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Down to the wire on directive changes

Author : Ron Sinclair MBE

01 July 2016

The transition between the old ATEX Directive 94/9/EC and the new ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU did not go as expected.  All the UK bodies involved in ATEX had understood that notification to the new directive would occur in time to issue certificates to the new directive on its first day of applicability: April 20.

As time passed, it became clear that some other countries (notably France and Germany) had their Notified Bodies for the new directive listed on the European Commission’s NANDO Database significantly before  April 20, but that there were no notifications from the UK. 

Assuming that the UK was working down to the wire - as is often the case - panic did not set in until the morning of  April 20, when it became apparent that no UK Bodies were yet notified and that, therefore, no ATEX Certificates could be issued in the UK.

The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) then confirmed that, despite all potential Notified Bodies having cleared the technical hurdles significantly before the deadline, the necessary paperwork had not gone to the Commission to start the notification process. 

However, we were now within the two week “Challenge Period” during which other national governments could object (with cause) to particular bodies being notified.  On the assumption that there would be no challenges (as eventually proved to be the case), we could assume notification would follow in early May.  This date also went by the wayside, and BIS finally confirmed that the end of the challenge period would be on  May 27.

At SGS Baseefa, we received our confirmation of appointment as a Notified Body for 2014/34/EU at 6 o’clock on the morning of Saturday, May 28, so full marks to BIS for ensuring that there was minimum delay at the conclusion of the process.  I assume that all other UK bodies received their notifications at similar times as, when I checked the NANDO database on the following Monday, all were present and correct.

The week from May 30 to June 3 was, therefore, rather busy, as all the documents, even though prepared earlier in anticipation, needed to be dated and finalised, in order to get them to customers as soon as possible.

Effectively, the ATEX Certification business was shut down in the UK for the 40 days from  April 20 until  May 30, purely as a result of an administrative delay, which was totally outside the control of all the now appointed Notified Bodies.  It is small consolation that some other countries have had similar, if not longer delays, in the notification process.  However, the UK is now back in business and certificates are flying out of the door.

Access to the NANDO database for ATEX and an explanation of NANDO is available on the European Commission’s web site: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/mechanical-engineering/atex/index_en.htm

Developments at IECEx

As part of the May series of meetings of IECEx, I chaired the first meeting of the new Service Facility Certification Committee.  The new committee responds directly to the IECEx Management Committee and is responsible overseeing the operation of both the established “Repair Workshop” certification scheme (related to IEC 60079-19), and the developing certification schemes related to the other “user” standards (IEC 60079-10, -14 and -17). 

At this particular meeting, we concentrated on aspects related to inspection and maintenance, basically related to Part 17 of the standard, but also bringing in the inspection aspects of Part 14.

It had been a decision of the IEC standards committees to separate out the inspection requirements for new installations (now in Part 14) from the general inspection activity controlled by Part 17.  However, as the skills required for both activities are very much the same, we decided to re-combine the aspects when it came to the certification of contractors offering services in these areas. 

It is true that there are critical differences in the activities, but it would be unusual for a company to offer one and not the other.  We await confirmation from the IECEx Management Committee at its meeting in September in South Africa that it is happy for us to adopt this different approach.

Although the detailed inspection of a new installation is probably more thorough than any inspection of an existing installation, the required knowledge base to do the inspection is likely to be smaller.  Inspection of existing installations requires a knowledge of all the installation standards and equipment standards that have been applicable since the installation was first commissioned. 

In the UK, this can mean a need to understand the critical differences between BS 229, BS 4683-2, EN 50018 and IEC 60079-1 flameproof equipment, as well as the developing installation standards over the same period.

It is, of course, a tribute to the robustness of the BS 229 equipment that so much of it is still in use over 45 years since the standard was superseded, but the inspection requirements are radically different in detail, if not in principle.

About the author

SGS Baseefa Technical Manager Ron Sinclair MBE is chairman of BSI Committee EXL/31, responsible for the UK input to both European and International standards for Electrical Equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. He is chairman of Cenelec TC31, represents electrical standardisation interests on the European Commission’s ATEX Standing Committee and chairs the IECEx Service Facility Certification Committee.


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