Tests and conformity assessment procedures are a requirement set out in statutory provisions for numerous products. But who tests the testers? Within the scope of the German Product Safety Act (ProdSG), this task is assumed by the ZLS, the central body of the German regional authorities responsible for safety technology. In this interview, the ZLS's director, Hans- Georg Niedermeyer, will introduce us to his institution.
Mr Niedermeyer, what are the tasks of the ZLS?
Based upon a treaty adopted in 1993, the ZLS assumes a co-ordinating and monitoring role in product safety on behalf of all of Germany's individual regional authorities. Bodies which test and certify the safety of products, equipment, machinery and installations require state authorization before they may perform certain conformity assessment tasks required by the Product Safety Act. This authorization is independent of any accreditation they may have from the DAkkS, Germany's national accreditation body. Authorization is issued by the ZLS in response to applications from the following bodies:
• Notified bodies (including bodies conducting activities within the scope of the first regulation under the German Explosives Act (SprengG) and of the Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulation (ODV))
• Test bodies authorized to issue the GS mark
• Approved inspection bodies with the task of inspecting installations subject to mandatory inspection The ZLS's tasks also include monitoring of the bodies themselves. For the notified bodies under the ProdSG, the ZLS is also the notifying authority, i.e. it notifies these bodies to the European Commission and the Member States.
Following entry into force in 2013 of the amendment to the treaty, the ZLS has also assumed new tasks of co-ordinating and supporting the market surveillance authorities of the German regional governments under the ProdSG. This particularly includes support when formal objections to standards are raised. Provision also exists for the regional authorities' responsibilities for enforcement to be transferred in certain cases to the ZLS.
In what way is the ZLS involved in standardization activity?
Should a market surveillance authority establish that a harmonized standard does not adequately support the requirements to be covered, it informs the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in accordance with the ProdSG in order for a formal objection to the standard to be raised. Specifically, the flow of information is from the market surveillance authority, via the ZLS, to the BAuA. The ZLS examines the issue, and if necessary calls in specialists with the necessary additional expertise. In the further course of the process, the ZLS then also serves as the main point of contact to the market surveillance authorities for other interested parties, such as consumers' and manufacturers' associations, and presents the position of the market surveillance authorities in standardization activity on a case by case basis.
What form does co-operation with KAN take?
Communication channels are created in particular when formal objections to standards are raised. In this case, the ZLS has the function of involving and co-ordinating the relevant specialists – a task in which KAN has already gained considerable experience over the years. Whenever the market surveillance authorities initiate a formal objection which does not solely affect consumer products, we therefore inform the KAN Secretariat and invite it to comment. Conversely, the ZLS may also present the market surveillance position in cases where KAN prepares a formal objection. The relevant procedures have already been agreed with the KAN Secretariat and presented in the committee for product safety (AfPS).
Is the ZLS also active at European level?
It is. We support the market surveillance authorities in the committees and AdCo groups for the 13 EU directives that are transposed by the Product Safety Act. The delegates of the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, to advisory bodies of the European Union have the task of presenting the position of the authorities responsible for enforcing these regulations during discussions of further development and interpretation of the directives. The ZLS currently appoints two of these delegates. Further delegates are to follow in stages up to 2017. The ZLS also represents the market surveillance authorities in further advisory bodies of the EU, for example concerning further development and use of the ICSMS information system (Information and Communication System for Market Surveillance) and co-operation between the market surveillance and customs authorities.