How European law & directives set equipment standards

In this second of a new series of articles reporting on CHEM* activities, the Container Handling Equipment Manufacturers Association explores the background of how and why the European standards arise from the directives which originate from the European parliament. These directives affect such issues as the harmonisation of standards and the listing of certain categories of machines, including RCVs, with high hazard rating requiring special attention

Proposed European directives are drafted by experts in their fields on the instruction of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union. Each member state has the opportunity to comment on the drafts through its respective ministerial departments who, in turn, will consult with experts and interested parties in their own country.

When the comments have been considered and the draft amended and agreed it is given an identifying number and formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Notice of adoption of a directive is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

In the case of machinery the original directive 89/392/EEC of 14 June 1989 provides for an approximation of the laws of the member states relating to machinery. This directive was superseded by the codified version 98/37/EC of 22 June 1998 and will, shortly, again be replaced by a redrafted directive as yet un-numbered but which has been published for information in the official journal of the EU under reference C251E/1 of 11 October 2005.

Following adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union the directive must be adopted by and embodied in the laws of each member state thus giving it full legal status. As a result, the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 became law in the UK on 1 January 1993 under Statutory Instrument S.I. 1992/3073. Following amendments the current regulations came into force on 1 January 1995 under S.I. 1994/2063. In short, the regulations provide the framework whereby manufacturers and suppliers of machinery may comply with the directive in terms of machinery safety and at the same time making arrangements for market surveillance and penalties for infringements.

The main provisions in the regulations set out a common base of safety considerations from which to produce a comprehensive analysis of the potential hazards and associated risks arising from the use of machinery.

Harmonised standards

The regulation also promotes the idea of harmonised standards in order to achieve a common position throughout the EU on essential health and safety requirements thus removing barriers to trade on technical grounds in the EU market.

As previously stated, all suppliers of machinery for use within the EU, whether they are manufacturers or importers, are required to carry out an assessment of the potential hazards and attendant risks associated with the intended use, or other use which can be reasonably foreseen, of the machinery placed by them on the market. For a specific piece of machinery not requiring independent examination each manufacturer or supplier in a member state will endeavour to comply with the regulation as it applies in his own country.

This will result in a variety of perceived essential health and safety requirements by the manufacturers and suppliers depending on their views of what constitutes a hazard, how it is rated and what measures are taken to eliminate or minimise it. It would be fair to say that those who, in their own way, have been diligent in complying with all requirements of the regulation can rightfully apply the CE mark to their machines but the fact remains that similar pieces of machinery will embody different technical features leading to confusion in the domestic market and more so in the wider spectrum of the European market.

These difficulties can be overcome through the preparation and acceptance of a harmonised standard incorporating all the essential health and safety requirements as perceived by all manufacturers and suppliers in the EU. Standards in themselves are not binding on the manufacturer or supplier but it certainly makes sense to the buyer of machinery to have the assurance that what he is buying complies with the provisions of an agreed standard and that all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that it is safe to use anywhere in the EU.

Committee for European Standards (CEN)

The EU machinery directive, apart from setting down the general considerations of essential health and safety requirements, lists certain categories of machines with a high hazard rating which require special attention. Among these are manually loaded trucks incorporating a compaction mechanism for the collection of household refuse.

This type of refuse collection vehicle must, during the process of validating it for CE marking, undergo an independent examination by an approved notified body. Having passed the “type” examination the manufacturer or supplier may continue to put it on the market until such time as significant changes are made to it, when it must be re-examined. The machinery directive provides for machines manufactured to a harmonised standard to be compliant with the essential requirements of the directive. This, together with compliance with full quality procedures and comprehensive technical files, allows the manufacturer or supplier to apply the CE mark without the need for independent examination.

CEN, based in Brussels, is the controlling body for harmonising standards and the national standards body of every EU member state is a member of CEN. The national standards bodies set up mirror groups comprising experts in their particular fields and other parties who have a direct interest in the subjects under discussion.

Technical committees

Technical committees (TCs) have been set up under the auspices of CEN to produce harmonised standards for various categories of machinery and particularly those considered to present a higher level of risk. TC183 is the committee handling dry waste collection equipment and comprises three working groups (WGs) which have the job of drafting standards for waste containers (WG1), waste collection vehicles and their associated lifting devices (WG2) and identification and/or determination of the quantity of waste (WG3). CHEM has a direct involvement in the work of WG2 and an indirect interest in WG1 and WG3.

WG2 comprises a convenor, a secretary and mandated representatives from the national mirror groups. The initial drafting of standards is undertaken by industry experts who may or may not be members of the work group but must be mandated by the national standards body. Having produced a draft standard it is sent to TC183 for appraisal and comment by an independent consultant. The comments are delivered to WG2 for consideration and inclusion, as appropriate, in an amended draft. It is then sent to CEN via TC183 for editing and translation into the three official EU languages; English, French and German. Following translation it is sent to the national standards bodies who, in turn, will announce its existence to members of the mirror group and other interested parties and invite comments.

The comments are assembled by the mirror group, returned to CEN with an indication of whether there is general approval for the standard. WG2 then handles the comments and a final draft is distributed for a final vote. Each member state has the right to vote but the voting power of each state is weighted according to its general status in the EU. For example, the UK has a high weighting, whereas Malta has a low weighting. The publication of a standard is announced in the official journal of the EU.

RCV standards

WG2 first met in early 1992 with the task of developing standards for refuse collection vehicles and their associated lifting devices. The first task was to produce a standard for rear loaded vehicles as the manually loaded type falls within this range. BS EN1501 Part 1 was published in 1998 and became the standard by which manufacturers and suppliers to the EU market assessed and applied the essential health and safety requirements to their waste collection vehicles.

The work of WG2 was then extended to include side loaded and front loaded waste collection vehicles and these standards will be published as parts 2 and 3 of EN1501. Part 1 has been the subject of a recent review and is now restricted to the basic bodywork, the lifting devices having been treated separately in part 5 of EN1501.

There may be some criticism of the time taken to produce a standard but it should be acknowledged that a vast amount of work goes into its preparation and most of it is done by volunteers who have full time jobs. However, when implemented, the standards will be of considerable benefit to both manufacturers and end users.

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