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Standards comparison: USA and UK/Europe

Here in the UK, engineers are familiar with the range of standards relating to machinery safety; some of these are British Standards, while others are British versions of Euronorms (identified by the BS EN prefix) and others are from IEC (the International Electrotechnical Commission). Furthermore, there is also the Machinery Directive to comply with, as well as a number of standards from ISO (the International Organisation for Standardisation), and Guidance Notes from the HSE (Health & Safety Executive).

Thanks to the process of harmonisation, exporting to Europe is relatively straightforward in terms of complying with standards, but there is still an air of mystery surrounding standards in the USA. In the past some people have felt that machinery safety standards in the USA are lower, though the standards themselves have sometimes been viewed as a barrier to entry to that vast and potentially lucrative market. However, because of the global drive towards improved safety, the general trend has been one of convergence; after all, the end goal of safety for man and machine is the same world-wide.

Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to attempt to cross-reference between USA and UK/European standards. Nevertheless, because of the development of machinery safety standards, such an exercise is now possible - and the results will be extremely helpful to any engineer designing equipment for export either to the USA or to one of the countries where USA standards have been adopted, whether formally or informally.

While the list of standards bodies in the opening paragraph may appear to be slightly longer than necessary (in a Utopian world, only one standards body would be required), cross-referencing UK/European machinery safety standards to the nearest equivalent in the USA produces a list of standards bodies almost twice as long:

  • ANSI (American National Standards Institute) ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration)
  • IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)
  • ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation)
  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)
  • CEMA (Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association)
  • SPI (Society of the Plastics Industry)
  • FM (Factory Mutual)
  • RWMA (Resistance Welders Manufactures Association)
  • CSA (Canadian Standards Association)

And it is not claimed that this list of standards-issuing bodies is exhaustive!

Pilz is a company that operates globally in the field of machinery safety so has an excellent knowledge and understanding of the various standards. In response to demand from engineers within the company as well as machine builders and users in the UK, a table has been prepared that allows Pilz personnel to cross-reference from USA to UK/European standards and vice-versa.

Some of the standards are relatively general, such as HSG129 (Health and safety in engineering workshops) and BS EN 953: 1998 (Safety of machinery. Guards. General requirements for the design and construction of fixed and movable guards) that correspond to OSHA 1910.212 (Machinery and Machine Guarding. General requirements for all machines). Other standards, however, are specific to certain categories of machine; for example, BS EN 693: 2001 (Machine tools. Safety. Hydraulic presses) corresponds to ANSI B11.2-1995 (R2000) (Machine Tools - Hydraulic Power Presses - Safety Requirements for Construction, Care, and Use).

Clearly the USA and UK/European standards invariably contain differences, so it is highly unwise to construct a machine to one standard and expect that it will comply with the other. Nonetheless, half the battle is in knowing which standards apply, so having the right cross-references is a valuable starting point.

Although Pilz has not yet published the table of standards, any engineer requiring assistance with identifying USA standards is welcome to contact the company for advice.


Pilz Automation Ltd
Pilz House, Little Colliers Field
Corby, Northants, NN18 8TJ
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 1536 460766
E-Mail: sales@pilz.co.uk

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