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Low-voltage electrical equipment

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The Directive aims to harmonise the provisions of national law in Member States with regard to safety and the potential health risks posed by electrical equipment operating within certain voltage limits. Its objective is to ensure the free movement and placing on the Community market of electrical equipment through complete harmonisation of the safety requirements with which these products must comply.

ACT

Council Directive 73/23/EEC of 19 February 1973 on the harmonisation of the laws of Member States relating to electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits (Low-voltage Directive) [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

The aim of this Directive is to ensure that electrical equipment cannot be placed on the market if, when installed and maintained, it endangers the safety of persons, domestic animals or property.

Objective and scope

The Directive's provisions aim to harmonise the laws of Member States with regard to the design and manufacture of all electrical equipment intended for use with:

  • a voltage rating * of between 50 and 1000 V for alternating current;
  • a voltage rating of between 75 and 1500 V for direct current.

Some categories of electrical equipment are excluded from the scope of the Directive: not only equipment covered by other Community directives (e.g. medical electrical equipment or electricity meters), but also household plugs, electric fence controllers and specialised electrical equipment for use on ships, aircraft or railways.

Free movement of electrical equipment

Member States must ensure that electrical equipment manufactured in accordance with good engineering practice in safety matters and coming under the scope of this Directive can move freely within the Community.

Compliance with possible standards or specifications adopted at national level is not a condition for placing electrical equipment on the European market.

Essential requirements

The design and manufacture of electrical equipment are subject to essential safety requirements.

The Directive sets out the "safety objectives" constituting the essential requirements. These requirements cover not only electrical, mechanical and chemical risks, but also implicitly include health aspects relating to noise and vibrations.

Compliance with requirements: mutual recognition and harmonised standards

Electrical products are presumed to be compliant with the safety requirements of the Directive if the equipment has been produced in accordance with three types of technical standards.

First, harmonised European standards can be prepared by the bodies notified by the Member States (in spite of the existence of national provisions).

Second, if the harmonised European standards have yet to be established or published, the international rules issued by the International Commission on the Rules for the Approval of Electrical Equipment (CEE) or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) can be followed.

Third, in the absence of harmonised European standards or international standards, provision is made in the Directive for mutual recognition of the national laws of the manufacturer's Member State. Mutual recognition means that Member States accept that electrical equipment manufactured in accordance with the safety requirements in the Member State of manufacture also complies with the essential requirements.

Conformity assessment procedures

The electrical-equipment manufacturer or his/her authorised representative established in the Community must ensure and declare that the electrical equipment meets the provisions of the Directive.

The procedures to assess conformity with the Directive's requirements are applied in three stages. First, the manufacturer must gather together the technical documentation. Then, the manufacturer or his/her authorised representative established in the Community must draw up a declaration of conformity. Finally, the CE marking must be affixed on the electrical equipment before it is placed on the market.

Background

Most of the equipment covered by the Radio and Telecommunication Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) Directive is included among the categories of electrical equipment not covered by the scope of the Low-voltage Directive.

Key terms used in the act
  • voltage rating: the voltage of the electrical input or output, not to voltages which may appear inside the equipment.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 73/23/EEC21.02.197321.08.1974OJ L 77 of 26.03.1973

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 93/68/EEC02.08.199301.07.1994OJ L 216 of 30.08.1993

RELATED ACTS

Commission opinions given in the context of safeguard-clause procedures concerning the harmonised standards referred to in Directive 73/23/EEC:
Official Journal C 104 of 12.04.2000
(high non-working surface temperatures of apparatus),
Official Journal C 29 of 30.01.2001 (connecting terminals for light fittings),
Official Journal C 112 of 09.05.2002 (portable child-appealing luminaires),
Official Journal C 300 of 04.12.2002 (safety of toasters),
Official Journal C 297 of 09.12.2003 (safety of cable reels),
Official Journal C 275 of 10.11.2004 (safety of tanning devices for cosmetic purposes).
Council Recommendation of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz) [Official Journal L 199 of 30.07.1999].

Communication of the Commission within the framework of Council Directive 73/23/EEC of 19 February 1973 on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits, as amended by Council Directive 93/68/EEC [Official Journal C 202 of 27.08.2003].

This Communication publishes the list of the bodies notified to the Commission and to the Member States in accordance with the provisions of the Directive.

Last updated: 07.10.2005
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