The Machinery Directive
The Machinery Directive came into force at midnight on 1st January 1995. From that moment on, it became illegal to put uncertified machinery into service. A simple enough statement in itself, but what is meant by "machinery", "certified" and "service"? These terms have very specific meanings within the context of the Machinery Directive and there is little leeway in their legal interpretations.
A "machine" is essentially a mechanical device (i.e. something with moving parts such as an agitator, a pump or a valve) which is operated by something other than muscle power (e.g. an electric motor or an actuator).
Matters are complicated by a machine also being defined as an assembly of other machines. In such cases, the Machinery Directive applies not only to each individual machine, but also to the greater whole. This is of especial importance in the process industries: any chemical production unit is nothing other than an assembly of smaller machines such as pumps, automatic valves, actuators and electric motors. This means that all chemical plant commissioned in Europe after 1/1/95 has to conform to the Machinery Directive and that someone, somewhere, has to issue a "Certificate of Conformity" to that effect.
Which brings up the matter of certification. The biggest problem with the Machinery Directive (from a process engineering standpoint) is that there are two different types of machines: there are those which are capable of fulfilling a useful function without additional equipment (e.g. lathes, coffee grinders), whilst others can only ever form part of a larger whole (e.g. agitators, pumps, valves). In their wisdom, our representatives in Brussels have decreed that only the first category of independant machines need to meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive. These machines have to be accompanied by a Certificate of Conformity (otherwise known as a IIA-declaration) and operating instructions (covering not only operation, but also installation, maintainance and disposal) in the language of the country of the end-user. The second category of machines, which cannot operate independantly in any worthwhile way, need to be accompanied by a Certificate of Incorporation (also known as a IIB-declaration) and nothing else. Close reading of the Machinery Directive reveals that a Certificate of Incorporation could better be termed a Certificate of Non-Conformity since all it says is that a machine does not meet the requirements of the Machinery Directive.
This is where the problems really begin. Any new production unit is a machine in the eyes of the Machinery Directive. Since it is capable of producting something without additional equipment (excluding utility connections), it counts as an independant machine and therefore requires a Certificate of Conformity. Any competent Safety Officer, with a little help from Engineering, should be able to assess the installation as a whole in terms of the Machinery Directive and ensure that the legal requirements are met. Where he will run into difficulties is with the IIB-machines. There is no way on Earth that he can issue a Certificate of Conformity covering them since he can neither prove that they have been the subject of a risk analysis nor is he in possesion of the Technical Construction Dossiers (both requirements for the issue of a Certificate of Conformity). In addition, more often than not, the accompanying operating instructions will prove to be in a foreign language (expressly forbidden for a IIA-machine).
Quicksilver Engineering Ltd. has developed a strategy for the retrospective Machinery Directive certification of process plant. This has been applied, with success, to an Hfl. 8,000,000 batch adhesives plant and to numerous minor process modifications. This methodology lends itself to incorporation in the standard purchasing terms and conditions, thereby preventing similar problems occuring in the future.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations are the poor relation of the Machinery Directive and apply to machines taken into service prior to 1/1/95.
They are essentially a "slimmed down" Machinery Directive in which the health and safety requirements have been reduced to the absolute minimum.
Since the legislation has been introduced retrospectively with respect to the machines to which it applies, the difficulties in applying it are nowhere near as great as those for its "big brother", the Machinery Directive. In this case there are no manufacturer's certificates and no extended operating instructions as defined in the Machinery Directive.
Quicksilver Engineering Ltd. has developed a checklist based methodology for assessing older production units in terms of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. This has been successfully applied to 14 batch production units and innumerable smaller installations and support systems.
It should be remembered that a system is only certified once under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, since modifications automatically fall under the Machinery Directive.