Paul George looks at CE marking, which certifies that a piece of equipment conforms to the highest safety standards of the relevant EU legislation the product falls under.

CE stands for Conformité Européene, and refers to the safety standards of products sold or manufactured within the European Economic Community. As a universally recognised standard it’s been in place since 1985 and certifies that a piece of equipment conforms to the highest safety standards of the relevant EU legislation the product falls under.

As an employer, CE marking is a really valuable and easy way of ensuring that the equipment you use is internationally recognised as safe and fit for purpose.

In this article, I want to explore CE certification, and understand how and why products are certified to carry the CE marking.

What does CE Certification Apply to?

CE marking is applicable to a huge range of consumer and professional products, from teddy bears to lifting equipment. All machinery, tools and personal protective equipment used by outdoor workers should carry CE certification and it’s the role of the employer to ensure that this is the case.

CE marking applies to equipment that is sold, manufactured, rented or used in the UK. This means that an understanding of CE marking is important for companies who manufacture equipment, for companies who sell or rent equipment, and for the companies that use the equipment.

Some types of work equipment can be covered by the remits of one or more European directives, which can lead to some confusion when it comes to understanding what legislation covers what device of tool. This is particularly the case when it comes to electrical equipment, which is covered by the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) as well as the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive. This becomes even more confusing when you consider something like an electro cardiogram machine (ECG), which would also be covered by yet another directive; namely the Medical Devices Directive.

Why is CE Certification Important for Outdoor Workers?

All UK employers have a duty of care towards their employees. They have a responsibility to provide the correct equipment and to ensure that it is appropriate for the job, properly stored and maintained and, of course, CE compliant. The CE compliancy element of this due diligence is vital because it ensures that from the outset you know, as an employer, that all the equipment your staff are using on a daily basis, whether helmets, harnesses or chainsaws, has been manufactured to meet the highest safety standards required.

The outside working environment can be a hazardous one. If we think about workers on building sites who are working at height or those using very dangerous tools like chainsaw or pneumatic drills, it’s extremely important that all equipment has been safety tested and that these test themselves are internationally recognised.

Of course, CE Certification does not release employers from their responsibilities in ensuring that they are minimising any risks inherent in the working environment and conducting regular risk assessments. CE marking is not an alternative to health and safety best practice and regulations and you need to be aware of these before you take on a single employee, whether they’re working outside or inside.

What are the rules regarding CE Marking and Regulation?

CE marking is mandatory for certain groups of products marketed or manufactured in Europe, including in the EFTA countries like Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. These products include personal protective equipment, chainsaws and other outdoor tools. Before a product can display a CE mark, the following steps must be taken:

  • The manufacturer must check which EU directives apply to the product
  • The manufacturer must complete a conformity assessment
  • The manufacturer must set up a technical file which proves that the product was correctly manufactured
  • The manufacturer must sign a declaration of conformity
  • Depending on the directive, sometimes a third party also needs to be involved in the conformity assessment
The manufacturer is responsible for taking most of the necessary steps, but the importer or distributor is also responsible for ensuring that CE marking is correctly displayed on equipment sold in the EEC or EFTA.

How will Britain leaving the EU affect CE marking?

The result of the EU referendum will actually not change an employer’s responsibility to use CE marked equipment. CE marking is a part of UK Health and Safety regulations, and is written into UK law already. The CE marking system is an internationally recognised safety standard and as such, would require the rewriting of legislation to remove it from existing UK laws.

More to the point, if it were to be removed from the UK statute books, it would have an undeniably detrimental effect upon trade, as equipment manufactured in the UK, or bought from the UK, would have no evidence that it met the stringent safety regulations recognised by countries across the globe.

For more information on this and everything else discussed in this guide, the CE Marking Association website has a wealth of information for employers, including courses on CE marking training.

About the Author: Paul George is the managing director of Landmark Trading Ltd, and has worked in the arboriculture industry for 14 years. Landmark Trading are one the UK's leading suppliers of arborist, tree surgeon and tree climbing equipment. You can connect with Paul on Twitter on @LandmarkTrading or check out their Facebook page.