European Commission’s New LVD Guide Offers Clarification on the Directive’s Scope


30 November 2018

Close-up of cable and wires in server roomIn August, the European Commission published an updated set of guidelines to accompany the Low Voltage Directive (LVD). This superseded the provisional guidance that had been published in the wake of the LVD’s 2014 recast, also the guidelines from 2007 that accompanied the now redundant 2006 version of the LVD.

Abbreviated in name to “the LVD Guide”, it is important to note that while the Commission’s guidelines are not legally binding they do constitute a source of official interpretation when it comes to the application of the LVD. Central to the application of any law is consideration of what it applies to – in other words, its scope. While the LVD includes a specific article – Article 1 – on legislative scope, this is not entirely without ambiguity. The new LVD Guide assists in this respect, offering clarification on a number of issues likely to be of interest to those involved in placing electrical equipment on the EU market.

Before getting into a discussion on the LVD Guide’s advice on scope, it is worth considering what Article 1 of the LVD says. This is as follows:

The purpose of this Directive is to ensure that electrical equipment on the market fulfils the requirements providing for a high level of protection of health and safety of persons, and of domestic animals and property, while guaranteeing the functioning of the internal market.

This Directive shall apply to electrical equipment designed for use with a voltage rating of between 50 and 1 000 V for alternating current and between 75 and 1 500 V for direct current, other than the equipment and phenomena listed in Annex II.

The new LVD Guide seeks to clarify these two statements with the following advice:

  • The voltage rating is for voltage of the electrical input or output, and not to voltages that may appear inside the equipment. The Article I term “designed for use with a voltage rating” is interpreted as electrical equipment having either a rated input voltage or rated output voltage (or both) inside this voltage range. Higher voltages may occur internally, but this is separate from the voltage rating stated in Article 1.
  • The extent to which electrical components are within the scope of the LVD requires careful consideration. The LVD Guide explains that, as a first principle, the LVD applies both to electrical equipment intended for incorporation into other equipment and to equipment intended to be used directly without being incorporated. However, when the safety of components largely depends on how these components are integrated into final products and what the characteristics of the products are, the LVD Guide states that component manufacturers may be unable to perform safety risk assessments (as safety will be influenced by later uses of components that the manufacturers may not be able to foresee). In these circumstances, the LVD Guide considers that the components are “not covered as such by the LVD” and should not be CE marked unless other CE marking legislation applies to the components. The guidance provides indicative examples of basic components (e.g. integrated circuits, capacitors, resistors) which fall outside of the scope of the LVD, and components, some being of a more complex nature, considered to be in scope of the LVD such as lamps, starters, fuses, switches for household use, and elements of electrical installations.
  • Unless the battery provides a DC power supply between 75 and 1 500 V, battery operated electrical equipment falls outside the scope of the LVD. However, the LVD Guide makes the point that “…any accompanying battery-charger as well as equipment with integrated power supply unit within the voltage ranges of the LVD are in scope of the LVD”. A good example in this regard is the power supply that might be provided with a laptop; if the LVD’s voltage range applies then it will be in scope of the Directive. Note that this is true for mains chargers, but not for USB chargers.
  • The LVD applies to all forms of supplying electrical equipment intended to be placed on the EU market, regardless of the selling technique. “Regardless of the selling technique” is the key phrase here. It means that even if you supply the EU market via distance selling or electronic means you will still have obligations under the LVD. For instance, if it is your branded electrical equipment then you are a manufacturer under the LVD and will need to meet the obligations found in Article 6 of the Directive. As another example, if you have an EU manufacturer’s branded electrical equipment in your sales channel and are circulating it to users then you are a distributor under the LVD and will need to meet Article 9 obligations.

Advice is also given on the CE marking of power cord sets. When these have not been placed on the EU market as individual items but bundled with electrical equipment in scope of the LVD, there is no need to affix the CE marking to the power cord. However, the manufacturer (or manufacturer’s authorised representative) remains responsible for demonstrating that both the power cord set and the electrical equipment that it accompanies comply with the LVD’s Annex I safety objectives. The electrical equipment is to be CE marked.

Of further note is the LVD Guide’s Annex VII, Section A. This lists circa 30 example products within or outside the scope of the LVD. The table below provides a summary of this.

 

LVD Status Example Product LVD Guide Reasoning (where given)
In scope Appliance couplers – plugs, outlets  
Appliance couplers for industrial purposes (or else made to a manufacturer fabricated standard)  
Cables, cable management systems  
Car engine heaters  
Cord extension sets (plug + cable + socket outlet) with or without passive components (e.g. varistors)  
Cord sets and interconnection cord sets (plug + cable + cord set)  
Installations enclosures and conduits  
Multiple travel adaptors including multiple travel adaptors with supply (e.g. mobile phone charger or music player) Unlike simple travel adaptors, their multiple counterparts have one or more socket outlets that, via an electro-mechanical switch, can be paired with different plugs. As the switch falls in scope of the LVD so the product as a whole is in scope of the Directive. More intelligent travel adaptors (e.g. those that contain a thermal device, overcharge protector, etc.) will also be in scope of the LVD as the extra element between the plug and the socket outlet is covered by the LVD.
Plug with one or more socket outlets with incorporated electronic dimmer or twilight dimmer  
Product with integrated plug and/or outlets – 230 V for domestic use (e.g. charger for mobile phones, night lights)  
Single and two-pole voltage detectors  
Switches for households and similar fixed electrical installations  
Test equipment when not intended to be permanently connected to high voltages  
Varies Luminaire plugs and socket outlets for domestic use If they fall in scope of EN 61995, the LVD applies. If not, the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) applies.
Not in scope Beds and easy chairs with built-in motors These are regulated under the Machinery Directive. Note that LVD harmonised standards may still be used to demonstrate compliance with relevant health and safety requirements detailed in the Machinery Directive's Annex I. This Annex makes clear that LVD safety objectives shall apply to electrical machinery.
Caravan trailers and camping wagons  
Decorative cable covers  
High voltage transformers Transformers with ratings in scope of the LVD are subject to the LVD (refer to Section 7 of the LVD Guide).
Insulating tape  
Plastic grommet (bushing)  
Plug with multiple way socket outlets These are regulated under the GPSD.
Plugs – 230 V for domestic use
Simple travel adaptors This is because, by definition, a simple travel adaptor only consists of a plug from one national system (not in scope of the LVD) to a socket outlet of another national system (not in scope of the LVD). Instead, the GPSD applies.
Socket outlets – 230 V for domestic use  
Tools for working with live parts  

The new LVD Guide is accessible from: http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/31221

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Written by Dr Alex Martin

Dr Alex Martin, Senior Regulatory Consultant, RINA Alex is a technical professional with over 10 years’ experience working on product regulation, standards and policy issues in the UK and internationally. The focus of this work has been largely environmental, covering the likes of batteries, biocidal products, ecodesign, energy labeling, packaging, REACH, RoHS, timber sustainability and WEEE. Alex is also knowledgeable on a range of EU and UK product safety and consumer protection legislation (e.g. GPSD, LVD, PPE, toy safety, textile and footwear materials, product liability and guarantees) and quality, environmental and social compliance management standards.