Besides the subject of changes in the world of work, the 5th EUROSHNET conference in Seville was marked by another key topic: the call for closer cooperation. Standardization, testing and certification, research, market surveillance and regulation are important instruments of occupational safety and health. However, they are effective and are able to keep pace with developments in the world of work only when used in combination.
'In occupational safety and health, cooperation is crucial if we are to be able to present our shared convictions and promote our ideas', said Raphaël Haeflinger (EUROGIP). He called for new communicative interfaces to be created and the various instruments to be integrated even more closely. In his view for example, standardization requires substantially more feedback from users and notified bodies. Information must also be pooled much more systematically with the research community in order for innovations to reach the standardization process quickly. The market surveillance bodies would benefit from having direct access through a database to all EC type examination certificates issued by notified test and certification bodies.
In order for enforcement measures to be made more effective in all Member States, Stefan Pemp (of the Lower Saxony State Ministry of Social Affairs) favours reorganizing the responsibilities of the market surveillance authorities: in his view, responsibility should lie not with the authority discovering a non-compliant product on the market, but with the authority responsible for the manufacturer. The latter is able to implement measures much more effectively, since the information on sales channels and purchasers of the product are available only from the manufacturer.
Language barriers continue to be a frequent obstacle to Europe-wide, harmonized implementation of market surveillance measures. In order for the legal security of formal procedures to be assured, Stefan Pemp proposes that a central translation service be set up at EU level for all national market surveillance bodies.
Phil Papard (former Chairman of the AdCo Machinery Group (European administrative cooperation group for the market surveillance authorities in the area of machinery), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also called for better informal communication and closer cooperation at a personal level, for example by the exchange of staff between the market surveillance authorities of Member States. He also considered joint activities by the authorities EU-wide to be desirable.
Testing and certification
In the future, machines will increasingly be used not in isolation, but as parts of networked systems that communicate with and control each other. In the view of Stefan Ohlhauser (European Coordination of Notified Bodies for the Machinery Directive), fully automated production and automated setup will shift the focus of testing and certification to product life phases such as maintenance, repair and troubleshooting.
Tests will also increasingly be performed of incomplete machines that are combined in companies to form new systems, in some cases with machines from other manufacturers. Since the numerous and diverse possibilities for use often cannot be predicted at the time of testing, retesting in actual use is necessary. In order for a safe overall system to be achieved, increased pooling of information between the test bodies involved, at international as well as national level, is absolutely essential.
The New Approach provides for innovation to be taken into account continually through the "standardization module". Norbert Breutmann (CEN Strategic Advisory Board for Occupational Health and Safety [formerly SAB OHS]) stressed that standards must also be updated regularly if they are to satisfy their purpose. Revision of Type A and B machinery standards is particularly difficult, however, owing to the shortage of experts and financial resources. Funding by the European Commission would be desirable in this respect.
In order for the quality of the standards to be assured in the long term, Norbert Breutmann considers it essential for certain conditions to be met: allowing of sufficient time for reaching of a consensus, and adequate participation by experts. European networks are absolutely essential in his view, not least for occupational safety and health. It is therefore conceivable for a Finnish expert for example to present also the French position on a standards committee. A European body with the task of coordinating this division of labour centrally would be the ideal solution.
Sonja Miesner Michael Robert