The Low Voltage Directive (LVD) 73/23/EEC seeks to ensure that electrical equipment within certain voltage limits both provides a high level of protection for European citizens and enjoys a Single Market in the European Union. The Directive covers electrical equipment designed for use with a voltage rating of between 50 and 1000 V for alternating current and between 75 and 1500 V for direct current. It should be noted that these voltage ratings refer to the voltage of the electrical input or output, not to voltages that may appear inside the equipment. For most electrical equipment, the health aspects of emissions of Electromagnetic Fields are also under the domain of the Low Voltage Directive.
The LVD is one of the oldest Single Market Directives and, although it was written before the introduction of the "New" or "Global" Approaches to such legislation. However, in broad terms, it does characterise both by providing a conformity assessment procedure to be applied to equipment before being placed on the Market and Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) which such equipment must meet either directly or by means of harmonised standards.
For electrical equipment within its scope, the Directive provides the Requirements with respect to health and safety covering all risks, thus ensuring that electrical equipment is safe in its intended use. Guidelines on application and Recommendations are available, as well as European Commission opinions within framework of the Directive.
In respect of conformity assessment, there is no third party intervention, as the manufacturer undertakes the conformity assessment. However, there are so-called "Notified Bodies" under the Directive, which may be used to provide reports in response to a challenge by a national authority as to the conformity of the equipment. See also the working structure and contact points related to the Directive, as well as the international development in the European policy.
Both national authorities and industry consider it to have been a success and a role model for other trade blocs, where mandatory third-party intervention is usually the norm. European accident levels with respect to this type of equipment have been shown to be consistently lower than other comparable trading regions, although a nil level of accidents is the absolute objective.
After thirty years, it has been decided that the text needs to be modernised and provided with the flexibility to deal with new risks that were not foreseen at the time of its adoption. Work is ongoing to develop a proposal that will give the required affect without changing the core, proven parts of the Directive.