Machine Safety: One design for OEMs, globally

Can’t original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have one design for global customers? For at least 15 years we’ve heard about “global harmonization” of machine safety standards. Perhaps OEMs can finally enjoy the economies of scale of one design for global customers?


Global safety standards would be less puzzling if unified?For at least 15 years in machine safety, we’ve heard about “global harmonization” of machine safety standards. Can original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) finally enjoy the economies of scale of one design for their global customers?

We should probably assume that the autonomous days of years gone by regarding standards and regulation are just that, history. International Standards like IEC and ISO have been emerging and growing in their preference for compliance in many countries. I believe that one reason for this paradigm change, country by country, is because the international consensus standards bodies have been aggressively seeking harmonization. In my experience this harmonization activity has meant that the international standards have been trying to bridge the gaps of country specific standards. Over the past 15 years, I’ve seen representatives from various countries present their argumentation for specific wording in a requirement such that it will cover a unique requirement in their countries.

Take grounding, for example. Grounding to earth can mean one thing to countries like France or Canada and mean something totally different to a country like Netherlands because of differences in the below ground water table. Ambient temperatures will also be very different for control enclosures between Switzerland and Mexico. So, as machine safety consensus standards have harmonized several times over recent update cycles they have become more representative of country specific needs. Having said that, it’s recognized that some countries have established laws related to standards whereas other countries may not. And, some countries (like the United States) have separate regulations like OSHA establishing a legal compliance, which may or may not be tied to their consensus standards.

With all these advancements, considerations and more, can it be argued that we have finally emerged around the globe to a point where OEMs can enjoy the economies of scale of one design for their global customers? One global design for machine safety that can satisfy local compliance requirements? In my opinion, if this can be achieved, accommodating additional regional requirements like the CE Mark will be more easily accomplished from a single base design.

Would unified global safety standards make it easier for OEMs to simplify designs and lower costs? Do you have some specific topic or interest that we could cover in future blog posts? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.

See links to these related articles at the bottom of this post.

Machine safety standard merger: One global machine safety standard

Machine Safety: what is the value of ISO 13849-1 for U.S. domestic compliance?

Machine safety compliance - Inside Machines: Does adopting ISO 13849-1:2006 change the U.S. model for compliance and enforcement?

Machine Safety: Who is responsible for international standards?

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