Official title of the Machinery Directive: Directive 2006/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 on machinery, and amending Directive 95/16/EC (recast). It has applied since 29.12.2009. Irrespective of the place and date of manufacture, all machinery used in the European Economic Area for the first time from 01.01.1995 is subject to the EU Machinery Directive and as such must be CE certified.
The Machinery Directive is one of the most important pieces of legislation for harmonising the essential safety requirements for machinery within the European Union. It describes standardised health and safety requirements for interaction between human and machine. The Directive promotes the free movement of machinery within the single market and guarantees a high level of protection for EU workers and citizens.
What is a machine?
For the purposes of the Directive, machinery means an assembly consisting of linked parts or components, at least one of which moves, and which are joined together for a specific application.
The following are also considered as machines for the purpose of the Machinery Directive:
- Assembly of machines or complex plants. Complex plants include production lines, special purpose machinery made up of several machines, interlinked machinery
- Safety components: The issue of which components are classified as safety components is very controversial. As yet there is no discernible, uniform trend.
- Interchangeable equipment, which can be used to change the basic functions of a machine
- Partly completed machinery
In addition to the machinery listed above there is also a list of exceptions for machinery, which would fall under the scope of the Directive by definition, but for which other statutory provisions generally apply.
Guide to the application of the Machinery Directive
The practical “Guide to the application of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC” is used to interpret the text of the Directive. Version 2.2 has been published in English and can be downloaded from the European Commission's website. The main differences between the current version and the previous Version 2.1 are the Additions and clarifications, particularly with regard to the terms “safety components” and “partly completed machinery”, plus some edits to guarantee coherence with the guidelines for the Low Voltage Directive.
A short section about the safety-related requirements has been added in the section entitled “Mode selection” (§204). Two new paragraphs have also been added regarding machinery control units (§417) and safety components which are considered to be logic units (§418).
Planned revision of the Machinery Directive
In Europe, the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC is the main legal basis for any company that designs, builds or sells machines. Machines that are imported into the area of European jurisdiction also have to meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive. The current Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC was published in 2006 and has been mandatory since 29 December 2009.
The EU Commission checks the provisions and directives regularly to ensure they are adapted to the new requirements and developments. Such a verification process was also performed with the Machinery Directive. In 2016 the EU commission conducted a public consultation on the Machinery Directive with the users of the provision. The results of the enquiry led to an impact analysis for the renewal of the Directive. After that the public had the opportunity to submit feedback and suggestions for a solution.
The assessment concluded that the Machinery Directive in general is relevant, effective, efficient and coherent and that it constitutes added value for the EU. However, specific improvements and simplifications are necessary. Each revision of the Machinery Directive must provide greater legal clarity, simplification and adaptation to technical progress. In the case of the current Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, the following items were criticised in the official statement:
- Lack of coherence with the more comprehensive EU framework (new approach) and problems in implementation.
- Lack of legal clarity regarding the scope and definitions. The experience in implementing the directive points to some legal uncertainties in some of its provisions.
- Challenges created by technical progress in digitisation, for example due to artificial intelligence and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).
The EU commission has published an official “schedule” for revision of the Machinery Directive. It can be viewed on the EU homepage.
Future planning provides for the EU Commission to publish a new Machinery Directive by approx. mid 2021, but this is non-binding. If we assume roughly that there will be one year of consultation and a two-year transition period, the application of the revised Machinery Directive is to be expected from 2024.
Harmonised standards in accordance with the Machinery Directive at a glance
Navigating the jungle of standards! The poster on “Protective measures for plant and machinery – Important harmonised standards in accordance with the Machinery Directive” clearly presents the A/B and C standards. At the same time you get a condensed overview of our safety-relevant products.