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IECEx: A busy few months

Author : IECEx Chairman Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold

15 November 2016

In September and October I had a very busy schedule. The month started with a trip to Umhlanga in South Africa where the annual IECEx Management Committee Meeting took place. More than 120 delegates and observers from 30 countries came together and took some important decisions for the future development of the System. 

The US Coast Guard now accepts IECEx for offshore installations
The US Coast Guard now accepts IECEx for offshore installations

One of the most important was the endorsement of Operational Documents dealing with the certification of non–electrical equipment for use in hazardous areas. After the new IEC standards 80079 – 36 and 37 have been published in spring 2016, there is now a possibility for product certification of non–electrical products and components. This will increase global safety levels in the process industries significantly since non–electrical ignition sources pose a similar explosion risk to electrical ones.

In the week following the IECEx event, the International Rotating Equipment Conference took place in Düsseldorf, Germany. Manufacturers and users of compressors and pumps often have to deal with hazardous area issues and so the new regulations for non-electrical parts and components were of special interest for them. At the conference I gave an overview of the development process of the two new standards and explained the new conformity assessment process in IECEx.

The response of the audience was divided. Some European manufacturers who are used to covering the non-electrical part of their products with manufacturers’ declaration of conformity to the ATEX directive have been complaining about the need of a third party assessment. Users of rotating equipment welcomed the new regulations since it increases trust in the safety of the complete equipment. If there are electrical and non-electrical sources of ignition to be expected on a certain machine, there is no reason to cover only one kind of them by an independent third party conformity assessment.

The next station of my tour as IECEx Chairman was the IEEE PCIC North America conference in Philadelphia one week later. This event was a special highlight in the history of the development of the IECEx system. Ten years ago I would probably not have been invited to present the IECEx system at this very important conference as North American regulations were very different from the IEC world at that time and there would have been only limited interest.

Thanks to the constructive participation of experts from the IEC world and from the USA and Canada, both sides have moved together. The global importance of IECEx certificates has increased significantly and become more important globally, leading North American manufacturers and process companies to become acquainted with this international conformity assessment system.

In the USA, for example, the IECEx system is now accepted for offshore installations in the Gulf of Mexico by the US Coast Guard.

My presentation, with Paul Kelly as a representative of a US certification body and Marty Cole as a representative of a North American manufacturer, was the first of the conferenceand the response from the audience was encouraging. It generated many interesting discussions over the rest of the conference.

Finally, in October, there was the annual IEC general assembly in Frankfurt. More than 3,600 participants came to Germany for this event. The highlight from the IECEx perspective was the second meeting of a Joint Working Group of IECEx and TC31 dealing with the start of a new document defining the competence requirements for operators working in hazardous areas. As the Chairman of IECEx, I can say that the cooperation between the standardisation and the conformity assessment branches is really satisfying. 

Busy times and a lot of travelling, but the outcome was worth all the efforts. The Umhlanga conference was a very significant step into the African market, the PCIC conference in Philadelphia market reflected a new level of acceptance in North America and the scope extension of the Equipment scheme is opening new opportunities and is increasing safety in hazardous areas.

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