Plugging the regularity gaps31 October 2022
Hoist is delighted to announce the first of a series of guest columns with LEEA to answer your most pressing technical questions each month.
Benjamin Dobbs, LEEA head of technical services, discusses how a change to EU rules has implications for the lifting equipment industry.
The Machinery Directive 2006/42/ EC is being revised and converted into a ‘regulation’. The legal implication is that these laws no longer need to be ‘transposed’ into national law by each member state – they will automatically apply across the EU. In itself that is a good thing, in the belief of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association, because it should plug some rather large regulatory ‘gaps’ and variances.
The existing directive doesn’t really cover the implications of Artificial Intelligence, human-robot interactions and ‘collaborative technology’. Nor does it address the fact that increasingly, interconnections between machinery, and software updates, can be incorporated sometimes years after the machine has been placed on the market by a simple download. The new regulations address these points and also allow safety, conformance and other information to be maintained and supplied in digital form - although a ‘paper’ option must always be available for those who require it.
As is the case currently, it will be mandatory to conduct a Risk Assessment identifying hazards and risks and defining safety requirements. But for ‘high risk’ machines, it will no longer be permissible for manufacturers or importers to self-certify – the risk assessment will have to be carried out by independent, state-backed bodies.
This includes machinery already on the market, which may have to be reviewed and if necessary revised.
Currently, ‘high risk’ in our field only includes people lifts, and vehicle hoists, where people are likely to be working underneath – but other circumstances may be brought into scope, for example machinery incorporating Artificial Intelligence.
LEEA has some issues with this approach. For a start, there is really no data showing that third party certification of machinery actually tends towards safer or better quality equipment. External assessment creates no added value for innovation; and there is little incentive for the industry to work towards new and improved standards, which may in turn limit technological development.
Time to market is likely to be increased, and SMEs in particular will not easily accommodate the additional cost burden.
This is against the general trend of recent EU legislation, which has been towards increased manufacturer responsibility.
At a finer scale there are some important changes. In particular, a ‘machine’ no longer counts as only ‘part complete’ if it is just lacking the software, and safety assessments have to include ‘non-physical’ elements. Importantly, and something that LEEA has long pushed for, a ‘modifier’ of a machine - either physically or through the software – now has the same obligations as the ‘manufacturer’.
As supply chains become more complex, the general obligation on such third parties will be of increasing importance. Distributors and others are now required to ensure that safety has not been compromised by storage or transport issues. Other important and welcome details include: safety systems have to be user-testable;
Safety systems must be protected against interference from other devices they may be physically or remotely connected to; control systems generally, and logic systems for autonomous operation in particular, must be limited so that they can’t exceed their defined tasks, spaces, or manufacturers’ limits; Where machinery has to be entered for maintenance, access must allow for entry of rescue equipment that will ensure a timely rescue; importantly, the risk of contact with overhead power lines is now an essential health and safety consideration. This alone will certainly save lives.
It is expected that the new regulations will be put in place sometime in 2023, and there will then be a 30-month grace period to allow manufacturers and others to adapt.
To find out more: watch Ben Dobbs discuss this topic at https://leeaint.com/open-learning