The current Low Voltage Directive (2014/35/EU) was published in 2014 to bring it into line with the New Legislative Framework (NLF). It came into force on the 20th April 2016 immediately replacing the previous Directive 2006/95/EC without a transition period.
This had little effect for manufacturers apart from:
- The exclusion of, ‘custom built evaluation kits destined for professionals to be used solely at research and development facilities for such purposes’, from the scope of the directive.
- The technical file contents remain largely the same however there is now a new addition with the need to complete ‘an adequate analysis and assessment of the risk(s)’ as part of the technical documentation.
- There is no longer a provision for use of a Notified Body.
The Low Voltage Directive is the oldest of the New Approach Directives and deals with the safety of electrical apparatus. It applies to all apparatus running on (or generating) an electrical supply in the range 50 - 1000 volts a.c. or between 75 and 1500 volts d.c.
There are a small number of exclusions from this Directive, which are generally products covered by more specific directives.
The Directive has both administrative and protective requirements. Administrative requirements include CE marking the product, completing a Declaration of Conformity and compiling a Technical File.
Protection requirements are generally satisfied by assessing the products compliance to various standards. Compliance to the Low Voltage Directive is self-certified without the need for a notified body.
See also Low Voltage Directive - Annex 1.
The Low Voltage Directive 2014/35/EU is one a series of measures enacted under Article 114 of the Treaty of Lisbon (formerly Article 100a of the Treaty of Rome). Article 114 directives all have the primary objective of creating a single European market in goods and services with the objective of providing producers and consumers with the benefits of economies of scale that this offers.
The effect of the Directive has been to introduce identical requirements for the design and certification safety of electrical products in every country within the European Economic Area (EEA).
The Directive was originally enacted in 1973 but was modified in 1993 by Directive 93/68/EEC to include a requirement for CE marking and the creation of a technical file.
In the early years of this century, attempts were made to agree a revised Directive which would include a much more explicit set of safety requirements and remove the lower voltage limits. These proposals proved to be very controversial, and in the end the revision attempt was abandoned. Instead, the Commission introduced 2006/95/EC, a codified directive which brought together the original text of 73/23/EC and its amendments in a single document.
The Directive applies to all apparatus operating on any AC supply between 50 and 1000 volts or DC supply between 75 and 1500 volts. Recent guidance from the European Commission has made it clear that the voltage limits referred to are the supply voltage or any voltage generated which appears at an output terminal, and not voltages generated within and confined internally to the equipment.
Equipment listed in Annex II are excluded from the scope of the Directive:
- Electrical equipment for use in an explosive atmosphere
- Electrical equipment for radiology and medical purposes
- Electrical parts for goods and passenger lifts
- Electricity meters
- Plugs and socket outlets for domestic use
- Electric fence controllers
- Radio-electrical interference
- Specialised electrical equipment, for use on ships, aircraft or railways, which complies with the safety provisions drawn up by international bodies in which the Member States participate.
- Custom built evaluation kits destined for professionals to be used solely at research and development facilities for such purposes.
In the main, these are items which are covered under other more specific directives or which are subject to international legislation outside of the jurisdiction of the EU.
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulation (PUWER) Assessment is not excluded from the Directive, but does not need to carry the CE logo. (NB: this is not a universal principle under the CE marking directives - in fact most directives do require equipment made (or imported) for the maker's (or importer's) own use to be CE marked.)
Enforcement and penalties
The Directive is implemented in the UK by The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016.
The maximum penalty for the supply of non-compliant equipment is three months imprisonment and/or a £20000 fine. More normally the manufacturer would be required to recall or replace any non-compliant apparatus. The enforcing authorities have the power to suspend or prohibit sale of apparatus for which they have reasonable evidence that it does not comply.
Furthermore, because failure to comply with the Regulations may also be a violation of other safety related legislation (e.g. the Health and Safety at Work Act, or the Consumer Protection Act) the penalties may in practice be substantially greater.
The requirements of the Low Voltage Directive can be divided into essential protection requirements and administrative requirements.
The essential protection requirements are contained in Annex 1 to the Directive. In essence they are extremely simple - equipment must be safe, it must bear the manufacturer’s name and address and it must be supplied with any necessary instruction to permit it to be used safely.
The administrative requirements are no less straightforward. The manufacturer must:
Compile technical documentation the manufacturer must produce a file of evidence which describes the product and how it is shown to comply with the Directive. This will typically include information on how to identify the equipment, a copy of the instructions, a wiring diagram, reports of tests and records of assessment to applicable standards.
Control of production although tests may be performed on a sample of the equipment, the Directive requires that all units produced comply with its requirements. The manufacturer will need appropriate quality control procedures accordingly.
Sign a Declaration of Conformity - the manufacturer must sign a document to identify the equipment and confirm the steps they have taken to comply with the Directive. This document is kept on file by the manufacturer and it does not need to be sent to any official body (although sometimes customers may ask to see it).
Put the CE logo on the product - it must be put on the equipment, or on its packaging or instructions if that's not possible.
Because the essential protection requirements are so simple, they aren’t a great deal of use to anyone actually designing or making electrical equipment. Instead, the Directive refers to a list of standards which can be used as the basis of the design. Standards can be used by manufacturers, purchasers, trading standards officers and even courts as a bench mark to consider what, in fact, constitutes 'safe'. Lists of standards can be accessed via the ‘useful links’ section below.
Independent product assessment
There is no requirement under the Directive for manufacturers to have their products examined and certified by a third party before they can be CE marked. Manufacturers who feel unsure about the requirements of the standards can involve a consultant if they wish, but this is not mandatory under the Directive. Accredited laboratory assessment may be a condition of supply to major retail customers but, again, this is not a requirement of the Directive.
Other directives affecting electrical products
The vast majority of products within the scope of the LVD will also be within the scope of the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. The Ecodesign Directive may also apply.
Some electrical products will not be covered by the Low Voltage Directive because they will be covered by other, more specific directives which are mutually exclusive with the LVD. These include the ATEX Directive for equipment used in explosive atmospheres, the Radio Equipment Directive Directive (RED) for radio equipment, the Medical Devices Directive and the Machinery Directive.
As with all CE marking directives, the actual requirements for any piece of equipment under the directive and harmonised standards are complex and dependent on not only the design but also the type of user, the intended use and sometimes even what is claimed in the instructions or sales literature.
For further advice specific to your products, please contact us at Conformance and we will be pleased to discuss your needs.