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New Machinery Directive came into European law December 2009 BITA explains its implications

The new Machinery Directive, which came into European law on 29 December 2009, emphasises the need for effective market surveillance to protect against non-compliant equipment. BITA’s Technical Consultant, Bob Hine IEng MIMechE explains the implications of the new legislation for the materials handling industry.

The new Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC will have a direct bearing on fork lift truck manufacturers in numerous sectors within the European materials handling industry.

Early December 2009 saw the publication of the first edition guidelines1 to the Directive’s preamble, Articles and Annexes I & II. The European Federation of Materials Handling (FEM), in which BITA’s technical experts participate, welcomed the release of these guidelines, having played a key role in their production. Over a period of three years, FEM experts attended some 16 working group meetings at EC level, plus numerous other meetings at industry level.

FEM has quite rightly noted in a press release that "our companies are ready to play the game. The minimum they expect in return is that national authorities maintain a level playing field by ensuring efficient market surveillance, in order to combat the proliferation of non-compliant equipment that poses serious safety threats and hinders European companies’ competitiveness".

The crucial couplet in that last sentence is ‘market surveillance’. In practice this is where EU Member States first check that products conform to the Directive "after they have been placed on the market or put into service", and then take "any necessary action" to deal with non-compliant items.

Article 4 of the Machinery Directive sets out the market surveillance obligations for member states. Sections §93 to §102 of the guidance expand on the practical aspects of compliance, including the value of E and CE marking, and the need for there to be "competent authorities" to monitor conformity.

Safety by design… and inspection

The E or CE marking of machinery should not be viewed as a mere administrative formality, but rather as a fundamental part of the ‘designed-in’ safety that must be assured by law in any business where industrial trucks are used.

If there is no compliance mark, users have no guarantee that a truck design meets the minimum standards required for safety laid down by the EU. This also prevents users having the confidence that a truck is in safe operating condition.

In an ideal world, only compliant products would be available for sale and use. In the real world, continuing pressure on costs has placed greater emphasis on second-hand or auction sales, combined with an increasing tendency to cut costs by sourcing equipment on the global market. All of these are risk factors for the presence on these shores of equipment that does not conform to the Machinery Directive’s Essential Health and Safety Requirements (ESHRs), as evinced by E or CE marking.

This is what begs the need for the market surveillance mentioned above. In practice, of course, EU member governments themselves are only able to carry out this surveillance through freight inspections as part of border controls, which could never possibly guarantee to inspect every single item of every inbound shipment.

BITA expects wider understanding and support for the new Machinery Directive to develop within the UK as 2010 unfolds. In support of this it maintains that adopting a proactive stance towards the legislation is in the overall best interests of the industry, since only the highest standards are acceptable in assuring safety for people at work. BITA’s Guidance Notes GN28 and GN66, respectively revised and developed in 2009, are designed to assist companies in achieving full compliance with the new Machinery Directive. GN66 includes guidance on how to deal with any industrial truck submitted for examination which is not CE marked.

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