What is the Low Voltage Directive, to whom does it apply, and why does it matter? Read on for our key takeaways.
What is it called?
The Low Voltage Directive 2014/35/EU (also known as the “LVD”).
What is it about?
The LVD aims to ensure electrical equipment within certain voltage limits complies with essential health and safety standards. It harmonises electrical equipment regulations across the single market, covering all safety aspects of electrical equipment and not just the electrical risks. In doing so, the LVD outlines a set of health and safety objectives to address the electrical, mechanical and chemical hazards related to the use of electrical equipment, as well as covering health risks associated with noise, vibration and ergonomic factors. Professionals involved in the design, manufacture and supply of electrical equipment must:
- Ensure products are designed to comply with the general safety requirement set out in the LVD, i.e. only safe products shall be placed on the market. There is a rebuttable presumption of safety where the product meets harmonised standards. In other cases, safety is assessed by reference to national standards, Commission guidance, industry codes of practice, the state of the art, and consumer expectations regarding safety;
- Carry out a conformity assessment and affix the CE mark to their product;
- Draw up and maintain technical documentation for 10 years after the product has been placed on the market;
- Ensure that products comply with the labelling requirements set out in the LVD;
- Ensure that products are accompanied by instructions and safety information;
- Take appropriate corrective action where they become aware that their product may not be in conformity with the LVD; and
- Notify authorities if they become aware that the product they have placed on the market is unsafe.
All EEA Member States and the UK have adopted the provisions of the LVD into national law, so there are some small variations in its requirements and interpretation at a Member State level.
In the UK, the LVD is implemented by the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016.
Who and what does it apply to?
The LVD was brought into force on 20 April 2016 and applies to manufacturers of a wide range of products (for both consumer and professional use) who intend to sell in Europe.
Electrical equipment is caught by the requirements of the LVD if it operates within the following voltage ranges for input or output:
- 50 and 1000 Volts for alternating current; and
- 75 and 1500 Volts for direct current.
It is worth noting that consumer goods with voltages below these thresholds are covered by the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC), which aims to ensure that only safe consumer products are sold in the EU.
As a result of these voltage ranges, the LVD is applicable to a wide range of electrical equipment, such as: household appliances, lighting equipment, cables, power supply units, laser equipment and certain components (for example, fuses).
The LVD does however exclude certain equipment, and Annex II of the LVD is intended to set out an exhaustive list, including:
- Electrical equipment for use in an explosive atmosphere;
- Electrical equipment for radiology and medical use;
- Electrical parts for passenger lifts; and
- Plugs and socket outlets for domestic use.
Why does it matter?
The LVD outlines essential safety requirements for electrical equipment being placed on the market throughout the EU. It is critical for manufacturers designing and producing relevant products to comply, as distributing a non-conforming electrical item potentially poses a major risk to consumers. Breaches of the LVD’s safety requirements may lead to corrective action, and in the most serious cases, to the risk of a fine, imprisonment or both.
In circumstances where CE marking is seen to have been wrongly affixed, a compliance notice may be issued to the manufacturer. Compliance notices are used when equipment meets safety conditions but does not meet other points of compliance. If a notice is not acted upon, enforcement action will then be taken.
Where can I find it?
A copy of the LVD can be found/downloaded here, and list of harmonised standards here.
Is there any guidance?
The European Commission has published guidance for the implementation of the LVD, which can be found here.