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When the world converged on Windsor: the IEC TC31 CAG meetings

Author : Ron Sinclair MBE

11 May 2016

Over two weeks in March, many of the maintenance teams and working groups of the IEC TC 31 committee met at the BSI offices in Chiswick, West London, and the FM Global offices in Windsor, culminating in the Chairman’s Advisory Group (CAG) on the final two days.

Members of the CAG enjoying a morning break in Windsor
Members of the CAG enjoying a morning break in Windsor

The CAG was an innovation introduced by TC 31, but has now also adopted by other IEC standards committees.  It provides a single forum where all the sub-committee chairmen and secretaries, together with the convenors of all the working groups (WGs) and maintenance teams (MTs) for each standard can meet and discuss items of mutual interest. This is in addition to sharing information on how the development of individual standards is progressing. 

As an informal body the CAG cannot take decisions about the technical content of standards, but it can make recommendations to be considered further by the WGs and MTs, as well as preparing agenda items for discussion at the formal plenary sessions of the committees and sub-committees.  This year’s plenary session for TC 31 will take place at the IEC General Meeting in Frankfurt in October.

Because each TC31 meeting involves people travelling from all corners of the world, the opportunity is taken to group meetings of the various WGs and MTs in the same location as both the CAG and the General Meeting, to reduce the amount of long distance travel.  About 150 people were involved at some stage for the various meetings in March. 

This twice-yearly get together makes the best use of resources and allows standards preparation to proceed at an acceptable rate.  Normally there are about six months between meetings when working on the earlier drafts of documents, but a full year is needed to allow for translation, commenting and voting after the MT or WG has prepared the Committee Draft for Voting (CDV).  Assuming no major problems are found, the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) is then prepared, circulated to national committees for the final time and, assuming positive votes, publication in both English and French language editions.

Last year (2015) was an exceptional one for the completion and publication of standards from IEC TC31, with seven documents published. So 2016 should be comparatively quiet, though many standards are starting the initial work for the next edition.  Typically there is a five-year gap between editions, though this can very occasionally be shorter but is often much longer.

Under the terms of the Dresden Agreement between IEC and Cenelec, the final voting stages for both the international and the European versions of the document can take place in parallel, reducing the time it takes to get the EN standard published.  ISO and CEN have the similar Vienna Agreement applicable to non-electrical standards.  As EN documents also have an official German language version, this has to be prepared by Cenelec or CEN in parallel with IEC or ISO producing the French translation.

In the “Ex” world, we are fortunate that parallel voting can normally be used, ensuring that the identical technical standards are used for both ATEX and IECEx Certification.

ATEX Update

April was the month of change in Europe.  By the time this appears in print, the new directive 2014/34/EU will be in force and, hopefully, the new edition of the ATEX Guidelines published.  (For detailed information, see my previous HazardEx articles) 

As a precursor to the ATEX Guidelines, the European Commission published a revision of the “Blue Guide” on April 5, covering operation of all the product directives dealing with common issues, such as responsibility of the economic operators.  It is intended that the electronic version of the new ATEX Guidelines will contain hyperlinks to the relevant chapters in the Blue Guide.  Both documents should be available from the EU Commissions web page at

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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