A new amendment to the regulations on machines (AFS 2008:3) came into force on 15 June. The sanctions are being extended to apply to both user instructions and declarations of conformity that must accompany all new machines released into the market or taken into operation for the first time. The marking requirements for maximum loads of lifting machines and personal lifting machines will then also be subject to sanctions. The regulations and the amendments replace the previous machine regulations.

“My best advice is therefore to seek help at an early stage from those who know about this and then to keep consistently to their perceptions and interpretations,” says Per Asplund, Project Department Manager at SCA Maintenance.

The regulations deal with, among other things, the risks that exist and how accidents can be prevented. They also deal with what users of machines need to take into account.

A machine is defined here as an assembled unit that has at least one moving part and is powered by one or more energy sources.

It can have a motor with its own energy source, for example energy from a battery, be connected to one or more external energy sources such as electricity or compressed air, use mechanical energy supplied from other equipment, but it can also be powered by natural energy sources such as wind or hydro power.

A machine is not, however, an assembled unit that is powered by direct force from a human being or an animal that stops working as soon as the force ceases, for example manually propelled lawnmowers, hand drills or hand-drawn carts.

Sales ban and recall

If it emerges that a new machine being sold in the Swedish market has deficiencies in its design that may result in accidents or ill health when used, the Swedish Work Environment Authority may decide on a sales ban, that the supplier must recall the product from the market and/or issue warning information.

If the machine has been sold to consumers, there is a requirement in the Swedish Product Safety Act that the distributor must recall the product on their own initiative and inform customers about the deficiencies.

The manufacturer’s liability

The manufacturer is responsible for identifying and assessing the risks that are associated with the machine. The machine must then be designed and manufactured with reference to this risk assessment. When machines are released onto the market or taken into operation, they must be safe. To be able to perform a risk assessment, knowledge is needed of the risks that exist and what accidents or near-accidents may occur, also in connection with operational disruption and maintenance. Examples of risks can be ergonomic risks, risks of trapping, risks of unexpected start in connection with, for example, maintenance work and risks that arise when machines are connected to form a machine line. In addition to this are all the risks that arise if machines are used incorrectly.

The manufacturer naturally also has a responsibility to eliminate and prevent risks associated with machines as early as the design phase and to provide detailed information about and take protective measures in respect of any risks that cannot be avoided. Machine manufacturers must also provide a detailed declaration of noise emissions, both in the user instructions and in the technical sales support material.

The user’s obligations

It is also important that users perform risk assessments when they are working with machines. Much of the safety in the use of machines is about using them correctly. 

Near-accidents and accidents often occur when protective equipment is incorrectly installed or absent, when complex technology is not user-friendly, when there are errors in user instructions and warning information, with incorrectly programmed machines, in inadequate job instructions and procedures for the user, when users lack sufficient knowledge for safe operation, and in the use of incorrect personal protective equipment or if personal protective equipment is not used at all. Hand-held machines can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders in hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. These problems are due to, for example, vibrations and how machines are designed and used.

To be allowed to use a CE-marked machine, there are special requirements that must be met.

To be allowed to use machines manufactured before 1995 that are not CE-marked, employers must first of all carry out an investigation, risk assessment, measures and follow-up.

Same for all

The old and new machine regulations represent a major challenge to industry.

“There are a lot of risk assessments that have to be conducted when it comes to business risks, personal risks and safety risks,” says Per Asplund, Project Department Manager at SCA Maintenance. “The Helios project at SCA Östrand is under way at the moment, which means that many of these questions will crop up during the course of the project.”

AFS 2008:3 is based on the EU’s Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, which is now also available in Swedish. Historically there has been a lot of criticism of the EU Directive, because the market has felt that manufacturers in different countries have not been treated equally, as the regulations have not been observed in the same way. The idea behind the new regulations is that all manufacturers and users must be treated in the same way, in all countries in the EU.

“This assumes, of course, that the formulations of the regulations also take the same form. At the moment there are many different opinions about how they should be interpreted. You pick up lots of different signals, depending on whom you ask and who responds.  The accredited bodies have a forum at which they get together to try and formulate the different elements of the regulations in order to achieve a consensus, it’s a problem I think that there’s no consensus at present. It makes life difficult for us in industry – the whole thing becomes something of a guessing game, or as I call it, synchronised swimming.”

Turning to expert consultants for help

When it comes to the new amendments in the Machinery Directive in particular, Per Asplund believes that not much has really happened other than the tougher sanctions. The working model for project deliveries is the same.

“It’s still the manufacturers’ responsibility to issue certificates, then we users have to supplement this using our own organisation and specialist consultants. In these matters we have great faith in our own organisation and our consultants, who are specialists in business risks. It’s then up to those of us out in the real world to deal with the issue of compliance. My best advice is therefore to seek help at an early stage from those who know about this and then to keep consistently to their perceptions and interpretations,” says Per Asplund, concluding with another piece of good advice:

“Annex 11 to the SSG Delivery Contract also provides support and serves as a tool to allocate responsibility between customer and supplier.”

Important points to remember

- Make sure that you have sufficient knowledge for safe operation.

- Choose the right machine for the job.

- Read the manufacturer’s user instructions. The user instructions should also include instructions on how to clean and maintain the machine.

- Make sure that the protective equipment on the machine is in place and in full working order. It is unfortunately far too common that protective equipment has been modified, is incorrectly installed or is absent.

- Use suitable clothing and personal protective equipment. Do not wear clothes that can easily become trapped in the machine. Ear protection and safety goggles must be worn in many cases.

- Make sure you use the correct working posture in order to avoid musculoskeletal injuries.

- Avoid repetitive work.

Sources: The Swedish Work Environment Authority and the provisions on the use of equipment at work, AFS 2006:4.