for the application of 
Machinery Directive 42/2006. 
 
Such updates are aimed at providing support to all parties involved in its application for a uniform interpretation of the technical, legal and administrative provisions and implications.
 
The guide is rather dense and contains many in-depth analysis of issues pertaining all aspects of the Directive.
 
One of the most relevant issues the Commission has examined, and for which specific guidance document § 411 was drafted, is that of CE certification of safety fences and the central point of product legal and administrative responsibilities (de jure e de facto) making a distinction between those pertaining the machinery manufacturer and those pertaining the safety fence manufacturer.
 
As an introduction to the issue, it is useful to recall the key requirements a product needs to fulfil in order to be classified as a compliant safety component according to the Directive:
 
1 it can be independently placed on the market
2 it serves to fulfil a safety function
3 its failure endangers the safety of persons
 
Firstly, the legislator warns against misreading of point 1.  They clarify that although safety fences can be sold separately from the machinery, this does not imply that manufacturers are free to place machinery on the market without all the required safety devices  “It is emphasised that the question under which condition safety fences can be regarded as independently placed on the market does not change the fundamental principle of the Machine Directive that all machinery must be supplied with all the protective devices when first placed on the market”
 
The legislator moves on to explore the issue in further depth and explains possible scenarios in which either the machinery manufacturer (hereafter the manufacturer)or the safety fence manufacturer (hereafter supplier) is to be held legally responsible for the safety fence device. Such a clarification was clearly needed as it is a common practice to purchase either customised safety fences or individual safety components which are then adapted during installation.
 
 
 
Three possible scenarios are therefore presented.
 
Scenario 1:
 
The Supplier is asked to construct a safety fence according to the technical features supplied by the manufacturer (construction features, distances, types of mesh and brackets etc.) so the supplier, unaware of the whole project or not having been involved in its planning, will be wholly or partially unable to satisfy the obligations of Art. 5 namely carry out a complete preliminary assessment of the essential safety requirements. Guard fences constructed in a similar scenario do not satisfy the definition above mentioned and stated in Art 2 of the Directive for independent placing on the market of a safety fence. In such a case the Supplier will be considered merely a sub-contractor and the safety fence cannot be CE certified as a safety component, therefore the Manufacturer is the only legal responsible and will be held liable in issues of conformity, i.e. in case of work-related injuries.
 
Moreover, it is important to notice that the allocation of responsibility will not change even if the Supplier has employed fence configuration software, as this does not imply any shift in planning responsibilities.
 
Scenario 2:
 
Safety fences sold by the Supplier as a complete project or as a kit specifically designed for machinery safety. Such a scenario assumes in one case that the Manufacturer provides the Supplier with all the information regarding the machinery and the list of residual risks that need to be dealt with hence shifting safety planning to the Supplier who will choose the most suitable component, or, in the other case, the Supplier places safety products which meet the safety requirements of specific risk- groups or specific machinery (like tool machines) on their own initiative directly on the market.
 
In both cases the safety fence must be provided with CE certification (fulfilling obligations outlined in the harmonised standards  ISO 14120, ISO 13857, ISO 14119. ISO 13849, ISO 12100),  technical booklet and assembly instructions. 
 
 
 
In this scenario commercial and legal  (de facto et de jure) product responsibility are entirely held by the fence supplier, hence releasing the machinery manufacturer from responsibility in this regards.
 
 
Finally, the legislator underlines that the mere installation process does not imply any shift in responsibility from supplier to manufacturer as the former is obliged to supply clear and complete assembly instructions and that latter is obliged to carry them out in accordance. 
 
Scenario 3:
 
Safety guards sold separately or as individual components (individual posts, panels, mesh or fixing parts) without any indication of how they will be employed on the machinery or, more generally, without any specification of their safety function related to an industrial process, cannot be considered a safety component as they do not respond to the requirements stated in Art 2 of the Directive.
 
In this regards the legislator underlines an exception to the rule in the case of doors used as a single element which carry out a safety function as for example fencing off an access route. In such a case, scenario 1 or 2 will apply in order to carry out a correct analysis.
 
 
 
 
In addition to the explanations above, and with the intent of clarifying some misleading interpretations present on the market, we feel it is fair to provide a reminder of what type of CE certifications are needed for safety fences. 
According to Art 12 of the Directive any guard (also called machine guarding, on- board machine guard, fencing system) which is not listed in annex IV can be CE certified simply by carrying out an internal check following the procedure for conformity assessment outlined in annex VIII which means there is no obligation to involve a Notified Body to certify conformity.  
Contrarily, in the case of a guard listed in annex IV as for example item 20: a movable guard designed for presses, certification from a Notified Body is instead compulsory read more.
Therefore the fence guard manufacturer decides to involve a Notified Body in the certification process.
 
To conclude, the Commission is clearly determined to provide clearer guidelines for the correct interpretation and application of the Directive and unravel unfair competition controversies which specialized companies in the field of safety components face as improvised businesses regularly try to push their way into the market without the necessary professional know how. Machinery manufacturers should be reminded that a rough and ready fence guarding system can compromise machinery success on the market, whereas a professional project is by far and large a much wiser and safer investment.

Access is the only Fence manufacturer in Europe with a  ISO 3834   certified welding process which assures mechanic resistance over time of all its fencing guards. Access’s dedicated Perimetra  Unit provides an all-inclusive service with consultancy, designing and engineering, manufacturing and implementation of fencing systems complete with mechanic and electronic components conceived according to the latest functional logic. See Full Guide
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