A public consultation is currently running until 16 December 2016 to help determine the European Commission’s position on the possible revision of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. Thomas Kraus of VDMA (German association for mechanical engineers) and chairman of the Machinery Directive Working Group of Orgalime is sounding the alarm: “Why do we need a revision if the current Machinery Directive is still perfectly satisfactory?” Time for an interview. 

Thomas Kraus: "I really hope that many companies will seize the opportunity of this public consultation to express their concerns and objections because, if the revision does come about, they will be the ones footing the bill..."

Who or what exactly is Orgalime?

Thomas Kraus: Orgalime is the European umbrella association representing manufacturers in the mechanical engineering, metalworking and electrical and electronic industries. Together, these organisations represent direct and indirect employment of over 10.9 million people in the EU. We count among our members Agoria, the Belgian federation for the technological industry. 

The Orgalime network provides our members with a channel through which they can exchange views and information with foreign colleagues, and in so doing frame their actions and positions within a broader European perspective. In addition, Orgalime is consistently involved in discussions with the European institutions on a great many lobbying issues, during which, of course, we always represent the interests of our members and their respective member companies. 

In April 2016, a large number of new versions of European Directives came into force. How come?

Thomas Kraus: Some European Directives have been around for decades and it is therefore not surprising that they should be amended every now and then. The recent “revision urge” to which you are referring is a result of a major change in the Community legislation in 2008. In particular, the New Legislative Framework (NLF) for the marketing of products on the European market was published that year. 

The legal basis of the NLF consists of two Regulations (Regulation (EC) 764/2008 on mutual recognition of certain national technical rules and Regulation (EC) 765/2008 on accreditation and market surveillance) and a decision (Decision 768/2008/EC on a common framework for the marketing of products), which entered into force as of 1 January 2010. 

At the same time, a streamlining package was also implemented to bring a series of existing directives in line with the requirements of Decision 768/2008/EC. These revisions have taken some time, but are now complete. Among others, they concern the Low Voltage Directive, the EMC Directive, the ATEX Directive and others- 8 Directives in total. 

So, why not the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC then?

Thomas Kraus: That’s because, when they revised the Machinery Directive in 2006, its authors showed great foresight and already took into consideration to a large extent the horizontal requirements that would be laid down in the NLF, which was being drafted at the time. 

Is that also the reason why you are today resisting a possible future revision of the European Machinery Directive?

Thomas Kraus: Indeed. The Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC harmonises the rules for the sale of machinery within the EU. Among other things, it describes the essential health and safety requirements that machinery must meet before the manufacturer can affix the CE marking on them. The ultimate goal is to ensure a hight level of safety for consumers and workers. The manufacturer has the obligation to apply the state of the art to fulfil the essential requirements of the Machinery Directive. 

We are against the revision of the Machinery Directive for two reasons. The first is that we believe that, all considered, the practical added value offered by a revision today is quite small. I have just explained why. This is compounded by the fact that such a revision would definitely require considerable time and resources, especially of manufacturers who are subject to it: they would have to invest in manpower and perhaps even in product adjustments. 

Our second argument is directed against the frequently heard comment that there indeed have been quite a lot of technological innovations since the introduction of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. According to Orgalime, even this comment does not warrant a new revision. In fact, experts all agree that the essential requirements, as defined in the Machinery Directive, are rather general and “technology free” principles: they are goals to be met, but each manufacturer is free to attain them in its own way: be it with common, new or future technology... Essentially, the decision which measures will be applied to fulfil the legal requirement it’s up to the manufacturer. . The state of the art is well monitored through numerous standards that are harmonised with the Machinery Directive. Consequently, there is no point in revising the whole Directive in relation to possible technological innovations. 

What is your message to the industry? How can manufacturers who read this article help stop the possible revision of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC? 

Thomas Kraus: The European Commission has appointed the consulting firm Technopolis to seek the technical advice of experts from various European countries on the proposed revision. This round of consultations, in which Orgalime will naturally be participating, runs until 23 December 2016. 

Moreover, the Commission itself is also holding a public consultation which is also open to individual companies. They can voice their reactions until 16 December 2016. I really hope that many companies will seize this opportunity to express their concerns and objections because, if the revision does come about, they will be the ones footing the bill...

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