2019 is the 250thanniversary of the steam engine: On 5 January 1769, James Watt’s first British patent on steam engines was accepted. The steam engine arguably kick-started Industrial Revolution and was a truly groundbreaking development in the engineering industry, including its machinery sector.

Nowadays for machinery to be sold within the European Economic Area, it must comply, among others, with the Machinery Directive: It has to be designed and constructed to meet common minimum European health and safety requirements. Outward signs of such compliance are the CE marking on the product and the so-called EC Declaration of Conformity, issued by the manufacturer or an authorised representative.

Most important:

  • Non-compliance with the Machinery Directive may end up in sales bans, fines up to EUR 100,000.00 (under the Product Safety Directive), warranty and / or product liability claims (under the Product Liability Directive), claims for unfair practices and can even have severe criminal consequences (for personal injury).
  • Compliance, however, enables to freely sell the machinery within the entire European Economic Area.

Products that generally have to comply with the Machinery Directive are e.g.:

  • Vehicles not intended for use on the road, such as off-road quads, ATVs, go-karts, golf-carts buggies and snowmobiles (unless they are exclusively intended for competition), as well as vehicles with a maximum speed of 25 km/h);
  • EPACs (electrically power assisted cycles) because, unlike Pedelecs, they are not covered by the EU Regulation on L-Category Vehicles, like vehicles with a maximum speed of less than 6 km/h, pedestrian controlled vehicles, vehicles intended for use by the physically handicapped and off-road vehicles;
  • Hoverboards or self-balancing scooters (unless explicitly covered by the Toys Directive);
  • Drones, as long as they are not treated as "means of transport", designed and constructed for military or police purposes or covered by the Toys Directive

(Cf. Guide to application of the Machinery Directive, Edition 2.1, July 2017, §§ 54, 55 and 57).

Other product categories, other safety requirements:

The following products, for example, are expressly excluded from the scope of the Machinery Directive because the requirements are covered more specifically by other EU legislation and have, therefore, to comply with other regulatory requirements:

  • Four-or-more-wheeled power-driven road vehicles (with a speed exceeding 25 km/h) and their trailers, covered by the EU Directives and regulations on two- and three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles;
  • Two- and three-wheeled road vehicles (except for EPACs, etc. – see above), regulated by the very EU regulations mentioned just above;
  • Means of transport by air, on water and on rail networks subject to the Recreational Craft Directive;
  • Low voltage machinery and electric motors covered by the Low Voltage Directive (i.e. with an electrical supply between 50 and 1000 V for alternating current or between 75 and 1500 V for direct current) – except for electric motors intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, subject to the ATEX-Directive.