Zero risk may not be conceivable but there are measures that can be taken to mitigate risks and make sure that those working in Ex environments do so in the safest possible way. These include installing and operating equipment that incorporates an explosion-protection technique as part of its design and manufacturing. It is also necessary to hire staff that has the necessary training, skills and competences to work in hazardous areas.
The IEC, through IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, has the mechanisms in place to help industry, authorities and regulators ensure that equipment (electrical and non-electrical) as well as the people working in Ex locations benefit from the highest level or safety.
IECEx in a nutshell
The Conformity Assessment (compliance) System operates the following industry-specific Schemes:
- IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme
- IECEx Certified Service Facilities Scheme
- IECEx Scheme for Certification of Personnel Competence
The IECEx Conformity Mark Licensing System operates in association with the IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme.
Day to day operations are overseen and managed by the IECEx Management Committee (ExMC), comprising experts from (currently) 33 countries with industry representatives and regulators as well as test and certification agencies forming the majority of the ExMC; other stakeholders such as repairers, installers, Ex training organizations and educators also participate in the work of the ExMC.
To deal with the expansion of the System, the IECEx Executive was formed to assist in the day-to-day operations; the IECEx Executive consists of appointed experts from Australia, China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, UK and US.
A milestone for IECEx
IECEx celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
The first meeting, in July 1996 in London, UK, marked the official launch of the System. It was a milestone for the IEC as well – IECEx was the first IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) System solely dedicated to a specific industry and technology sector, i.e. equipment for use in areas where flammable and combustible materials are used, handled, stored or transported, referred to as Ex areas.
While the System’s initial service offering was based on the IECEE CB Scheme, providing for the mutual recognition of Test and Assessment Reports, IECEx went on to develop the IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme and introduced the IECEx On-Line Certificate of Conformity system where each and every certificate issued by Approved Certification Bodies (ExCBs) is fully accessible. In fact, it is the electronic online version of the certificate maintained as the Master controlled version, providing instant checking and verification of claims made in the marketplace.
IECEx rapidly made a name for itself as a truly international certification system. With the Certified Equipment Scheme well established, the System went on to develop other Schemes, i.e. the IECEx Certified Service Facilities Scheme followed a few years later by the IECEx Scheme for Certification of Personnel Competence. All three Schemes fulfilled the needs of the Ex industry sector and became extremely successful.
The System reached another milestone in 2010 when the United Nations, through the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), endorsed IECEx as the world’s best practice model for demonstrating conformity in the highly-specialized Ex field. Both IECEx and UNECE have a common goal: to promote the safety of equipment, services and personnel associated with explosive areas throughout the world.
Electrical and mechanical energies: a holistic approach…
The interoperation between electrical and mechanical energies has existed for a long time and the need to provide a holistic solution to cover both is vital to industry and the community. For instance, an electric motor for use in an Ex environment is designed and manufactured to meet minimum safety standards and may be covered by IECEx Certification, but until now the mechanical items driven by the electrical motor, e.g. pumps, gearboxes, and so forth, were ignored and left to the many differing local requirements.
This is no longer the case. In response to Ex industry demands, IECEx has worked on integrating new International Standards covering non-electrical equipment into its operation. Certificates can now be issued to show compliance of mechanical items, with the minimum safety standards set out in the new ISO/IEC 80079 and ISO 80079 series of International Standards developed and maintained by Subcommittee (SC) 31M of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres.
…and the first Certificates
In February 2016, IEC SC 31M: Non-electrical equipment and protective systems for explosive atmospheres, published two Standards in the 80079 series:
- ISO 80079-36, Explosive atmospheres - Part 36: Non-electrical equipment for explosive atmospheres - Basic method and requirements
- ISO 80079-37, Explosive atmospheres - Part 37: Non-electrical equipment for explosive atmospheres - Non electrical type of protection constructional safety "c", control of ignition source "b", liquid immersion "k"
In June, the first Certificate for non-electrical equipment used in Ex areas – dosing pumps – was issued by INERIS, the French National Institute for Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection. And in September, two more Certificates were issued, by SGS Baseefa Ltd and SIRA Certification Service, respectively for cabinet coolers and sensing devices.
In support of the IECEx Certified Persons Scheme, IECEx responded to further industry requests to provide a qualification programme that identifies Ex training organizations that would likely be able to assist a candidate in his/her preparation for the IECEx Certified Persons Scheme assessment process, and launched the IECEx Recognized Training Provider (RTP) Programme in May 2015.
There are currently 12 IECEx RTPs, in Australia, Asia and Europe, listed on the IECEx website; several others, currently at the application stage, may join them in the coming months. It is worth noting that one of the oil majors, PETRONAS of Malaysia, has successfully achieved IECEx RTP status for its own internal training facility.
IECEx Certificates accessible anytime, anywhere
IECEx was a pioneer when it launched its first mobile application in early 2013, providing easy access to all Certificates in the Certified Equipment Scheme. The upgrade of the original app in September 2015 was the occasion for the System to expand its offer with two additional apps covering the Service Facilities and Certified Persons Schemes.
End-users can synchronize the apps with the IECEx online Certificate System, as required. The offline mode provides advanced search capability and Certificates of Conformity (CoC) abstracts (simplified details), while the online version gives the full details of CoC.
With the abstracts, users can determine that the equipment has been installed or repaired in compliance with the relevant International Standards or that a person working on an Ex site has the required level of competence and skills. They can immediately verify the authenticity of a Certificate as the IECEx On-Line Ex Certificate System holds the definitive original certificate.
Promoting the System
In the past 12 months, IECEx Secretariat and Officers attended and made presentations at various key industry events, such as those organized by the Petroleum and Chemical Industry Committee (PCIC) in Europe, North America and the Middle East.
IECEx and Trainor, a Norwegian company offering training, consultancy services and hire of qualified personnel within the areas of electrical safety, automation and processes within the oil and gas sector – and one of the RTPs – jointly organized a Korean Shipbuilding Industry Roadshow in April 2016.
In 2016, the annual IECEx Industry Symposium took place in Singapore in June and the annual IECEx Management Committee meetings were held in Umhlanga, South Africa, in early September.
The next major event is set for April 2017: a two-day International Conference to be held in Shanghai, China. Information about the event (programme and logistics) will be posted on the IECEx website.
Distinction for IECEx experts
Two IECEx experts, Günter Gabriel (Germany) and Garry House (New Zealand), were nominated to receive the 2016 IEC 1906 Award, which recognizes exceptional recent achievements that contribute in a significant way to advancing the work of the Commission.
These, along with the contribution of past recipients of the 1906 Award, have made IECEx the success story of today. It is worth noting that in 2015, Ralph Wigg was awarded the prestigious Thomas A. Edison Award in recognition for his leadership and dedication to the development of the IECEx Certified Persons Scheme.
The gathering of a great number of experts over the past 20 years has created an international network that continues to gain respect worldwide.
To quote IECEx Chairman Thosten Arnhold: “In addition to being the centre of excellence in the area of Ex compliance, IECEx provides industry with real and practical solutions as a “one stop” for all compliance matters, which is no doubt why the United Nations via the UNECE formally endorses IECEx as the world’s best practice model.”
More information: www.iecex.com