A focus on industry and evolution

Michel Brénon looks back at his time in Conformity Assessment

By Aliyah Esmail

With a lifelong passion for standardization and conformity assessment work, Michel Brénon has focused on industry needs and has helped each of the IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems evolve. Now that he has stepped down from his latest positions as a Member of the IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) as well as IECQ (IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components) Vice-Chairman and Secretary of the IECEx (IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres) Technical Committee, ExTAG, he looks back at the evolution of the CA Systems.

Michel Brénon Michel Brénon

Brénon’s past revisited

Brénon has been using standards for much of his career, which started in the 1970s. The IEC Standards, about which he talks enthusiastically, have been a part of his working life from the time that he joined LCIE Bureau Veritas. In 1994 Brénon started as the Head of the HAZLOC Department (Testing and Certification). Since then he held a number of positions at LCIE, most recently that of Director of Certification before he retired at the end of 2013.

Brénon has been a highly active expert over a number of years, serving IEC in the areas of both Standards and Conformity Assessment.

At IECQ he held the position of Vice-Chairman for two terms starting in January 2010. He was already participating in IECEx before it officially became a System, and he helped with the transition. He was nominated as the Secretary of the IECEx Testing and Assessment Group in 1997 and held the position until the end of 2013. Brénon has been involved in several IECEE (IEC System for Conformity Assessment of Electrotechnical Equipment and Components) Certification Management Committee Working Groups and has been Convenor of Working Group 3, Manufacturers’ Testing Laboratories/Customer Testing Facilities. He was a member of CAB WG 10, WG 12 and other Working Groups.

"Since beginning with this, one of the changes that I’ve seen is that there is more interest by industry in Standards than ever before," said Brénon. "Now you have working groups and development groups that are interested in the technical aspects but also in the continuity of the Standards. The needs that industry tells us about are being met."

Importance of Conformity Assessment

Certification looks at both safety and performance and both aspects are very important to Brénon. He mentioned that products that are certified gain the acceptance of governments, experts and the market. The country experts who work with the Systems can change the specifications to the certification so that there is less of a hurdle to overcome when entering a country.

If electronic components, for example, were not being certified, reliability of equipment communications may well be compromised. If household electrical items were not certified then houses could burn down. If the equipment in an explosive environment was not properly installed and maintained, it might mean big cities being evacuated because of the danger.

"Each of the CA Systems is focusing on safety, performance and accessibility to markets," he said.

CA in developing countries

Substandard electrical and electronic goods are dumped in the marketplaces of many developing countries. Having a guarantee that only safe equipment reaches the local market becomes ever more important.

Developing countries are beginning to use IEC Conformity Assessment Systems to ensure that imported electrical and electronic goods are built according to IEC International Standards for safety and efficiency.

The IECEE has begun to train developing countries on things like electrical safety for refrigerators and luminaires as well as of audio and video electronic equipment. The System administers third-party conformity testing and certification procedures that address the safety, quality, efficiency and overall performance of components and goods used in the home or office or in health facilities.

By helping developing countries the CA Systems are promoting worldwide safety. Brénon says that he hopes that this will continue. In the future, when he has more time, he is hoping to help organizations like AFSEC (African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission) promote this sort of training and bring it to more people.

"Developing countries unfortunately receive products that would not be accepted in Europe, the US, Russia, or China (to name a few). These countries are now asking for proof of safety and performance from the products that are imported and used by their populations and this is a step in the right direction," said Brénon.

Brénon and IECEx

Brénon has been working with IECEx since 1996 and he attended its first meeting – held before it officially even had a name, he mentions, laughing.

Unless you drive an electric car, you are bound to enter a potentially hazardous area each time you need to put fuel in your vehicle. The most prevalent risks associated with fuel station environment hazards are fires and explosions.

“IECEx covers fewer standards but is very important. You would not want the gas line to blow up when you went to get gas,” said Brénon.

One of the advances that has particularly pleased Brénon has been that the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has specified a regulatory platform endorsing IECEx certification and IECEx certified products as the standard for all explosive atmospheres.

The most important role of the United Nations is to protect people. In joining forces with the United Nations, through UNECE, the IEC and IECEx aim to act as catalysts for a broad coalition that will help ensure safety for industries where flammable or combustible materials are used, stored or transported.

Future challenges

"The work that has been done has been quite successful, but the Systems are still evolving and must continue to evolve," said Brénon.

He added that these evolutions will go into areas that may not have been foreseen. This will allow the IEC to incorporate new industries and bring a greater depth to the work of the IEC and the CA Systems.

Michel Brénon Michel Brénon
L to R: Chris Agius, IECQ and IECEx Executive Secretary, Michel Brénon, Dave W. Smith, former Chairman of the IECQ Management Committee, and Pierre de Ruvo, former IECEE Secretary and Chief Operating Officer L to R: Chris Agius, IECQ and IECEx Executive Secretary, Michel Brénon, Dave W. Smith, former Chairman of the IECQ Management Committee, and Pierre de Ruvo, former IECEE Secretary and Chief Operating Officer
No car owner thinks that they will be hurt when refuelling their car because of IECEx No car owner thinks that they will be hurt when refuelling their car because of IECEx