KANBrief 2/12

Ergonomics in the Guide to application of the Machinery Directive

Engineers should not regard the ergonomic design of machines as an optional extra, but should automatically consider it an inherent aspect of design. A supplement which explains the ergonomic requirements in greater detail was recently added to the European Commission’s Guide to application of the 2006/42/EC Machinery Directive.

The purpose of the guide is to explain the requirements of the Machinery Directive in sufficiently general terms to enable them to be implemented without the need for further sources. It is intended in the first instance for designers, prevention experts and market surveillance professionals. Since the new version of the Machinery Directive attaches greater importance to ergonomics, the guide in turn now contains more extensive explanations for implementing the requirements formulated in Section 1.1.6 (“Ergonomics”) of the directive.

During a workshop organized in 2008 by KAN (see also  KANBrief 3/2008), representatives of the European Commission, CEN and the social partners together with researchers and standards experts discussed the topic and formed a working group. This group subsequently gave rise to the ErgoMach initiative (see also KANBrief 1/2011), which supported the Commission in the formulation of the ergonomic part of the guide.

Explanation of ergonomic aspects

The new guide divides the aspects of ergonomics addressed in Section 1.1.6 of the directive into two groups. With no claim to completeness, five factors are listed to which attention must be paid during the design of machinery. The list is intended to draw manufacturers’ attention to important ergonomic principles (see image).

These factors may give rise to physical and mental stresses upon the user, and consequently to discomfort and fatigue. This in turn may for example cause musculoskeletal diseases or increase the likelihood of accidents. Manufacturers of machinery must reduce these negative effects as far as possible by giving adequate consideration to ergonomic factors.

The guide also indicates that a further 30 essential health and safety requirements of the directive affect important ergonomic principles. In Part 1 of Annex I of the directive, governing all machine types, this concerns above all aspects such as lighting (1.1.4), operating positions (1.1.7, 1.1.8), control devices (1.2.2), risk of slipping, tripping or falling (1.5.15) and access to operating positions (1.6.2). Of relevance to ergonomics are also the supplementary requirements concerning the mobility of machinery, which include those governing driving positions (3.2.1) and seats (3.2.2); those concerning lifting operations (Part 4); and those concerning the lifting of persons (Part 6).

Link to more detailed explanations

The Commission has followed ErgoMach’s recommendation to explain in greater detail the information integrated directly into the guide concerning the nine core factors and effects referred to above. A document available for download on the Commission’s website, which will be linked to directly in the future (3rd) edition of the guide, references the ergonomic core requirements to the relevant standards. In addition, the requirements are explained in terms suitable for non-ergonomists and supplemented by illustrated examples on a two- to three-page information sheet for each requirement.

The European prevention and OSH experts at ErgoMach hope that with this comprehensive presentation, they will assist in engendering sensitivity on a broad front for ergonomic issues on machines and not least also for the fact that good ergonomic design of work equipment benefits everyone concerned.

Corrado Mattiuzzo