New rules for pressure equipment: Fairer, safer, simpler

Stringent requirements are in place to ensure the safety of pressure equipment. Nevertheless, due to inconsistencies and loopholes in the existing rules, potentially harmful and non-compliant products have managed to find their way into the marketplace, leading to a loss of trust among consumers. The European Commission has proposed a set of common principles which will guarantee safer products and simplify the internal market, thus making life easier for European businesses.

Pressure equipment plays an important role in industrial processes, affecting a wide range of products such as storage containers, steam generators, boilers, industrial piping and power station installations. Under European internal market legislation, pressure equipment and assemblies must be safe; meet essential safety requirements regarding design, manufacture and testing; satisfy appropriate conformity assessment procedures; and carry the CE marking – which represents Conformité Européenne, or ‘European Conformity’.

However, due to certain weaknesses and inconsistencies in the implementation of the pressure equipment legislation, non-compliant or potentially harmful products have appeared on the market. Trust in the CE marking – which is designed to ensure that products meet certain requirements – has consequently been damaged, and honest entrepreneurs are disadvantaged. Moreover, conformity assessment bodies, which assess whether a product meets EU legislative requirements, are designated differently by national authorities.

The European Commission recognised these issues and has now proposed to align the Pressure Equipment Directive with the ‘New Legislative Framework’ for product marketing. This should help to overcome conflicting or overlapping requirements for products governed by more than one piece of legislation. More coherent rules across all product sectors will lower compliance costs for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The proposal will ensure easier market access while both guaranteeing a high level of safety and making life easier for businesses. Key advancement includes:

  • Clearer responsibilities for manufacturers, importers and distributors selling products. For example, importers will need to verify that the manufacturer has carried out the applicable conformity assessment procedure and has drawn up technical documentation.
  • More guarantees for product safety through better traceability will increase accountability for defective or unsafe products. Pressure equipment will have to bear the manufacturer’s name and address, as well as a number to identify and link the pressure equipment to its technical documentation.
  • National market surveillance authorities will be better equipped to stop dangerous products from being imported from third countries.

‘The proposal to streamline EU product legislation will reduce administrative burden and costs,’ said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani. ‘Common rules for industrial products allow manufacturers to have more legal certainty. They can better organise their manufacturing processes, enhance the quality and safety of products and invest in innovation. The proposal will strengthen the Single Market and help businesses to grow.’
Pressure equipment is widely used in the process industries (oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, plastics, food and beverage); the high-temperature process industry (glass, paper and board); and in energy production and the supply of utilities (heating, air conditioning and gas storage and transportation).


Source: Enterprise and Industry Magazine of the European Commission, edition October.

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