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Low voltage devices and EU policy

Electrical appliances constitute many of the mainstays of everyday life. More than a century after their emergence, they continue to evolve rapidly and to bring new benefits to society.

Ensuring a high level of safety for users of electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits is an essential element of EU policy. The presence of the CE marking on this equipment is an indication that it meets the harmonised safety requirements in place to allow it to be sold anywhere in the European Economic Area (made up of the EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) as well as in Turkey.

This also applies to products manufactured in third countries.

CE marking and Directive on Low Voltage Devices

Directive 2006/95/EC is intended to ensure the highest possible level of safety for low voltage devices and to harmonise the rules governing their sale within the EU. It codified and replaced the 1973 Directive (73/23/EEC) and its amendments, which was one of the earliest pieces of EU Internal Market legislation and had been substantially amended over the years.

The Directive specifies that low voltage devices must not endanger the safety of people, animals or property ‘when properly installed and maintained and used in applications for which it was made’.

The key safety objectives for equipment covered are listed in Annex I. ‘Electrical equipment’ is defined as ‘any equipment designed for use with a voltage rating of between 50 and 1,000 V for alternating current (AC or a.c.) and between 75 and 1,500 V for direct current (DC or d.c.). Annex II of the Directive contains a list of electrical equipment not covered, including electrical parts for lifts, electricity meters and plugs and socket outlets for domestic use.

On the road to CE marking – conformity assessment

Conformity assessment for products covered by the Low Voltage Directive takes the form of an internal production control carried out by the manufacturer himself or his authorized representative established in the Union, without the involvement of a third party. The details of this procedure are set out in Annex IV of the Directive. The manufacturer must also maintain technical documentation related to the product for ten years after it is placed on the market. Once the conformity assessment process is completed, the manufacturer (or his authorized representative in the EU) can place the CE marking on the equipment. Alternatively, it can be placed on the packaging, the introduction sheet or the guarantee certificate. It must be visible, easily legible and indelible.

Finding the relevant European Harmonised standards

The first step a manufacturer should take to ensure that a low-voltage device will be compliant with the Directive is to check which European Harmonised standards are applicable. A list of the references and titles of harmonised standards for low voltage devices can be found on the relevant page of the European Commission’s Enterprise and Industry website. European Harmonised Standards are voluntary, but if applied they provide a presumption of conformity.

Need more information?

The European Commission has launched a one-stop-shop web portal with all the information you need on CE marking: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/ce-marking/

If your product(s) fall(s) within the sector “Equipment and protective systems for potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX)" the following Directive applies: