Safety - 'CE' marking carries little weight in Australia

04-Jul-2013

Buyer Beware  - CE Mark on Machinery

(Reprinted from an article published by Pilz Australia)

Many companies purchase machinery that have a CE mark on it and many machinery importers try to promote it as an important selling feature without really understanding its relevance to the Australian market.

To appreciate its relevance to the Australian/New Zealand market, it is important to understand the purpose of CE marking. The point of CE marking is to ensure that machinery imported into Europe or sold within the European union meets a minimum level of safety as described in the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC and other associated directives such as the Low Voltage Directive, EMC Directive and Pressure Equipment Directive. In the Australian/New Zealand context the Machinery Directive is the European equivalent of our WHS/OHS Regulations and Codes of Practice for plant combined into one document.

The first and most important comment to make regarding CE marking is that it has no legal status whatsoever in Australia/New Zealand. Machinery in Australia and New Zealand must meet the requirements of the legislation that applies in the state or territory where the machinery is going to be put into service. A defence that a machine has the CE mark on it and is therefore safe for use will carry no weight in any court proceeding.

The second comment is that in most cases the CE mark is a self-certifying process. The manufacturer of the machinery is obliged to construct the machine in accordance with the requirements of the Machinery Directive and the associated harmonised standards. They are required to put together a Technical Construction File which should contain documents such as a description of the machinery and its intended use, details of the standards used in constructing the machine, risk assessments, operating instructions, etc. Once the manufacturer has satisfied themselves that they have met the requirements of the Machinery Directive and associated directives, they can sign off a Declaration of Conformance, fit a CE Marking label on their machine and place the machine on the market. Unfortunately, the self-certifying process is open to abuse and there are many examples of "CE marked" machines that do not meet the requirements of the Directives.

Is there any value in purchasing a CE marked machine in Australia or New Zealand?

Given Australia/New Zealand tends to follow European trends in Law and Standards, the answer is yes. A machine that truly conforms to the Machinery Directive and the associated harmonised standards will be among the safest machines on the Australian/New Zealand market. A CE marked machine should need little modification to meet the requirements of our WHS/OHS Regulations and Codes of Practice.

So we have established that CE marking has no legal value in Australia/New Zealand, it is largely a self-certifying process that is potentially open to abuse and in theory should produce some of the safest machines on the Australian/New Zealand market.

What should you do if you have a CE marked machine in service or are considering purchasing a CE marked machine?

CE = "Check Everything"

You are obliged to follow the relevant WHS/OHS legislation in your state or territory. You must follow the Regulations and should follow the requirements of Codes of Practice and technical standards if they provide an equivalent or higher level of safety than the Code of Practice. You must assess the machine against these requirements or if you are not competent engage someone that has skills and knowledge in this area to perform the assessment.

Safe Work Australia has a draft Code of Practice for "Safe Design, Manufacture, Import and Supply of Plant" which is recommended reading. It can be obtained from http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/model-whs-laws/model-cop/pages/model-cop