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On September 21st, 2016, the European Commission sent a “standardisation request to the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) as regards lifts and safety components for lifts in support of Directive 2014/33/EU (Lifts Directive) of the European Parliament and Council”. The EC Mandate M/549 – this is how the request is commonly known – asks CEN to draft harmonised standards (hEN) supporting the implementation of the essential health and safety requirements (EHSRs) inserted in Annex I of the Lifts Directive 2014/33/EU and to align the existing hENs to the same Directive. In addition, Annex I of the Mandate clearly states the need to favour a fair competition in the internal market, as well as to prevent from restricting “access to relevant diagnostic data, related interfaces and tools”. The deadline for the adoption of the new hENs by CEN was established within eighteen months from the notification of the Mandate, i.e. by the end of March 2018.
This is not the first time that the EC asked CEN to intervene on data accessibility. At the beginning of 2008, the Lifts Working Group of the EC stated the importance of free access to data by the maintenance companies. The position had been highly encouraged by a joint letter to the EC signed by EFESME, the European Lift Component Association (ELCA) and NORMAPME (the association representing SMEs in standardisation prior to the establishment of Small Business Standards) in October 2007. In the joint letter, the three organisations opposed the PESSRAL (Programmable Electronic Systems in Safety Applications for Lifts) by accusing it to hamper competition in the lift maintenance market. As a result, in April 2008 Mr Pedro Ortún from the EC sent a letter to CEN presenting the position of the LWG and presenting a formal request to consequently amend the existing hENs. Despite the attempts of mediation started in 2008, CEN eventually did not sufficiently and satisfactorily take into account the request of the EC, that are in line with the needs of lift SMEs. As the 2016 request is even quoting some parts of the text of Ortún’s letter, it is evident that the EC did not consider the current standards a sufficient guarantee for the availability of all the instructions and service tools needed for a safe operation of lifts, once they are put into service.
It is clear that a correct implementation of the requests of the EC is fundamental for those companies operating in the lift maintenance and repair – a market mostly consisting of SMEs. Therefore, since the acceptance of the Mandate by CEN, SBS, with the support of EFESME, strictly followed the implementing process. Already in the first phase of the process, the two associations highlighted some incongruences from the CEN side, starting from the delay in the presentation of the Work Programme – the Mandate specifies also the deadline for presenting the WP and reporting – to the EC. Backed by the EC, SBS and EFESME started a dialogue with the CEN TC 10 in which the two parts confronted their views on the implementation of the Mandate. During a meeting in late September, the CEN TC suggested SBS to present concrete proposals to be discussed within the CEN TC10 WG1. As a consequence, the EFESME experts drafted two technical documents that SBS submitted to the CEN TC10 in early December.
As ensured by CEN during the meeting of the EC Lifts Working Group on January 17th, 2018, the documents were discussed during the WG1 meeting in Milan on March 14th – 15th, 2018. All the comments raised by SBS were quickly analysed in order to clarify the real meaning of each request. This allowed a common understanding of the issues at stake, for the WG1 Convenor to be able to provide, for each item, his first proposed answer according to his own point of view. These preliminary answers should be circulated in early May to all the WG1 experts for comments, which will be part of the agenda of the next meeting, scheduled in Brussels on June 27th – 28th.
The implementation process is still ongoing, but this time the conditions for SMEs seem to be more positive than ten years ago, taking into account the numerous references in the draft of the “Guide to the application of the Lift Directive 2014/34/EU”, that is supposed to be released soon. The text supports many of our requests of modification, such as those listed below:
SBS and EFESME will continue following the implementation of the EC Mandate M/549 to CEN, in defence and support of lift SMEs reasonable expectations.