non-electrical equipment sort by issue
I recently attended an international conference in Barcelona. The event was about safety solutions and, among other topics, it also dealt with hazardous areas. For me, as the IECEx Chair, there were many interesting conversations with end users, solution providers and certification bodies. It was very positive to see that the international acceptance and reputation of our System is continuously growing.
Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors.
Year in, year out, the list of incidents happening in hazardous areas doesn’t seem to be diminishing. The oil and gas sector has had its share of fires and explosions, obviously, that have been widely reported both in the general media and in specialized trade publications. But it’s not alone. Mining is another sector where risks are high for a number of reasons, including leaks of poisonous gases, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, flooding, or improper use/malfunction of mining equipment, e.g. safety lamps or electrical equipment. Not to mention sugar refineries and food processing plants, and any industry that operates, even partially, in potentially explosive atmospheres.
This article was first published in HazardEx on 20 April 2017 - subheadings and "About IECEx" section were inserted editorially by IEC
The one subject guaranteed to get everyone hot under the collar is the subject of the marking of Ex Equipment. There is not much disagreement about the need to identify the equipment type, its operational parameters and its manufacturer, but everyone seems to have an opinion on how the hazardous area code should be expressed. The discussions at the recent IEC TC 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, standards meetings in Sydney, Australia, were no exception, and we will return to this later. But first, we need an historical perspective.
Some industry sectors are automatically associated with explosive (Ex) atmospheres – oil and gas, petrochemical plants, mining and in particular coal mining. Many others won’t necessarily come to mind although the risk of fire and explosion exists and needs to be heeded. Food processing, sugar refineries, grain handling and storage, printing, paper and textile industries, sawmills, woodworking areas or waste treatment operations are all potential hazardous areas. Not to mention gas stations or aircraft refuelling and hangars.
The interoperation between electrical and mechanical energies has existed for a long time. In standardization and conformity assessment, the need to provide a holistic solution to cover both is vital for industry and the community. While this may have been a given for most industries, the Ex sector has, for many years, focused exclusively on electrical equipment for its standardization and conformity assessment needs. This is no longer the case.
Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors. The risk of fire or explosion exists in a variety of other sectors, such as transportation – including aerospace – furniture manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and repair, pharmaceuticals, food processing, grain handling and storage, sugar refineries and coal mining. They all utilize flammable substances in quantities that may result in concentrations that are potentially explosive, whether that is during normal operation or due to abnormal situations arising.
Miners had learnt the hard way that their jobs were fraught with risks – fire damp, methane accumulation or suspended coal dust – when electric power was introduced. All it took to ignite methane for instance was a spark emitted by a lighting fixture or a motor. And the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry in the 20th century and the numerous accidents and explosions that occurred in oil drilling operations and refineries raised awareness of the dangers facing those working in this sector.
In April, IEC TC (Technical Committee) 31 and SC (Subcommittee) 31M were proud to announce the publication of ISO/IEC 80079-34, the first standard to be developed by this unique subcommittee.
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