Weight watchers

Written by: Ian Turner | Published:

When weighing either vehicles or materials, there are specific regulations to adhere to, as well as various ways to meet those obligations, explains Ian Turner, technical officer for the UK Weighing Federation

Most businesses involved in the recycling and waste industry will use either weighing equipment for charging purposes or for the monitoring of the amount of material that a business deals with. This is most likely to be either with a static weighbridge upon which a vehicle is weighed, or a vehicle-mounted onboard weighing system that will weigh the amount of material deposited in a vehicle.

Weighbridge testing

The regulations that cover the use of weighbridges are the Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations 2016. These implement the EU Directive of non-automatic weighing instruments.

These instruments will need to be verified and bear a CE mark, an ‘M’ mark and a notified body number. Either an inspector of weights and measures, or an approved manufacturer, can carry out a verification. Using a weighbridge or other weighing instrument for a commercial transaction that does not meet these requirements will be illegal.

Many of the owners of these instruments may have a maintenance contract with a scale-fitting company that will perform regular checks on the equipment to ensure it is accurate. In addition, the local trading standards service may carry out inspections, although in some areas this is becoming less regular. These visits are unannounced and operators cannot refuse to allow the inspector to test the equipment. However, this check does have the advantage of being free of charge.

If any users are still using older weighbridges that have been approved under the national regulations, they will be marked with a Trading Standards stamp (usually placed on a lead seal). If the equipment has been found to be inaccurate, this stamp will be obliterated with a six-pointed star. The same star marking will be placed over the notified body number if the instrument is outside its permitted tolerances.

If an instrument is either new, has been “rejected” by the application of the six-pointed star, or subject to any alteration, addition, repair or adjustment, it must be verified before it can continue to be used. This test can be carried out by the local Trading Standards officer or by a supplier of weighing and measuring equipment that has been approved by the government as suitable to carry out verifications. This procedure involves testing the equipment in accordance with the appropriate regulations to ensure that it is in compliance.

If you do not have the equipment re-verified and continue to use it for trade transactions,
it may be illegal. This means that not only could you be prosecuted for using the equipment unverified, but also all the transactions completed on the weighbridge would be illegal.

As we move towards the exit door of the European Union, the changes that this will bring will become clearer. It is likely that it will create some differences to the law that covers this equipment and we must be ready for this. As soon as the UKWF has any information, we will publicise it.

On-board weighing systems

These are becoming increasingly popular in the waste and recycling sector. They can be either static and should be seen like a weighbridge above that is mounted on the chassis of a lorry, or automatic and will weigh bins as they are lifted and the contents deposited in a vehicle.

The on-board systems are verified in the same way as the weighbridge above. Automatic systems are verified using the product with which they are intended to be used

Care of the equipment

At the start of each working day, a check should be made to ensure the equipment is “balanced” – i.e. that it indicates ‘0’ with nothing on it. All instruments will incorporate a means of adjusting the ‘0’ indication within reasonable limits.

Regular checks should be made to ensure there is clearance between the weighing parts of the instrument and its surround. If the weighing machine operates using mechanical bottom works, the parts of the machine should move freely and easily. If any part of the system is prone to flooding, operators may have to consider installing pumping facilities in locations where the flooding may occur.

Regular cleaning regimes are an integral part in the operation of any weighing and measuring equipment.

Weighing procedures

The weighing installation must be set up to ensure that the operator has a clear view of the weighing modules. In some locations, it may be necessary to install mirrors or CCTV to ensure the weighbridge in its entirety can be clearly seen.

Since 1991, it has been illegal to undertake a double or split weighing on a weighbridge (where a long vehicle is weighed in two stages and the weights are added together to obtain a gross weight). It is permissible to carry out a double weighing for a driver who merely wishes to ensure that they are not overloaded.

It is also acceptable to weigh individual axles to check they are not overloaded, but the weighbridge ticket and records must clearly indicate what type of weighing was carried out and which axles were weighed. The ticket should be endorsed “Weights found are not for trade purposes”.

Packages

If you pack any products on your premises, they will have to comply with the weights and measures law relating to this.

This will mean that businesses have to have suitable equipment for either packing the goods or for checking the goods once they have been packed. Suitable equipment will invariably be that which has been verified by either an approved verifier or an inspector of weights and measures and would be suitable for trade similar to the equipment above.

There is also an obligation to mark the packages with the weight and the name and address of the person responsible for placing the goods in the package, and a further obligation to maintain records of the packages that companies have packed. This is to ensure that companies can demonstrate that they have consistently placed the correct weights in the packages.

There are also specific obligations relating to the supply of sand and ballast and solid fuel that specify that these products must be sold by weight.

Challenges that face the UKWF in 2017

2017 will be a challenge not only for the UKWF, but also for many industry sectors that are based on the implementation of European legislation. The design and production of weighing instruments has been based around European technical standards for over 25 years, the advice given to customers and the work of trading standards officers has been based on law shared among all of the countries in the free market.

The UKWF, representing its members, must now work hard with government to ensure that the arrangements for the future are the best that they possibly can be to ensure the continued success of this net exporting industry. It will be a struggle to convince government that the continued application of the same technical standards and inspection requirements as used in the single market are beneficial not only to the members of the UKWF, but also of crucial importance to the UK economy and consumers.

As we seek to find new markets and develop new trading arrangements with countries outside of the single market, it is of the utmost importance that those potential customers have confidence in the weighing and measuring equipment used in the country. Ensuring that this is the case is probably our biggest challenge for 2017 and beyond.

• For further information, contact Ian Turner at the UKWF by emailing him at
technical2@ukwf.org.uk


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