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Electrical equipment manufacturers: regulations and responsibilities

Electrical equipment manufacturers: regulations and responsibilities

Introduction

If you manufacture electrical equipment, you must comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. These implement into UK law the European Council Directive 2006/95/EEC – commonly referred to as the Low Voltage Directive (LVD).

The aim of these regulations is to ensure that electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits is safe to use. This guide covers all the main points of the regulations – including which electrical equipment is affected, definition of electrical equipment, safety requirements and how to comply.

If your business manufactures electrical equipment

The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 apply to your business if you manufacture electrical equipment designed or adapted for use between 50 and 1,000 volts (in the case of alternating current) or 75 and 1,500 volts (in the case of direct current).

The regulations cover domestic electrical equipment and equipment that is intended for use in the workplace, except electrical equipment described in Schedule 2 of these regulations.

Components

The regulations apply to electrical equipment. In general, components are not covered by the regulations. Only components which are in themselves electrical equipment need to satisfy the requirements of the regulations and, in particular, bear European Conformity (CE) marking.

The term electrical equipment is not defined in the regulations and should therefore be given the ordinary dictionary meaning. Electrical is defined as “operated by means of electricity” or “of pertaining to electricity”.

Equipment is defined as “apparatus” which is in turn defined as “the things collectively necessary for the performance of some activity or function”. An item is only subject to the requirements of the regulations if it is electrical equipment so defined.

Electrical components

Certain components of electrical equipment may in themselves be considered to be electrical equipment. In such cases, steps should be taken to ensure that they satisfy the requirements of the regulations – if they are to be supplied as separate items. This includes supply for retail sales and to other manufacturers for incorporation into other electrical equipment.

Non-electrical components

Components which are not in themselves electrical equipment do not fall within the scope of the regulations. However, the regulations do require electrical equipment to be safe and therefore the components in it should not render it unsafe.

What are your responsibilities as an electrical equipment manufacturer?

The manufacturer is the person – whether established in the European Economic Area (EEA) or not – who is primarily responsible for designing and manufacturing equipment so that it complies with the safety requirements of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.

All electrical equipment must be:

  • safe – there should be minimum risk that the electrical equipment will cause death or personal injury to any person or domestic animal, or damage to property
  • constructed in accordance with good engineering practice in relation to safety matters
  • designed and constructed to ensure that it protects against electric shock through protective earthing, double insulation or equivalent
  • designed and constructed to conform with the principal elements of the safety objectives, which are in Schedule 3 of the regulations

Electrical equipment which is constructed to meet the safety provisions of one of the following, in an accepted hierarchy of standards and requirements, will be presumed to comply with the safety requirements of the regulations:

  • harmonised – agreed by the national standards bodies of all the EU member states
  • international – where no harmonised standard exists, a standard published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, which includes the relevant safety objectives of the regulations, details of which have also been published by the European Commission in its official journal
  • national – a published British standard or a published standard of the member state of the manufacturer, where no harmonised or international standard exists

Electrical equipment that doesn’t meet any of the accepted hierarchy of standards, perhaps because it is an innovative product, must still comply with the basic requirement to be safe.

Once you are satisfied that your product meets the requirements of the regulations, you should affix CE marking to the equipment. Or, where that’s not possible – to the packaging, the instruction sheet or the guarantee certificate.

You should also draw up a EC Declaration of Conformity (DoC) and compile technical documentation.

Notified bodies

Where electrical equipment has not been manufactured to comply with one of the recognised standards, suppliers may want to have the equipment assessed for safety by a notified body.

Notified bodies and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

Notified bodies are appointed by EU member states to support the implementation of certain directives, including the LVD. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills has appointed a number of test laboratories to act as the UK’s notified bodies for the LVD.

These notified bodies have been assessed to ensure their competence in determining whether or not a product complies with the requirements laid down in Schedule 3 of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. They are appointed to provide opinions or reports on safety, or both.

Reports on safety

The use of notified bodies to draw up a safety report for the manufacturer is not mandatory. However, where electrical equipment has not been constructed to conform to the specifications of any of the recognised standards, suppliers may feel that in some circumstances it is in their best interests to have a safety report drawn up.

In the event that your product is challenged on grounds of safety by an enforcement authority, this report can be used to establish whether the equipment satisfies safety requirements.

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