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Liability for not doing EMC/safety regulation testing

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Cicero

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Hi everyone,

Wondering if anyone knows what actual liability there is if you dont do EMC/safety testing on your products.

For me currently, from South Africa, if we dont have certificates for our products they get stopped at customs at their respective countries and aren't allowed further. Its an absolute HUGE task and cost to test all out products, and I'd say probably 50% of our design time is dedicated to this. So I've actually never really exported a product without having the corresponding test certificates.

I've recently landed a position in the UK (starting in a few months time, big change for me), and I don't think they test their products to the same extent. The company doesn't mass produce and sell thousands of items, it makes more high cost niche products. As I understand it, I believe European products aren't scrutinised to the same degree as African/Asian products for example. So I'm wondering whether this is the norm?

As such, what are the realistic liabilities for not testing?
What has been your experience in this regard?

As I understand it, it could open the company up for fines, and in severe cases imprisonment, although I've never heard of any of this happen. Its only ever been a customs issue.
 

Ian Rogers

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We have "Self Certification"... All my products will pass EMC and are up to most BS standards... I have no Certification but as long as I believe I have complied, its all good..

For the skeptical amongst you... My local PCB manufacturing does EMC pre-testing.. My equipment passes.

If I self certificate and something goes T**s up.. I will face liability ( or my insurance will ) and probably a fine...
 

Cicero

Active Member
No disrespect, but I can't help but be skeptical, especially considering the lengths we have to go to get our stuff certified. Several days in an anechoic chamber, tons of specialized equipment. It's not just emissions, also immunity testing.

I will just have to adjust to the British way.
 

JimB

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Been there and done this many years ago, so I may not be completely up to date.

I was in a similar position to you, working for a company which made (still does make) high value low quantity systems.
When the "EMC Directive" was first brought into UK law, it fell to me to drag out equipment into compliance.

The route which we took was to do EMC compliance testing on the individual "modules" which were common to all systems, and then do some in house testing on a completed system in order to produce a "Technical Construction File" which presented our data to show compliance with the requirements of the directive. The TCF was then reviewed by a "Competent Body" and certified as good.

After that, all similar systems were built to the standard of the first system, and a TCF produced for each new system to show compliance with the requirements of the directive.

This must have happened about 20 years ago, much has changed since then, but the same general principle still applies I believe.

EMC compliance is about good engineering and not building crap, it is not to be feared.
EMC enforcement is, or at least was, complaint driven. So unless the system caused a problem, there would likely be no repercussions.
If there was complaint, if you could demonstrate that you had taken steps in your design to eliminate EMC problems you would not be going to jail, you would just be told quite firmly "Fix It!".
If however, you had been deliberately negligent, then fines and prison could result.

Having said all that, there is quite a bit of stuff like network powerline adapters and cheap PC power supplies which are an EMC nightmare and spew crap all over the RF spectrum, but enforcement is fairly laid back and not as rigorous as it could be.

JimB
 

kubeek

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Europe has the CE compliance which is self-certified. If someone doesn´t trust you, takes your device to a certification authority and the device fails the test, you will have problems, and the price of the certification being the least of them.
Our company has an EMC machine that does bursts, surge and ESD tests so that we can do these tests ourselves, and we go to a certification authority for EMI susceptibility and emissions. Even a prescan can give you quite a good picture if you can pass or fail the complete emissions test.
 

Nigel Goodwin

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A number of years ago I was talking to someone high up in a UK electronics company, when CE was in it's early days - so they approached the Chinese manufacturer of some of their equipment to ask how much it would cost for their equipment to be "CE compliant" - the answer was 'the price of the sticker' (so no tests, no effort at compliance, the Chinese would just put a sticker on :D).
 

atferrari

Well-Known Member
A number of years ago I was talking to someone high up in a UK electronics company, when CE was in it's early days - so they approached the Chinese manufacturer of some of their equipment to ask how much it would cost for their equipment to be "CE compliant" - the answer was 'the price of the sticker' (so no tests, no effort at compliance, the Chinese would just put a sticker on :D).

And better you check VERY carefully what actual "CE" sticker they stick on. Chinese export is the likely spelling.
 

Tony Stewart

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I once was Design Validation Test Manager for small disk drives in a major US company. I was even on the EE Corporate Standards committee , somewhat just for our own quality standards and to meet FCC or Tempest requirements in the 80's. Well I have never done implemented so many different Environmental tests that perhaps cost $25k . Everything from Mechanical, Electrical ( ingress/egress, from CW, Conducted , Radiated, Line transient, ESD ) Climatic (including altitude), Acoustic then HALT and HASS margin tests.

90% was to prevent product failure in the field and mass liability with recalls and 10% to prevent interference with others. But then these were also $100k per box. But others did the same on PC s. in the 80's too.

But then they had to.

.. because Keyboards failed the robotic life test, fans failed the life test, even LED's failed the ESD test if air could find a path within 1 cm. to a conductor. and disk drives sometimes failed the 4 corner test or 10k start stop test.

