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EC delays Machinery Directive changes by at least three years

03 September, 2009

The European Commission (EC) has announced that it will allow BS EN 954-1 to continue to be used to support compliance to the European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC for at least three more years, despite the introduction of new standards – BS EN ISO 13849-1 or BS EN 62061 – that were due to replace BS EN 954-1 on December 29, 2009. Under the original plan, these new standards would have been the only control system standards accepted under the Directive from that date.

The EC’s decision to delay the phasing out of BS EN 954-1 follows complaints from machine and control system builders about difficulties in applying EN (ISO) 13849-1 in practice, particularly because it calls for data on component MTBFs (mean time between failure) that, in many cases, is not currently available.

Responding to these concerns, the Machinery Directive Working Group of the European Environmental & Technical Regulation Directorate has announced that EN 954-1 will continue to be accepted “for a certain time” – likely to be three or five years.

The planned changes to the Machinery Directive had been well publicised and many machine-builders and control system suppliers had already invested considerable time and money in preparing to follow the new standards. But some experts have welcomed the delay.

“For most control system and machine builders, this is very good news,” says Paul Laidler (above), managing director of the safety consultancy, Laidler Associates, “since it gives time for the work needed to underpin the new EN 13849-1 standard to be carried out carefully and thoroughly.

“Nevertheless,” he adds, “retaining EN 954-1 does have its downsides, as there are many areas that this standard doesn’t cover including, for example, programmable safety equipment, which simply didn’t exist when it was formulated.

“For this reason, control system and machine builders must be careful about placing too much reliance on EN 954-1 as a way of demonstrating that they have fully met their obligations in relation to control system safety,” Laidler warns.

Peter Still, industry standards manager at Schneider Electric, is also urging machine-builders not to delay, but to start conforming with the new standards as soon as possible. “BS EN 954-1 is well understood and is seen as simple to use, but is not really rigorous enough to ensure sufficient safety integrity in many modern and complex machines,” he says. “Complying with the new standards may be more time-consuming, but it can achieve greater levels of safety throughout the machine’s life.
“We are fully supportive of the new directive and have therefore invested in a product range that helps meet the new standards and have made our functional safety data visible to help with compliance,” Still adds. “Despite the deadline extension, it’s really important that machine-builders start complying with the two new standards as soon as possible, to ensure they are working to the highest level of safety.”

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