24 May 2024, 18:33
By Bruce Lovell Jun 10, 2015

Getting to grips with CE marking

With a rise in the availability of sit-stand desks, recliner chairs and adjustable beds, motorised furniture has become increasingly common – but the use of mechanisms and electrical components in furniture brings with it requirements and considerations for manufacturers, purchasers, specifiers, importers and distributors. FIRA’s Bruce Lovell has written a new guide to CE marking, applicable to some furniture products and a key indicator of a product’s compliance within EU legislation regarding safety, health and environmental protection …

Due to the rise in the use of electro mechanics in furniture, this project has been funded by the Furniture Industry Research Association to help ensure there is a good level of understanding within the furniture industry.

Responsibility for CE marking lies with whoever first places the product on the EU market, so it is important to know your legal obligations and how to properly check if products meet the criteria to be sold and purchased in the EU. For a product to be affixed a CE mark, it must have undergone an assessment and comply with all applicable directives. The guide explains which directives are relevant, which standards can be used to prove compliance, which products can be self certified, which need to be CE marked and how this can be achieved.

The CE logo on a product indicates that the product has been assessed before being placed on the market, and satisfies the essential health and safety requirements contained within EU safety directives, such as the Machinery and Medical Devices directives. CE marking demonstrates that a product is suitable for sale across the European Economic Area (EEA).

“The CE logo on a product indicates that the product has been assessed before being placed on the market, and satisfies the essential health and safety requirements contained within EU safety directives”

The guide also includes FAQs, a sample list of product groups and related directives, a process flow diagram for CE marking, a technical checklist, a sample risk assessment and example of risk acceptability criteria.

What is CE marking?

CE marking, an acronym for the French Conformité Européenne, is a key indicator of a product’s compliance with EU legislation regarding safety, health and environmental protection. Established in 1993, the CE logo ensures the free movement for products within the EEA. The New Approach Directives are the legal basis of CE marking, and aim to harmonise requirements and remove barriers for free circulation of products in the EU

What is the purpose of CE marking?

CE marking does not indicate that a product was made in the EU. Instead, it indicates that a product was assessed before being placed on the EU market and, therefore, satisfies the relevant legal requirements for sale in the EU. It also demonstrates that the manufacturer has verified that the product complies with all relevant essential requirements of applicable directives.

Do all products require CE marking?

Not all products are required to be CE marked, only products that fall within the scope of at least one of the directives covering 24 product groups.

How do I know if my product requires CE marking?

Each New Approach Directive specifies the product groups covered by the directive. Usually in the first articles, you can find the definition of the specific products covered by the directive.

If my product requires CE marking, is only one EU directive applicable?

A product may be subject to more than one directive which determines the specific requirements that your product must meet in order to be CE marked. CE marking requirements vary from directive to directive, and thus can be different for particular products. When more than one directive is applicable, your product has to comply with the requirements of all directives.

Where can I find the requirements?

The directive specifies in detail the essential requirements the product must meet in order to affix the CE marking. Normally, the essential requirements are available in the annexes of the directive.

CE marking is often associated to EU standards, do I have to comply with EU standards to demonstrate compliance with EU legislation?

While compliance with the standards is not obligatory, according to the EU legislation it is common practice that importers and buyers require certification as a way to verify conformity. There are costs associated with obtaining and meeting the standards – however, they are widely considered to improve the safety and quality of products for EU consumers. In certain cases CE marking may also be a contract requirement.

Are standards available for all products requiring CE marking?

You may be unable to find applicable EU standards for your product. This could be because you have a rather new or innovative product and standards have not yet been developed. In that case, you still have to comply with the legal requirements stated in the applicable directive(s).

What is a Notified Body?

Notified Bodies are laboratories or organisations authorised by the EU to serve as independent testing bodies and perform conformity assessments. Notified Bodies are located in the EU.

Do I always need a Notified Body?

No, not always, there is a common misunderstanding that your product always has to be inspected and approved by some kind of authority. The applicable directive states whether a Notified Body is required. Often Notified Bodies are required where products present significant risks to consumers. In other cases, self-certification is possible.

How do I know which Notified Body to contact?

You may choose a Notified Body in any member state of the EU. If you know the country you want to export to, you may prefer to contact a Notified Body in that country.

What is a conformity assessment procedure?

Many products can be assessed by the manufacturer itself. In that case it is your responsibility to test the product and check its conformity to the EU legislation. You must go through a series of checks to assess and ensure that your products conform to the relevant EU directive(s). This is called the conformity assessment procedure.

One important part of the procedure is a risk assessment. In the directive applicable to your product you can find specific information about carrying out the conformity assessment.

The directive mentions technical documentation, what does this mean?

You, or your authorised representative in the EU, have to establish the technical documentation – sometimes referred to as the technical file – required by the directive(s). The documentation includes details of the design, development and manufacture of the product. Technical documentation can be made available in any format – ie paper or electronic – and varies by each directive.

“Responsibility for CE marking lies with whoever first places the product on the EU market, so it is important to know your legal obligations and how to properly check if products meet the criteria to be sold and purchased in the EU”

How long do I need to keep the technical documentation?

You need to keep the technical documentation for a period of at least 10 years after the last product is placed on the market. The exact number of years is stated in the directive.

What is a Declaration of Conformity and why do I need it?

Before affixing the CE marking, you need to draw up a Declaration of Conformity. The Declaration of Conformity is a document in which you as the manufacturer indicate that the product meets all the necessary requirements of the EU directive(s) applicable to the specific product.

What does the Declaration of Conformity look like?

Each directive has slightly different requirements for the content of its Declaration of Conformity. But some features are common to all, such as: name and address of the producer; essential characteristics of the product, such as the brand and serial number; and the identification number of the Notified Body (if applicable).

Whether a Notified Body has been involved or not, you as the manufacturer or your authorised representative must draw up and sign the Declaration of Conformity.

What is an authorised representative?

An authorised representative is any natural or legal person established within the EU who has received a written mandate from a manufacturer to act on his behalf in relation to specific tasks. This can be an importer or distributor.

How is CE marking affixed?

Once the necessary steps have been successfully completed, you must affix the CE logo to the product as described in the relevant directive. The CE marking must be affixed to the product according to its legal format. It must be visible, legible and indelible. When this is not possible, it must be affixed to the packaging and to the accompanying documents. If a Notified Body was involved in the assessment, its identification number must also be displayed.

Who is responsible for affixing the CE marking?

You as the manufacturer have to affix the CE marking. If your authorised representative in the EU sells your products under its own name, then it takes responsibility for CE marking. In this case, the authorised representative must have sufficient information on the design and production of the product, as it will be assuming the legal responsibility when affixing the CE marking.

Once I have affixed the CE marking to my product, can I export my product?

After affixing the CE marking, you may export your product to the EU. However, you have to make sure that the conformity is maintained. EU legislation and standards can change, and CE-marked products are subject to inspection by EU authorities. In order to maintain compliance with the legislation, you may need to make changes to your product.

If this happens, you need to add these changes to the technical documentation and inform the Notified Body, if applicable. Together with the EC Declaration of Conformity, the technical documentation must be presented on request to the appropriate national authorities of the EU.

Bruce Lovell is the business process improvement consultant for FIRA, which has published Getting started with CE marking for the furniture supply industry, available from the BM Trada bookshop. This article was featured in the April issue of Furniture News magazine.

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