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Brexit implications for machine 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 various Brexit scenarios for machinery safety standards and regulations in the UK.

Brexit implications for machine safety standards and regulationsOn 23 June 2016 the UK held a referendum, the result of which was that the country commenced the process of leaving the EU - now widely referred to as Brexit. The Government invoked Article 50 of the EU Treaty, and it was thought that the UK would leave the EU at the end of March 2019. At the time of writing, the departure date has been postponed to 31 October 2019, but there is still a slim possibility that the withdrawal will be postponed again or the UK will not leave at all. If the UK leaves with an agreement in place, it is expected that there will be a transitional period until the end of 2020, though this could be extended. During the transitional period, the status quo will be maintained, but this gives a year or more to prepare for changes, including any relating to machinery safety. One point to note is that any decisions by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU before the end of the transitional period are likely to be binding on the UK if the withdrawal happens under the terms of an agreement.

Over the past three years we have, to some extent, been able to prepare for any changes, including those relating to machinery safety. However, the lack of clarity over the type of deal with which the UK will leave - if any - means it has been difficult to make preparations! And, of course, there is a slim chance that the UK will not leave the EU, despite the referendum result. Nevertheless, we will try to present the options as they currently stand.

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 near-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 replaced EN 953, and the standard covering safety distances is now ISO 13857, replacing the old 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.

BSI has emphasised that its membership of ISO and IEC is unaffected by Brexit. Regarding continued membership of CEN and CENELEC, a transition period for the statutes will open on the date of Brexit and run until the end of 2020, regardless of the political outcome of the Brexit process and even in the event of the UK leaving without a deal. A working group, which includes BSI, is reviewing the CEN and CENELEC statutes to identify necessary changes to reflect the UK's new political relationship with the EU and to ensure that BSI can continue its membership of both organisations.

Whether or not the UK will retain access to the European single market after it leaves the EU is yet to be seen (though it is looking unlikely), and negotiations have not yet started on the post-Brexit trading arrangements. However, 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 British Standard (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.

BSI has stated that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the concept of 'harmonised standards' will be transferred into the UK legal order identically to become 'designated standards'. According to BSI: "From exit day the relevant Secretary of State will cite designated standards for the purposes of providing a presumption of conformity with the applicable regulation, in the same way as the European Commission cites European standards. The relevant Statutory Instrument enabling the creation of this framework for the majority of New legislative Framework regulations was formally adopted in the House of Commons on 20 March and will enter into force on the effective date of Brexit in the case of no-deal."

CE marking and UKCA marking

UK machine builders exporting to Europe will, of course, need to continue CE marking machinery. Depending on the arrangements when the UK leaves the EU, the UK market may retain CE marking or may use the UKCA mark (for United Kingdom Conformity Assessed) that was announced earlier this year. The regime for UKCA marking will be all but identical to the existing CE marking regime. Of course, machine builders in Europe or, indeed, anywhere else in the world, will need to UKCA mark their machines if they are exporting to the UK.

For the time being it appears that the UK will continue with PUWER, but time will tell whether the UK chooses to 'shadow' what happens in Europe or amend the regulations to better suit the UK's needs.

For the four possible scenarios of (a) the UK leaving the EU in accordance with the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement signed by then-Prime Minister Theresa May, (b) the UK leaving with a new or amended agreement signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, (c) the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement in place, and (d) 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.

Whatever happens, Procter Machine Safety will endeavour to keep its customers and the market informed 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 control system design, as well as electrical integration of guard switches, safety light curtains, pressure-sensitive mats, emergency stop switches and other safety-related devices. For more information about products and services from Procter Machine Safety, telephone +44 (0)2920 855758 or email (please mention MachineBuilding.net).

19 September 2019

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