Earlier this year the European Commission published “the LVD Guide”, an updated set of guidelines to accompany the Low Voltage Directive (LVD).
A lengthy document at 96 pages, the Guide’s Annex VIII looks at the relationship between the LVD and other EU product legislation, with the latter largely encompassing legislation focused upon the protection of health and safety. As Annex VIII makes clear, in some instances this other legislation will take precedence over the LVD and have application in place of it. There are also separate instances where the LVD’s safety objectives apply to electrical equipment together with the requirements of other EU product safety legislation.
Instances when EU legislation other than the LVD applies
Ordinarily, an item of electrical equipment placed on the EU market with a voltage rating of 50-1000 V for AC and 75-1500 V for DC would fall in scope of the LVD and need to comply with its Annex I safety objectives. The economic operator(s) involved in supplying the electrical equipment (e.g. manufacturers, distributors) would also have attendant obligations under the LVD; for example, manufacturers are required to analyse and assess risks and write this up within technical documentation that should then be retained for 10 years after the electrical equipment is placed on the EU market.
However, the LVD Guide’s Annex VIII explains that when electrical equipment falling in scope of the LVD is also:
- an item of radio equipment, meaning products that intentionally emit and/or receive radio waves for purpose of radio communication and/or radio determination; or
- a machine, meaning an assembly of linked parts or components, at least one of which moves; or
- a part for a passenger or goods lift; or
- intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres
then, subject to certain caveats, other EU legislation applies that takes priority over the LVD. These laws are, respectively, the Radio Equipment Directive (2014/53/EU), the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC), the Lifts Directive (2014/33/EU), and the Equipment and Protective Systems intended for use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres (“ATEX”) Directive (2014/34/EU).
It is important to stress “subject to certain caveats”, which is particularly the case when it comes to the Machinery Directive since some items of electrical and electronic machinery are excluded from its scope under the Directive’s Article 1(2) (k). This reads as follows:
(k) electrical and electronic products falling within the following areas, insofar as they are covered by Council Directive 73/23/EECi of 19 February 1973 on the harmonisation of the laws of Member States relating to electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits:
— household appliances intended for domestic use;
— audio and video equipment;
— information technology equipment;
— ordinary office machinery;
— low-voltage switchgear and control gear;
— electric motors.
The LVD Guide offers further interpretation regarding the household appliance exclusion from the Machinery Directive. This is that:
Firstly, the expression “household appliances” designates equipment intended for typical housekeeping functions such as washing, cleaning, heating, cooling, cooking, etc. Examples of household appliances include washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and machinery for food preparation and cooking. On the other hand, electrical gardening machinery or power tools intended for the construction and repair work in the home are not covered by this exclusion.
Secondly, the exclusion concerns appliances “intended for domestic use”, in other words, appliances intended for use by private persons (consumers) in the home environment.
The statement from the manufacturer in the product information concerning the specific product is the criterion that has to be considered to determine the intended use of the appliance in this case and which Directive applies. Evidently this must accurately reflect the reasonably foreseeable use of the product.
Therefore, those household appliances intended specifically for commercial or industrial use are excluded from the scope of the LVD and included in the scope of the Machinery Directive.
Barring the exclusions, electrical and electronic machinery must comply with the Machinery Directive. The Machinery Directive’s Annex I Section 1.5.1 explains that, in practice, this means meeting LVD safety objectives when it comes to hazards of an electrical nature. Manufacturers of machinery incorporating an electrical supply may apply LVD harmonized standards to meet these objectives but the manufacturer’s EU Declaration of Conformity should refer to the Machinery Directive (or other applicable law), not the LVD. This is the case even if LVD harmonized standards have been applied to meet LVD safety objectives referred to in the Machinery Directive (or Radio Equipment Directive, etc.).
Instances when EU legislation applies together with the LVD
The LVD identifies three instances in this regard:
- When LVD in-scope electrical equipment is to be permanently incorporated in construction works.
Here LVD Annex I safety objectives must be met alongside relevant Construction Products Regulation (No 305/2011) requirements. The LVD Guide highlights that:
Most importantly, products covered by harmonized standards under Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 have to be assessed in conformity with the applicable standards and be accompanied by a declaration of performance and the CE mark.
…Should these essential conditions not be met, the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 cannot in practice be applied to the relevant electrical equipment.
- When LVD in-scope electrical equipment is intended to be a gas “fitting”.
The term “fitting” refers to a safety device, controlling device or regulating device and subassembly designed to be incorporated into an appliance that burns gaseous fuels and is used for cooking, heating, hot water production, refrigeration, lighting or washing. Here LVD Annex I safety objectives must be met together with Gas Appliance Regulation (No 206/426) requirements, but the LVD Guide explains that the latter is specific to:
…gas related risks due to the hazards of electrical origin of the appliances or of the fittings (other components than the fittings are not separately assessed under the Regulation but are assessed as part of the finished appliance).
- When LVD in-scope electrical equipment is intended for consumer use.
In this case, specific provisions of the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) apply while the LVD maintains precedence as the EU product safety law that must be complied with. The LVD Guide identifies the following as relevant General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) provisions to be met alongside LVD compliance:
o Following any accompanying measures adopted to ensure that a marketing ban is complied with;
o Undertaking recalls and destroying stock when the equipment is deemed dangerous under the GPSD;
o Applying any relevant voluntary safety guidance such as codes of good practice;
o Advising consumers and other interested parties on complaint procedures;
o Giving the public access to information concerning product identification, the nature of the risk and measures taken to address it in relation to Article 16(1) of the GPSD;
o Submitting a RAPEX – the Commission’s rapid alert system for non-food consumer products – notification regarding measures that restrict or otherwise impose specific conditions on the possible marketing or use of the equipment if found to present a serious risk (reference should be made to Article 12(1) of the GPSD);
o Finally, and more generally, adhering to measures provided for in Article 8(1) (b)-(d) of the GPSD.
For more information, please consult the LVD Guide. This can be accessed here.