John Boyle, former chair of IOSH’s Food and Drink Industries Group and Health, Safety, Risk and CI for G’s Fresh, explores machinery safety
If a machine has a CE mark it must be safe, right? Surely the manufacturer or supplier of the machine is responsible?
The answer to the first question is, unfortunately, no. A CE mark indicates the product complies with product supply law and with a Declaration of Conformity, leading to a presumption that it complies with relevant product safety directives.
The CE mark does not guarantee that a machine or product meets all the requirements of EU product safety legislation.
The legislation stipulates several physical and paperwork requirements, including the need of the supplier to ensure that user instructions and warning signs are provided in the local language and type of where the machine is installed.
It is important to remember that the declaration of conformity, the CE mark, technical file and associated documents follow the machine for its entire life. It is important to remember, also, that the CE mark isn’t a one-time exercise. For example, if the machine substantially changes and is modified from its original design, for example it has a new interlock system, the original CE process may need to be revised.
The answer to the second question is yes, they are responsible, but there have not been many prosecutions of a supplier and it is particularly expensive and time consuming to prosecute a supplier or individual not based in the UK.
Ultimate responsibility rests with the end user. The user should risk assess the machine using the requirements in PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations). These regulations consider the user of the machine, maintenance and the environment the machine is used in.
As a result, if an incident occurs, the user is often prosecuted under the regulations, the fact the machine is CE marked providing little or no defence.
It is important to remember that it is far cheaper and easier to put the correct requirements in place when the machine is being designed rather than retrofitting later. I prefer to work with suppliers who will work with users to develop, understand and apply the correct legislative requirements and standards needed in the UK.
I am sorry to say I have seen new machinery advertised with a guarding pack as an optional extra. Unfortunately, there are some manufacturers and suppliers who will not make any changes. Many of them need educating.
As part of a quote for machinery, you must ensure the required standards are understood, down to the detail of guarding, safety control circuits and even what the signs look like.
Effective PUWER assessment and controls, involving all stakeholders, is crucial to ensure people and businesses are protected.