KANBrief 1/11

Presumption of conformity for the guided-type fall arresters standard is withdrawn: where do we go from here?

In March 2010, following a formal objection by the United Kingdom (UK) authorities, the European Commission deleted EN 353-1 governing guided-type fall arresters from the list of harmonized standards in the Official Journal of the EU. Standards committees and test and certification bodies are working on provisions to solve the ensuing problems for manufacturers, test bodies, users and market surveillance authorities.

Withdrawal of the presumption of conformity for EN 353-1:2002 (Guided type fall arresters including a rigid anchor line) (See KANBrief 3/09) leads to uncertainties regarding assessment of compliance with the directive and the safety of guided-type fall arresters. Standardization, test and certification bodies are expected to produce solutions to these problems.

The current standardization Situation
In July 2010, the European Commission issued a mandate (M 472) to the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to revise the standard. One of the working groups within the committee responsible, CEN/TC 160 (Protection against falls from height including working belts), is charged with the task of revision. The WG is not only addressing the deficits which have been criticized regarding a fall back or sideways fall of the user, but will also address further possible risks arising during foreseeable use which have been discussed in the past but have not yet been made the subject of standardization. These risks include, for example, the failure of end stops, the increasing of the distance between the body's centre of gravity and the anchor line, for example owing to improper fitting of the harness, and impairment of the harness's function by the user during fall arrest. The CEN public enquiry concerning the draft standard is anticipated at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012.

Procedures for conformity assessment
Manufacturers and certification bodies must ensure that personal protective equipment satisfies all essential requirements for health and safety set out in the PPE Directive, 89/686/EEC. For the placing on the market of guided-type fall arrestors including a rigid anchor line (including products that have already been certified), it is therefore imperative that conformity assessment also take account of the risks that resulted in the presumption of conformity for EN 353-1:2002 being withdrawn. Against this background situation, three different scenarios emerge:

  1. An EC type-examination certificate has been issued, based on a test performed to EN 353-1:2002, and the product has been placed on the market. In this case, manufacturers and certification bodies must reassess the conformity of the product.

    In order to set out a procedure harmonized throughout Europe for test and certification bodies to follow, the coordination group of the notified European test and certification bodies for personal protective equipment against falls from a height (VG 11) has, in part at the request of the European Commission, adopted a recommendation for the transitional period until revision of the standard has been completed (Recommendation for Use 11.073). The recommendation contains test methods by which the risks can be covered which led to the standard's presumption of conformity being withdrawn. Other risks associated with foreseeable use which have become apparent in the meantime will also be addressed at the same time.

    Germany's test bodies have agreed to conduct recertification in accordance with the recommendation of VG 11 based upon a risk assessment, and if necessary to conduct additional tests. Depending upon the results of the tests, the test body will withdraw the EC type-examination certificate or issue a new certificate.
  2. Modified products will also be tested in accordance with the recommendation of VG 11. Should the modified product satisfy the requirements, a new EC type-examination certificate is to be issued by the test body.
  3. In the case of new products which have not yet been certified, the national test bodies will apply the usual conformity assessment procedure, observing the recommendation of VG 11.

As a further measure, the European Commission has asked the Member States to assess, via the market surveillance authorities, how consideration is being given to the new situation for guided-type fall arrestors.

Users of guided-type fall arresters are advised to contact the manufacturer in order to confirm compliance of the products used by them.


Wolfgang Schäper                         Petra Jackisch

wolfgang.schäper@bgbau.de  petra.jackisch@bgbau.de