A guide into stress-free product compliance

2023-08-28

Recalled flail-type cutters

Disclaimer: This document provides guidance and is not a legally binding interpretation and shall therefore not be relied upon as legal advice.

2023: Recalls continue
Products confiscated, bans on the marketing. Flail-type cutting attachments for hand-held brush cutters are recalled regularly. For 15 years, accidents and warnings are still not taken seriously. Users and bystanders are severely injured by detached cutting knives or chains flying around after the links have broken.

Some examples of flail-type cutters recalled in the summer of 2023.

2008: Sweden warns
In September 2008, Sweden reported that flail-type cutting attachments sold by others than the original manufacturers were dangerous. This concerns attachments consisting of two or more metal parts such as chains, knives or brushes as shown in the pictures above.

2010: Fatal accident
In May 2010, a fatal incident took place in the UK involving a brush cutter attachment consisting of two chains linked to a metal disc. During operation, a link of the chain was ejected and this resulted in a fatal injury to a bystander.
The following month, during a Machinery Committee meeting, the UK urged the European Commission to take decisive action in response to this accident.

2012: Sales prohibited
In January 2012, the European Commission published the requested measure. Decision 2012/32/EU prohibits the sale of flail-type cutting attachments consisting of several linked metal parts for portable hand-held brush cutters.
Article 9 of Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC allows the Commission to take such measures on hazardous machinery.

Explanation
Flail-type cutting attachments are regarded as ‘interchangeable equipment’ because they change the function of the original machine. They shall comply with the essential health and safety requirements as stated in Annex I to the Machinery Directive. More specifically, section 1.3.2 requires that parts and their linkages shall withstand the stresses to which they are subject during use. And section 1.3.3 requires precautions against the risks of ejected parts.
The applicable harmonised standard for brush cutters (EN ISO 11806-x) only foresees one-piece metal brush cutters as attachment to the machine. The use of flail-type cutting attachments containing more than one part has therefore not been included in the original safety assessment. The guards fitted to brush cutters cannot provide adequate protection against the higher risks created by flail-type cutting attachments with linked metal parts, resulting in accidents.

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