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Trumpism and Brexit – a challenge to the ethos of the IEC


01 November 2017

A good headline, but the words spoken by James Shannon (President of the IEC) require a context.  He was giving his introductory address to the IECEx Management Committee meeting in Washington at the end of September.  

IEC chairman James Shannon - Image: IEC
IEC chairman James Shannon - Image: IEC

Towards the end of his address, he was speaking about how international standards and international certification schemes were a positive force for maintaining stability in the world, as all parties could sign up to a common aim.  However, he saw the current political climate as deviating from that goal, actually singling out the forces behind Trumpism and Brexit as being dangers to a true international market, as envisaged by the IEC.

Washington proved an ideal venue for the meetings, and our hosts, the US national committee for IECEx, looked after us very well. 

All IEC Conformity Assessment Systems (IECEx, IECEE, IECQ and IECRE) now work to the same basic rules, published as IEC CA 01, but have their own supplements to amend the common basic rules to meet the needs of the stakeholders in each system.  This should ensure, as far as possible, that users of more than one system feel comfortable with the experience.  We agreed some minor changes to the IECEx Supplement.

There has been considerable discussion over the past years about the efficacy of the IECEx Conformity Mark Licensing System.  Everybody should be familiar with the IECEx logo, the two blue squares that always appear together on official IECEx documents, and which can be used, under certain conditions, to advertise certified products for sale.

The IECEx Conformity Mark, although similar in some respects, includes the manufacturer’s license number and is intended to form part of the marking of the equipment.  The conditions of use are much more restrictive, than for the logo, and surveillance of the manufacturer, related to those conditions, creates an additional expense.  There has been a very low rate of take up from manufacturers, so most people have not yet seen equipment bearing the License Mark.  There are views that the scheme should be scrapped, as the market, generally, has not shown an interest, but also a contrary view that use of the mark should be made compulsory.  It was agreed that the IEC legal department be approached, to see if the conditions of use could be made more user friendly, before taking a final decision.

In my role as chair of the IECEx Certified Service Facilities Committee, I introduced some changes to the existing scheme.  The most important, going forward, is to include the initial inspection requirements from IEC 60079-14 in the same certification module as the on-going inspection and maintenance requirements of IEC 60079-17.  A new high level document IECEx 03-4 was approved to confirm this, plus a number of related Operational Documents. 

These are available to download from the IECEx web site.  Certification of service facilities which provide repair and refurbishment services to IEC 60079-19 is now a comparatively mature scheme.  The inspection scheme provides a lot more scope for service companies specialising in a related activity.

In the scheme for Certification of Personnel Competence, there was a great debate about the pass mark level in the examinations.  This has now been set at 75%, but with the addition that the actual mark that was achieved is visible on the certificate web site, by looking at the summary of the Personal Competence Assessment Report (PCAR). 

This will enable potential employers to select people with just a bare pass, or to select people with a higher pass mark, depending on the complexity of the task that will be assigned to them.  This will not be made retrospective, but candidates sitting examinations from now on will have their marks displayed.  75% may not seem a high mark, but remember that, unlike certain other schemes, IECEx divorces the examination from any training, so that the candidate is not just having a test of short term memory.

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