Consultation phase for update of the Machinery Directive completed

Philipp Reusch

The Machinery Directive, Directive 2006/42/EC (PDF), is to be updated in 2021. The Directive is to be the centerpiece of the EU's efforts to regulate products in the machinery industry in order to ensure a high degree of safety for machinery users and free movement for machinery within the European Union.

The current version of the Directive was adopted in 2006. The Commission conducted an evaluation of the Directive (PDF) in order to assess its effectiveness and relevance, and the results of this evaluation were published in summer 2018. We have already reported on the results of the evaluation. The evaluation revealed that the Machinery Directive is generally well-suited to accomplish its objectives, even in light of new technologies. However, the evaluation also found a need for greater coherence with the remainder of the EU legal framework, as well as a need for greater legal clarity and further adjustment to advances in digitization.

The Commission's Inception Impact Assessment

In light of this situation, the Commission presented an "Inception Impact Assessment" for public consultation in January 2019 which recommended four different options.

  • Option 1: adjustment of the Machinery Directive to the new legislative framework without further changes to the current draft. The advantage of this option is that the administrative burden would be reduced thanks to the harmonization of declarations of conformity, safety notices, etc. However, there would be no improvement with regard to legal clarity and the inclusion of technological progress.
  • Option 2: adjustment to the new legislative framework with additional substantive changes, particularly with respect to definitions and requirements in light of digitization.
  • Option 3: substantive changes along the lines of Option 2, but without adjusting to the new legislative framework.
  • Option 4: updating the Directive in the form of a Regulation (with substantive changes consistent with one of Options 1-3) in order to avoid the delays and uncertainty associated with transposition.

While the social and administrative implications of Options 1 and 4 are relatively small, Options 2 and 3 are expected to bring significant improvements for consumers and machinery users, due above all to the inclusion of advances in digital technologies.

Responses from stakeholders: summary and forecast

The responses to the "Impact Assessment" from companies and associations reveal an overwhelming preference for adjustment to the new legislative framework. In many cases, these responses call for revising definitions and requirements in light of digitization. In particular, the line between the Machinery Directive and the Low-Voltage Directive is cited as a problem, as well as the definition of "partly completed machinery." They also argue in favor of allowing digital instructions for use in order to reduce the administrative burden and enable faster updates. Due to the fact that the proposed changes have largely met with a positive response, it appears likely that the Commission's draft will contain extensive updates, in which the rules will be adapted to conform with the new legislative framework.

[October 2019]