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IECEx: Globetrotting and profile-raising

Author : IECEx Chairman Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold

10 May 2017

Dubai, Sydney, Shanghai and finally Hawarden in Wales, these were the destinations of my latest trips as the Chairman of the IECEx System. In each of these locations the growing success of our organisation was apparent, all based on the excellent work of our members. In March, I started my spring tourney in Dubai. 

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, IECEx Chairman and VP Technology, R.STAHL
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, IECEx Chairman and VP Technology, R.STAHL

My company, R.STAHL, had organised a ‘Kiosk Day’ and introduced customers from the Middle East region to our products and services. More than 150 people came to the event and I had a booth where I explained the status and benefits of IECEx to a very interested audience. It was a busy day and it became increasingly apparent that IECEx is gaining more and more acceptance in the region. As usual, the question I was asked most frequently was about the difference between ATEX and IECEx.

To answer the question correctly and comprehensively the time was much too short. Even if the both systems look similar there are significant differences. The best argument which speaks for IECEx outside of Europe is the fact that in our organisation all member countries are able to actively influence its continued development. As ATEX is European law, only member countries of the European Community have similar rights under this legislation.

Two weeks later I went to Australia. In Sydney I carried out an Audit of our IECEx office there, one of my duties as Chair of the System. The Audit was positive and I could see that both structures and procedures were in good shape, and the handful of people working in the IECEx office there are doing a great job running the day-to-day business of our large organisation. They are an important factor ensuring the high quality of our services in a safety-sensitive field of industry.

From Sydney I flew to Shanghai. Here in the Marriott City Centre Hotel our annual International IECEx conference took place. Like in the Middle East, the interest in the IECEx System was amazing! 450 participants, most from the People's Republic but also from other Asian countries, came to join our two day event. The conference program was a mix of presentations about Chinese standards and conformity assessments and how they are adjusted to the international IEC and IECEx standards and rules, the latest developments of the IECEx system and discussions on practical applications in the Chinese process industry.

During the breaks, there were discussions with national and international experts and a continuous flow of questions (and answers). The final round of discussions at the end of the conference was scheduled to last 30 minutes but had to be brought to an end after two hours since some of the foreign experts risked missing their flights home. I left Shanghai with a strong feeling that IECEx in China will be a success story in the coming years!

Two weeks later I flew to Manchester to join the series of working groups and Committee meetings held in Hawarden, over the Welsh border, hosted by the CSA group. The five days of meetings were again extremely busy, with the main goal the preparation of our annual Management Committee Meeting which will take place end of September in Washington D.C.

In Shanghai and in the UK our colleague Mark Coppler, chairman of TC31, was a very welcome guest and active participant. Over the last few years, the relationship between IECEx and TC31 has become closer and closer and more and more efficient. During the last TC31 meeting in Sydney in February, this relationship was given official status with a liaison program being created to be controlled by the new AdHoc working group AHG 40.

We can be judged to be succeeding in our jobs if we keep pace with the dizzyingly fast technical progress being made across the process industries, and ensure standards and conformity assessments are in place to ensure safety at all times.

A typical example of the breakneck pace of change has been the huge expansion in the market for portable tablet computers for hazardous areas. To enable manufacturers to design safe and smart products, we need quick additions to the relevant standards and a rapid transformation of certification processes.

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