Fortunately most large companies have a legacy of experience, while young little companies must learn on their own.

Once if we modified a battery charger it was ok but we had to seek/pay local approval then for each unit.

But if one ever dared to put their company name over an OEM marking after making power related modifications such as an LED .. without CSA notifaction, people would lose their Professional License required to practise legally in Canada in order to be leagally called an Engineer. They have no such requirements in the USA.

Now it is self Certification in an accredited lab, with safety, susceptibility and emanations and all the stress tests are up to you..
 
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Ian Rogers

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May I ask how 'self certification' is actually done?
Basically only certain products need certification.

There is directive / compliance documentation available on the net... Download the EMC directive.. Check the BS directives relative to your products.. Read through thoroughly and just ensure you meet the criteria...
 

Cicero

Active Member
Basically only certain products need certification.

There is directive / compliance documentation available on the net... Download the EMC directive.. Check the BS directives relative to your products.. Read through thoroughly and just ensure you meet the criteria...
Bear with me please. I really appreciate all your input here.

I can grasp self certification in terms of safety...you follow all the correct methods, only use certified components, the right fuses, have the right clearances and creepages, the right level of insulation/isolation etc etc...document it all and you're golden.

But EMC is a whole other ballgame. Its not like any of us intentionally designs noisy equipment, or wants our design to be fried by ESD/surges...but slap an ethernet port on there, or some DDR RAM, a SMPS or something complex and there's no way you can know whether you'll pass actual EMC testing without actually doing it.

I'm looking here http://www.conformance.co.uk/adirectives/doku.php?id=emc
And under Requirements, it says
The Directive itself gives no figures or guidelines on what the required level of emissions or immunity are, nor does it state the frequency band limits. This interpretation of the Directive's requirements is left to the standards that are used to demonstrate compliance with the Directive.
I presume the standards listed are similar to say CISPR22 or EN 55022, with set limits. So how do you certify without physically testing to whatever levels are stipulated in the standards?
 

Ian Rogers

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It's as Jim said.... It's not a witch hunt... If you design your electronics to the correct BS standards... If you use a decent screening, then you will have no worries..

You'll see when you are working here... Some of the "Compliant" crap that arrives on our soil... You'll think differently..
 

ericgibbs

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Hi,
I applied the same methods for 'in house certification' in my company as Ian.
We have "Self Certification"... All my products will pass EMC and are up to most BS standards... I have no Certification but as long as I believe I have complied, its all good..

Also I had very good third party insurance cover for my products, on which we never had to make a claim.

I have observed that many of the supposed officially certified companies did not always follow the certification guidelines.

E
 

kubeek

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...there's no way you can know whether you'll pass actual EMC testing without actually doing it.
That is true, but.. You can do the EMC testing by yourself if you think you have good enough equipment etc. to pull it off. Also you might have minor changes to a design, and belive it doesn´t have any effect on EMI that was measuerd on a previous version, again no one requires you to test it.

Self certification means that you claim that your product passes. Whether and how you measured it or guessed it is your responsibility. No one prevents you from going to some certification authority to get the product tested and obtain a certificate.
 

Cicero

Active Member
It's as Jim said.... It's not a witch hunt... If you design your electronics to the correct BS standards... If you use a decent screening, then you will have no worries..

You'll see when you are working here... Some of the "Compliant" crap that arrives on our soil... You'll think differently..
Heh, I've witnessed that first hand. Bought plenty of OEM "fully certified" equipment (CE, FCC, CB) thinking it'll same me time and money certifying the final product once I integrate it all, and those OEM devices ended up being the actual culprits causing me EMC issues!

That is true, but.. You can do the EMC testing by yourself if you think you have good enough equipment etc. to pull it off. Also you might have minor changes to a design, and belive it doesn´t have any effect on EMI that was measuerd on a previous version, again no one requires you to test it.

Self certification means that you claim that your product passes. Whether and how you measured it or guessed it is your responsibility. No one prevents you from going to some certification authority to get the product tested and obtain a certificate.
Ok, fair enough, appreciate everyone's input.

It just boggles my mind though...
 

Ian Rogers

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I love the "Competent Person" clause...

On cranes we have to adhere to a "4 year test"... The directive explains that the test must be done by this "competent person"... By definition a competent person is someone who can do the job... whether they can do the job well is another thing....

P.S. Pause for thought!!!

We make a crane blackbox... When the directive came into place back in 2006... I received a "white paper" ( more like a bible ) of how this blackbox should behave... As I was one of only a few who makes these things, I contacted the author of this white paper asking where he got his information and about several aspects that CANNOT be done... He replied..

"I would like you to fill in the blanks, so we can publish the standard requirements..."

Right! So it seems he gets paid a whole lot more than me to say what I said!!!
 
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Tony Stewart

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I love the "Competent Person" clause...


Right! So it seems he gets paid a whole lot more than me to say what I said!!!
They should have Negotiation 101 in EE . I could have used this skill in my first job, which was exciting but not thought for food. doesn't work .
So I quit and started my next job with 25% increase.
 
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