Why you need a CE-mark

01 May 2008

When buying new construction equipment contractors are sometimes offered machines at very attractive prices. These machines, which look like any other ‘normal’ piece of equipment, are often seen at auctions, sometimes marked as “for export only”.

The normal explanation for this is that such machines have not been designed for the European market, and so do not meet European legal requirements for safety and environmental protection. Compliance with these is shown by a ‘CE-mark’attached to the machine and the presence of an EC declaration of conformity. The manufacturer supplies this declaration to the dealer, and the dealer hands it on to the customer. It is these two items that confirm the machine meets all current European laws for construction equipment.

Many conformity declarations in Europe are ‘self-certified', which is to say the manufacturer itself confirms compliance with the relevant European directives. This declaration requires extensive documentation, which is usually compiled as the result of strict and lengthy tests. Such documents are usually kept by the manufacturer, but if doubts about conformity arise, the relevant national authorities may check them.

The EC-declaration of conformity is the manufacturer's confirmation that the machine performs as stated in this technical documentation. The CE-mark is the visible indication of conformity on the machine itself and is always accompanied by an EC declaration of conformity.

Why Does This Matter?

It is easy to dismiss this as bureaucratic ‘red tape' does it really make a difference for machine owners and operators? the answer is “yes” these two items show that a machine is up to european legal requirements, particularly those focused on safety and environmental performance.

European safety requirements are defined in the so-called ‘machinery directive’and corresponding european standards for specific machine these. Types define a huge range of mandatory safety features, from the basic protection of the operator with non-slip steps up to the cab and protection from moving parts that could catch clothes or trap and crush limbs, to requirements that prevent machines falling over due to overloading.

A machine without the ce-marking and ec-declaration of conformity does not guarantee the fulfillment of these basic safety requirements contractors who provide their drivers with machines not fulfilling these requirements and risk serious injury to their staff!

The same is true for noise a european directive on noise of equipment used outside defines limit values and exact methods to measure and guarantee the noise levels of many machines non-compliant machines may emit much more noise and endanger the health of drivers and other people on the worksite.

The third main relevant directive covers the allowed level of exhaust emissions from construction equipment only a ce-mark and ec-declaration of conformity guarantee a machine does not exceed europe's legally defined limits on pollution.

The final relevant directive relates to electromagnetic compatibility again the ce-mark and declaration confirms that electromagnetic emissions are below the limits allowed in europe and to a certain extent that the machine is immune against electromagnetic disturbances.

Are non-compliant machines always more dangerous and more polluting?

Not in every case, but in most cases most non-compliant machines were simply not produced for the european market, but for regions with a different level of safety and environmental requirements. Some of these machines may in fact be in accordance with EU law, but being sure of this requires an expensive examination of details that are often not visible or easily checked. Such a test would normally far outweigh the benefits of a lower purchase price.

The simple view that equipment is automatically compliant if it has the same model name and number as a CE-marked machine from the same manufacturer is wrong. Manufacturers often keep the same model name around the world but equip machines with different components, according to the standards in different regions and countries.

Price

Despite the obvious risks to human safety and the environment buyers are often tempted because non-compliant machines are cheaper, but why are they cheaper?

In recent years demand for construction machinery in China has boomed, but in the last year the Chinese Government has taken steps to cool its economy. This has lead to surplus production capacity in China, and so these excess machines could be destined for Europe

European, Japanese, Korean and US manufacturers produce machines for China, but often lower technology versions that meet Chinese legal requirements, and which are competitive in this highly price-sensitive market. To take just one example, exhaust emissions are seen as a far lower priority in China than Europe, as anyone who has visited China will have noticed. This means these machines are cheap because they use lower technology than European machines, and also because they are surplus to requirements in China.

Conclusion

Buying machines not built and equipped for European markets threatens the safety and health of the driver, other personnel on the worksite and the population in general.

If an accident occurs with a non-compliant machine, the owner will be fully responsible, and possibly the dealer maybe too, if his intention was to bring the machinery into the European market and not to re-export it. Employers that knowingly provide these machines to their workers risk serious punishment if there is an accident.

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