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IECEx at the Hazardex 2017 Conference

Author : IECEx Chairman Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold

08 March 2017

In the first week of March I had the opportunity to give a speech at the annual Hazardex conference in Runcorn, northern England. My impressions of this conference were very positive and I got the feeling that there was great interest in the IECEx system and its structures and procedures. 

During the coffee breaks and evening events, I had many interesting discussions with other participants at the conference and received several valuable inputs for the improvement of our system.

Very important for future work of the IECEx system was the general impression I took from the presentations over the two days. One area that was well covered was personal competence and human factors in high hazard industries, and the importance of planning and board involvement in hazardous area operations.

This echoes the positive development of the IECEx CoPC scheme, including our recognised training provider program. Through this the IECEx system can support all the efforts of the international process industry to establish sufficiently high levels of knowledge and skills. 

Another important topic during the conference and exhibition was mobile worker solutions and distributed intelligence in the field, covering communications, people and asset tracking, and much else. This is also an interesting issue for our work in the IECEx equipment scheme.

We see more and more mobile computers, notebooks, tablets and smartphones that are certified for the use in hazardous areas. Due to the fact that these products are based on new and highly sophisticated technical solutions, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether these products meet existing standards or not. To enable clearer and unambiguous decisions by the Ex CBs, it is very important to establish close cooperation between the conformity assessment and the standard generation and maintenance functions.

Here, I think the joint approach of IECEx and TC 31 is the right solution. The best practical example of how this partnership works is the foundation of a TC 31 Working Group dealing with the definition of specs for mobile devices, which was initiated by the IECEx office.

As in all my presentations about the IECEx system, in Runcorn I was asked about the international acceptance of IECEx certificates. The first part of my answer is always a bit disappointing for the audience, with only four countries - Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Israel - currently directly recognising IECEx certificates of conformity. Compared with our vision to provide one certificate valid for the whole world, this is not really an impressive message.

However, digging a bit deeper, the situation looks much better. A number of countries which do not have their own national regulations accept IECEx certificates without an official statement. And another aspect which is often overlooked is the existence of the so-called ‘fast track procedure’.

This obligates Ex CBs in any member country to accept an existing IECEx Test Report as the basis for issuing a National Certificate. Minor national deviations which require additional tests are accepted, as long as these deviations are listed in the IECEx Bulletin.

This document is available via the IEC web shop and describes the national deviations from the actual editions of the IEC standards for every country.  The fast track procedure gives a huge benefit to manufacturers by reducing the efforts required for type tests to a reasonable and affordable level.

If manufacturers have problems with an IECEx CB over a fast track procedure, this should be challenged. If this happens, the IECEx central office should be contacted and asked for support. 

A full review of the Hazardex 2017 Conference will be included in the May edition of Hazardex magazine.

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