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Transition period for machinery directive extended but how long?

Author : Paul Gay

15 December 2009

The European Machinery Working Group of the EU Commission met last week to discuss the request from the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to extend EN 954-1’s presumption of conformity. During the two day meeting, the majority of member states were in favour of an extension, which will now be granted. But according to a CEN representative, the Commission has still to define an exact timescale for this extension.

Picture: courtesy ABB Robotics
Picture: courtesy ABB Robotics

The changes to the Directive were thrown into confusion in early September when reports that the EC had decided to delay the phasing out of BS EN 954-1 began to circulate. The decision apparently stemmed from complaints about difficulties in applying the new standards, especially as they call for data on component mean time between failure that, in many cases, are not available.

However, despite the importance of the topic, there did not appear to be any official EC announcement on the subject. And a few weeks later it emerged that the EC had not yet decided whether to implement a delay. The decision was to be made at or after a meeting scheduled for 7–8 December, just three weeks before the changes are due into come into force.

For this we must wait for an announcement in the Official EU Journal, which should be published today (December 16th). Only then will we finally know how much longer the presumption of conformity for the older EN 954-1 standard in parallel with the up-to-date EN ISO 13849-1 and EN/IEC 62061 will apply.

The experts in machinery safety are, however, unanimous in recommending that manufacturers and operators apply the successor standards as early as possible. According to John McAuliffe, General Manager of Pilz Ireland, the extent to which EN 954-1 can represent the current state-of-the-art in machinery safety design is debatable. And what’s more, it’s possible that machine operators will specify application of the new standards in their requirement manual, to ensure that legally they are on the safe side as regards liability, should an accident occur.

Many B and C standards listed under the current Machinery Directive already refer to EN ISO 13849-1 and EN/IEC 62061. Other C standards will gradually be amended accordingly. Once amended, application of EN 954-1 would no longer enable presumption of conformity for these standards.

It should also be noted, says McAuliffe, that while EN 954-1 is recognised throughout the world, it is not an international standard. This is an important aspect, particularly for machine manufacturers who operate internationally.

It appears to be a question of watch this space to see when the Official Journal spills the beans. We will bring you the details as soon as we know.

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