A brief history of machinery safety

Even today, safety in the work­place cannot be taken for granted in many parts of the world. How­ever, in more and more coun­tries there is a growing recog­ni­tion that machinery safety is worth it – for human and machine.


At the begin­ning of indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, the pri­mary focus for machinery was on pro­duc­tivity. From the middle of the 19th cen­tury, people started to become more aware of safety. In Ger­many, acci­dents while oper­ating steam boilers led to the foun­da­tion of an inspec­tion body, the pre­de­cessor to TÜV, in 1866.


Due to increasing indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, from the 1960s onwards Korea recorded rapid eco­nomic growth, but unfor­tu­nately also an increase in indus­trial acci­dents. The gov­ern­ment acted, and since the early 80s there has been the KCs (Korea Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion) mark from the gov­ern­ment authority KOSHA (Korean Occu­pa­tional Safety and Health Admin­is­tra­tion), which indi­cates that a machine is safe.


Since the 70s there has been a national law in Brazil that stip­u­lates min­imum safety require­ments for machines and (machine) equip­ment: But NR-12 did not become binding until the last revi­sion in 2010. In the process it was aligned to the Euro­pean Machinery Direc­tive. NR-12 is there­fore also called the “Brazilian Machinery Direc­tive”.


Under­writers Lab­o­ra­to­ries (UL) was founded in the USA in 1894. Its orig­inal mis­sion: to have fire risks assessed by an elec­trical test lab­o­ra­tory. In the USA, product stan­dards, fire pro­tec­tion reg­u­la­tions (“Fire Codes”), elec­trical direc­tives and national laws are par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant. The Occu­pa­tional Safety and Health Admin­is­tra­tion (OSHA) reg­u­lates safety in the work­place.


In China, the State Admin­is­tra­tion of Work Safety is respon­sible for defining and mon­i­toring health and safety mea­sures. Chi­nese machinery safety stan­dards are applied for plant and machinery. Since 2002, China has had its own cer­ti­fi­ca­tion system – Chi­nese Com­pul­sory Cer­tifi­cate (CCC). If there are stan­dards missing, some­times EN stan­dards har­monised under the Machinery Direc­tive are con­verted into national stan­dards.


Indian Stan­dards (IS) are still at the draft stage. The office respon­sible has defined almost 60 stan­dards, which are based on ISO stan­dards. They will be intro­duced grad­u­ally. There are two con­tributing fac­tors: Indian machine builders increas­ingly wish to export their machines, and global cor­po­ra­tions that operate pro­duc­tion sites in India are boosting safety con­sid­er­a­tions in the country with their own com­pany stan­dards.


In Europe too, the birth of modern machinery safety dates back less than 40 years. In 1989, the change was brought about with the Machinery Direc­tive. From this point onwards, imple­men­ta­tion of machinery safety was manda­tory. Prod­ucts that carry the CE mark (“Com­mu­nauté Européenne”) may be imported and sold without regard to national reg­u­la­tions. That’s why people also refer to the “Pass­port to Europe”.

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As an ambas­sador for safety, Pilz plays an active role in many coun­tries – with training, advice for author­i­ties and asso­ci­a­tions or par­tic­i­pa­tion in stan­dards com­mit­tees, for example. Pilz cus­tomers ben­efit from this expert knowl­edge: Pilz offers them com­pre­hen­sive safety ser­vices cus­tomised to their company’s indi­vidual needs throughout the entire machine life­cycle. Pilz sub­sidiaries in the respec­tive coun­tries sup­port cus­tomers with the rel­e­vant Dec­la­ra­tions of Con­for­mity and ensure access to local mar­kets.

Machinery safety worldwide — So it continues

In Europe too, machinery safety remains an ever­lasting mis­sion: the EU Machinery Reg­u­la­tion, the suc­cessor to the EU Machinery Direc­tive, has just been pub­lished. It is adapted to the changed require­ments, with a view to Secu­rity for example, and pro­vides greater imple­men­ta­tion sup­port. So the machinery safety suc­cess story will con­tinue.

The new EU Machinery Regulation

The new Machinery Reg­u­la­tion (EU) 2023/1230 was pub­lished in the Offi­cial Journal of the Euro­pean Union on 29 June 2023. It came into force in all EU member states 20 days after it was pub­lished in the Offi­cial Journal. Machine man­u­fac­turers have 42 months in which to meet the new require­ments on plant and machinery. Thus the MR will finally become manda­tory in Jan­uary 2027 (key date reg­u­la­tion).

An overview of the key changes

Particularly hazardous machinery

In Annex I, Part A (pre­vi­ously found in Annex IV of the Machinery Direc­tive), the new Machinery Reg­u­la­tion (EU) 2023/1230 lists six machine cat­e­gories under “poten­tially high risk machinery” – including with regard to arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence – where machine man­u­fac­turers can no longer self-declare com­pli­ance in con­junc­tion with a har­monised stan­dard, as pre­vi­ously. In future, a noti­fied body must be involved.

How­ever, for machine cat­e­gories listed in Part B, com­pli­ance with the Machinery Reg­u­la­tion can still be declared in com­bi­na­tion with a har­monised stan­dard, with the aid of internal pro­duc­tion con­trol.

Substantial modification

The reg­u­la­tion has been extended to include the def­i­n­i­tion of a sub­stan­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tion of machinery. For machinery safety, a new con­for­mity assess­ment pro­ce­dure is always required when a machine under­goes major tech­nical mod­i­fi­ca­tions. Chapter 2, Article 18 stip­u­lates that the person who car­ries out a sub­stan­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tion of machinery must fulfil all the oblig­a­tions of the man­u­fac­turer.

Digital instructions

Man­u­fac­turers are now allowed to supply instruc­tions in dig­ital form. Should the cus­tomer request it, the man­u­fac­turer is obliged to supply the instruc­tions in paper format (Annex III, 1.7.4). A manda­tory mark on the machinery and accom­pa­nying doc­u­ments, indi­cating how to access the dig­ital instruc­tions, has also been intro­duced. A dig­ital EU Dec­la­ra­tion of Con­for­mity is also per­mitted. Partly com­pleted machinery may also be deliv­ered with dig­ital assembly instruc­tions and a dig­ital Dec­la­ra­tion of Incor­po­ra­tion.

Industrial Security

Within the essen­tial health and safety require­ments set out in Annex III, the Machinery Reg­u­la­tion places new demands on cyber­se­cu­rity under 1.1.9, “Pro­tec­tion against cor­rup­tion”. Cyber­se­cu­rity threats must not be allowed to com­pro­mise the machine’s safety func­tions. So Indus­trial Secu­rity becomes a manda­tory ele­ment for machinery safety and is no longer just sub­ject to the inter­pre­ta­tion of the person placing the machine on the market. Man­u­fac­turers will need to review their existing secu­rity con­cepts in this regard.

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