Jeremy Procter, a Member of international and UK standards committees ISO/TC 199/WG 6 (Safety distances and ergonomic aspects) and BSI MCE/3 (Safeguarding of machinery), and Managing Director of Procter Machine Guarding, explains the implications for machinery safety standards and regulations of the UK referendum in favour of leaving the European Union, or 'Brexit' as it has become known.
At the time of writing the UK has voted in a referendum, the result of which is that the UK will leave the European Union – commonly referred to as Brexit. While the exact timings are still unclear because the Government has not yet invoked Article 50 of the EU Treaty, it seems likely that in a little over two years' time the UK will have left. In this two-year period we can prepare for any changes, including any relating to machinery safety.
The first point to consider is the legislation and regulations covering machinery safety in the UK. On the one hand we have 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. 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 referendum, BSI has 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, 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 amend the regulations to better suit our own needs.
Over the next two years the situation will become clearer, but there is certainly no need to panic, and the best advice is to continue on the assumption that CE marking and PUWER will remain as they are for two years and, after that, any changes are most likely to be minimal. Whatever happens, Procter Machine Guarding will endeavour to keep its customers and the market informed through announcements, White Papers, technical articles and social media.