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CE marking allows manufacturers to declare that their products comply with all applicable EU rules.  (Image: TÜV SÜD)
CE marking allows manufacturers to declare that their products comply with all applicable EU rules. (Image: TÜV SÜD)
Photo: 123

Safety standards developed since the 1980s have contributed to protecting workers in the plastics and rubber industry, while a set of standards being drawn up can be applied worldwide, writes Claudio Celata, Chairman of European Committee for Standardization TC 145 and ISO/TC270 for plastics and rubber machinery.

 

At the end of 80s, the Directives and Regulations of the so-called “New Approach” – which defines the essential requirements related to health, safety and environmental issues – came into force in Europe. Since then, the European plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers have contributed strongly to the development of harmonized standards (see Table) to guarantee the highest level of safety for workers at the plastics and rubber converting workplace.

 

With the increase of machines imports in Europe from third countries, it has been observed that many manufacturers/importers do not observe the Directives, Regulations and harmonized standards. This meant that many factories worldwide have installed potentially unsafe machines, putting the safety of workers at risk.

Claudio Celata, Chairman of European Committee for Standardization TC 145 and ISO/TC270 for plastics and rubber machinery. 

In Europe, for example, about 10 years ago, the Italian Association – ASSOCOMAPLAST – has signed a memorandum of understanding with customs authorities of exporting countries, whereby a number of technical inspections have been carried out before injection moulding machines could enter into Italy (Annex IV of the Machinery Directive). Almost all the technical inspections showed that the “CE” marked machines, with certificates issued by non-European branches of Notified Bodies, did not comply largely with the safety standards.

 

This safety gap of non-European manufacturers may be due to poor knowledge on the matter. After all, to place a small plate with the symbol “CE” on a machine, even when the machine failed to conform to specific safety standards required by the European rules,  is neither difficult nor expensive.

 

New safety standards issued

 

In view of this situaiton, and following some accidents at the workplace, the health and safety authorities have carried out inspections and subsequently stopped the increase of substandard machines entering Europe.

 

It is important to point out that the CEN (European Committee for Standardization) has updated the TC 145 standards for plastics and rubber machinery with many new safety standards concerning the “C level” plastics and rubber machines. This was achieved with the contributions of manufacturers and users of machines, and the support of specialists appointed by Notified Bodies or labour ministers of various European countries.

A sample of small plate with the symbol “CE”. 

These CEN standards classified at “C level” refer particularly to risk assessment and safety measures concerning specific type of machine; the “B level” standards are related to horizontal issues, for example, the components of safety control system, safety distances, evaluation methods for risk assessment etc.; and for “A level”,  there are Directives and Regulations, the so-called Machinery Directive. 

 

Designers and users of industrial machinery are included in this rather complicated and normative structure, so as to ensure that European market machines with “CE” mark are equipped with safety systems that respect the risk assessment.

 

It is interesting to see how the machinery designers, with reference to the “B” standard EN 13849-1:2007, could decide the performance level of a safety control device, from the slightest level (a) to the highest one (e).   (see Figure)

 

Universal safety standards

 

To summarize, since the 80s, 17 standards issued by CEN TC 145 have been published on the European Official Journal and enforced in Europe.

 

For this specific industrial sector, a technical committee TC 270 (for plastics and rubber machinery) within the International Standardization Organization (ISO) has been activated in 2012. A relevant working group WG1 is now studying the safety standard for injection moulding machines, supported not only by European delegates, but also Brazil, China, Japan, USA, etc., in order to have a univeral standard that is applicable worldwide.

 

In particular, a Chinese delegation designated by the Standardization Administration of China, which aims to publish safety regulations for plastics and rubber machines in China, has participated from the beginning in the activities of ISO TC 270 and has contributed with their own experiences.

 

Conclusion

 

To ensure a safe workplace, it is important that the safety standards are adopted by national authorities and each sub-sector of the plastics & rubber industry.

 

The main goal is to have a standard available worldwide to guarantee the best possible safety level in all the plastics & rubber processing factories, and to allow the machinery manufacturers to design safety systems that are agreed everywhere.

 

ISO TC 270 will study specific safety standards, step by step, as done in the past with CEN TC 145. The second project following that of the injection moulding machines will be devoted to rotational moulding machines.

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