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IECEx: The ‘Big Five’ success factors

Author : IECEx Chairman Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold

15 September 2016

The annual meeting of the IECEx Management Committee and the series of meetings of different scheme committees and working groups have just ended. This year the host has been the South African National Committee and the location was Umhlanga, which is very close to Durban at the coast of the Indian Ocean.

The Big Five - Stock image
The Big Five - Stock image

As a foreigner you learn very quickly that in South Africa the so-called ‘Big Five’ play an important role. These are the big African animals - Leopard, Lion, Rhinoceros, Buffalo and Elephant - everybody is eager to see during a safari in the bush.

Now sitting in the lounge of Dubai airport I am looking back recollecting the events and results of the last week. Doing so I mused on the fact that their IECEx system also has its own ‘Big five’ success factors which are responsible for the continuous success of our organisation

These are:

1. The continuous professional management of the system. The secretariat in Sydney is handling daily business in a highly efficient manner. The preparation of the conference was perfect once again, and so it is possible to discuss the most important issues in a relatively short time and to take all the necessary decisions during the ExMC meeting. There was no question about the endorsement of another term for our Executive Secretary, Chris Agius. During the conference the country delegations also agreed with the proposal for tasks and duties of the Executive Group consisting of all system officers. This group is supporting Agius and I in the period between two ExMC meetings.

2. The high transparency of the system. the central element is the IECEx website Here all the necessary information is available, free of charge and 24/7. For people who are starting to work with the system there are guidelines and movies available, for more experienced people all operational documents and rules are available to download. One of the largest benefits is the online certificate database where all IECEx certificates can be found. A new version of the database was introduced just before the conference and it is now even more user friendly and offers numerous additional search functions. There are three new Apps for the certificates of the equipment scheme, the service facility scheme and the personal competence scheme.

3. The ‘peer to peer’ principle. In the IECEx system experts from the whole world are working together on the basis of high competence and mutual trust. During the Umhlanga conference the ExTAG Committee came together for a two day meeting. ExTAG is the organisation of all certification bodies (ExCB) and Test Labs (ExTL). On the first day a training workshop took place which consisted of topics of general interest such as the implementation of new standards or the next step of the proficiency program which is now obligatory for all EXTLs. On the second day of the ExTAG meeting, important issues were discussed and proposals prepared for endorsement by the IECEx MC. All this is done every year to establish and maintain a common understanding of the IECEx rules and procedures among the whole community of ExCBs and EXTLs. It is quite clear that the reputation of the whole system is determined by its weakest part!

4. The continuous search for improvement and further development. The new ExSFC Committee headed by Ron Sinclair (UK) had its second meeting in Umhlanga and decided to intensify efforts to develop the program for the certification of providers’ inspection and maintenance services. Some ExCBs are now ready to provide certification activities for such service companies. Another significant extension of the activities under the Ex equipment scheme will be the testing and certification of non-electrical equipment. Now the respective standards ISO/IEC 80079 - 36 and - 37 are published and the related IECEx documents for carrying out the certification process are also available. Eight ExCBs applied for a scope extension and the first certificate has been issued by the French CB Ineris.

5. The close cooperation with IEC TC31, where the standards are generated and maintained. It is a useful tradition that the TC 31 Chairman, Mark Coppler, attends our annual conferences and that I, as the chairman of the IECEx system, or the IECEx secretary, are  always invited to TC31 meetings. This enables the permanent exchange of information between the different bodies and for proposals for improvement to be exchanged.

In Umhlanga, I chaired the third IECEx MC meeting. Here I was re-elected for another term, so my column in Hazardex will continue for the next three and a quarter years! I am looking forward to keeping readers abreast of all developments as we build an even stronger system for the future.

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