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The implications of Brexit for machinery safety standards and regulations


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Steve Allen CMSE, a Member of UK standards committee BSI MCE/3 (Safeguarding of machinery), a Certified Machinery Safety Expert and National Sales Manager of Procter Machine Safety, explains the implications of Brexit for machinery safety standards and regulations in the UK.

Back in 2016 the UK voted in a referendum, the result of which is that the UK will leave the European Union – commonly referred to as Brexit – on 29 March 2019. There will be a transitional period until the end of 2020, though the Draft Agreement allows for this to be extended. During the transitional period, the status quo will be maintained, but this gives us a year or more to prepare for any changes, including any relating to machinery safety. One point to note is that the Draft Agreement says any decisions by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU before the end of the transitional period will be binding on the UK.

What are the short-term and long-term implications for machinery safety standards and regulations of the UK voting to leave the EU?

At the time of writing, however, the UK Government is not certain to have sufficient votes in the House of Commons to approve the Draft Agreement that was negotiated with the EU, which raises the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without any agreement in place. There is also a slim possibility that the UK will remain within the EU despite the 2016 referendum being in favour of leaving. All of this gives us multiple scenarios under which machinery safety standards and regulations may or may not change.

The first point to consider is The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 as amended, which requires all machines placed on the market in the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland and Turkey to carry a CE mark; in the main this relates to new machines, though in some circumstances these regulations also apply to used machines and modified machines. On the other hand, The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98) apply to all work equipment that is in use. Both of these are UK implementations of European Directives. In addition, we have The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Standards are considered as being indicative of ‘best practice’ and complying with standards is usually the easiest and most reliable way of meeting the relevant requirements in the regulations; for example, European Harmonised Standards provide a ‘presumption of conformity’ with the relevant Essential Health and Safety Requirements’ of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that there is no legal obligation to comply with machinery safety standards.

So what will happen to the machinery safety regulations and standards after Brexit? As the regulations are UK regulations (which just happen to be almost identical, word for word, to EC Directives) they will almost certainly remain in force as they are. And it seems highly unlikely that the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) would wish to see any relaxation of health and safety regulations in the UK.

As for the standards, bear in mind that the trend over the last decade or so has been for more internationalisation of standards and less reliance on standards that apply solely in Europe. For example, machine guarding standard ISO 14120 has recently replaced EN 953, and the standard covering safety distances is now ISO 13857, a recent replacement for EN 294. European standards are therefore diminishing in importance compared with international standards.

BSI is the UK’s National Standards Body and makes important contributions to the development of British, European and international standards through its full membership of CEN, CENELEC, ISO and IEC, which are the European and international bodies responsible for standards development. In response to the 2016 referendum, BSI stated: “BSI’s ambition is that the UK should continue to participate in the European Standardization System as a full member of CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. We consider that this is a likely outcome of the forthcoming negotiations between the UK and the EU.” Most importantly, CEN and CENELEC are not part of the EU; they are merely the bodies to which the EC turns to for standardisation.

Whether or not the UK will retain access to the European single market after it leaves the EU is yet to be seen, as the future UK-EU trading arrangements will be negotiated during the transitional period, but a good trading relationship with Europe is vital and participating in standards development will be an important element of this.

For the foreseeable future, BSI will, therefore, publish BS versions of any new CEN or CENELEC standards, having had input into their development, and any conflicting British standards will be withdrawn. In other words, there will be no change to standardisation.

It is not yet clear whether the UK market will still require new machinery to be CE marked (whether that machine is supplied from within the UK, within the EU or from elsewhere in the world). However, it is certainly possible that CE marking will continue unchanged, or that some other form of marking will be adopted in the UK that is, to all intents and purposes, equivalent to CE marking; this would be helpful to UK machine builders exporting to Europe (who will definitely have to CE mark machines for exporting to the single European market) and to any machine builders in Europe or the rest of the world wanting to export to the UK. Similarly, we will have to wait and see what happens to PUWER, and whether the UK chooses to ‘shadow’ what happens in Europe or, over time, amend the regulations to better suit our own needs.

For the three possible scenarios of the UK leaving the EU in accordance with the terms of the Draft Agreement, the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement being in place, and the UK remaining within the EU, it seems most unlikely that there will be sudden changes to the regulatory landscape or the standards that should be complied with when designing and manufacturing machinery. While there may be many other things to worry about, for the time being we can relax with regards to machinery safety standards and regulations.

Procter Machine Safety will endeavour to keep its customers and the market informed about changes to standards and regulations through announcements, White Papers, technical articles and social media. In addition, the company offers machine risk assessments, PUWER inspections, site surveys and machine guarding compliance surveys. If guarding is required for new machinery or for retrofitting to existing equipment, Procter Machine Safety can design, manufacture and install bespoke local guarding, modular perimeter guards and standard guards for workshop machinery. The turnkey service includes electrical integration of guard switches, safety light curtains, pressure-sensitive mats, emergency stop switches and any other safety-related devices. For more information about products and services from Procter Machine Safety, telephone 02920 855758 or email [email protected].

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Categories: Standards & Regulations