There are two questions in the title of this article, let’s begin by answering the first. Let’s say you have three different location options from where to buy a machine, these include the UK, EU or outside the EU. Which option would assure you that the CE mark your machine carries guarantees high standards of safety? Put simply, none of them will. Some supplier locations are better than others, but suffice to say, none of these supply locations can assure your safety requirements are met. Also, depending on where you bought the machine and how you use or adapt the machine, you are responsible for the CE marking of a machine.
Secondly and importantly in all cases you are responsible for making sure every machine is compliant to PUWER standards. Neither good nor bad CE marking reaches the more stringent PUWER standards (Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulation 1998).
These are the hazards you encounter when buying from a supplier or manufacturer that does not focus on compliance to the same detail that Loveshaw does, meaning almost everyone else. Let’s look at what the regulations say about CE marking, how it relates to the PUWER standard, and what you can do to solve any issues.
Trusting a Supplier’s CE Marking Quality and Compliance to PUWER
You might think that if your machine is CE marked and you, as an employer, comply with PUWER you are complying to regulations. Unfortunately, things aren’t this simple. Complying to PUWER involves making sure the machinery is safe to use, including adequate safety mechanisms, instructions and guards. A CE mark does not ensure this level of safety. Due to the methods that are employed by suppliers, not all CE marks are equal. For example, BS EN ISO 12100:2010 says that the manufacturer has a choice between fixed guards or movable guards, either are acceptable. PUWER regulations require fixed guards wherever it is physically possible, no matter the cost.
Buying from EU or UK Suppliers
In practice EU & UK suppliers can use three different routes to CE mark a machine.
Process 1 – Internal checks
In this process a manufacturer may sign off and CE mark a machine that complies with the relevant BS, EN or ISO harmonised standards. The problem is these standards may not meet PUWER standards, as we have already outlined.
Process 2 – External Accredited Body
The supplier hires an accredited external body to test machinery for safety. Unfortunately, different EU member states have different standards for accredited bodies.
Process 3 – Supplier Fully Accredited
The manufacturer becomes accredited to apply a CE mark.
In all of these processes it is possible that a machine could be declared safe, whilst not meeting PUWER standards. The situation is a little more positive when a machine is purchased from a UK supplier. As a UK supplier would additionally need to comply with the Health and Safety at work act, which is more rigorous, and so affords added protection, but this is no guarantee of PUWER compliance.
Buying from outside of the EU and UK, or Self-Made Machinery
If you buy a machine outside of the EU then you legally become the supplier and are responsible for assessing the safety of the machine and CE marking.
Equally if you build your own machine you are responsible for assessing the safety of the machine and CE marking.
How do I make sure my machine is PUWER compliant?
The answer is simple, when you specify a machine for purchase, wherever it is from, look for PUWER compliance or insist that it is PUWER compliant, especially with regards to guards. It may cost more for this request, but you will save money in the longer term. If you are forced to retro fit a machine or a member of staff is injured by a non-compliant machine, things could become very expensive.