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IECEx at the end of 2017 - challenges and opportunities

Author : IECEX CHAIRMAN PROF. DR. THORSTEN ARNHOLD

01 December 2017

The 2017 IECEx Management Committee Meeting took place in Washington D.C., a location with a special meaning for our organisation. Our hosts from the US National Committee did a great job to provide the best conditions for a successful event. 

One of the first activities at the start of the meeting was to elect new officers. The second term of the Vice Chair, Dr. Alexander Zalogin of Russia, will finish at the end of 2017 and the candidate from Canada, Mr. Marty Cole, who has been an active member of IECEx for many years and who has done a great job as the convenor of the Working Group 1 over the last two years, was elected as the new Vice Chair with no objections.

For his very valuable contribution to the success of the system, Dr. Zalogin was given the Edison Award later on at the annual IEC general assembly in Vladivostok.

Professor Xu of China and Thiery Houeix of France have been elected respectively for a second term as ExTAG Chairman and IECEx treasurer.

A relatively long time was spent on the discussion of the harmonization of the four different conformity assessment systems under the IEC CAB organisation. The goal of the so-called Harmonized Basic Rules (HBR) is clear and well appreciated by the complete IECEx membership. Harmonization means an improvement in the efficiency of the whole system and makes any extensions easier - but there is no reason for total harmonization. Every single Conformity Assessment System needs sufficient flexibility to adopt to the very special needs of their stakeholders. The overall goal should be to establish as much harmonization as possible, but no more than necessary.

Other important agenda items were the extension of the service facility scheme, the updating of a number of operational documents and the approval of the 2018 budget.

The continuous growth of our system is 99% positive, but expansion also means it becomes ever more difficult to sustain high quality levels across all our worldwide activities. This means more time must be spent ensuring that all activities are being executed correctly.

To cover this we established the proficiency test program to ensure the correct execution of the type tests in all IECEx Test labs, and we set up mid-term evaluation of the certification activities of the IEC Ex CBs. This helps us to keep the quality levels high, but at the cost of a lot of time, money and effort, including at the annual Management committee meeting.

One fact which worries me as the chairman of the system is the stagnation in the number of member countries over the last two years. At our 2015 meeting In Christchurch, New Zealand, Israel joined the system, but we have not had any new applicants since then.

So I was more than happy to accept an invitation from customers and national organisations to come to Indonesia and present the IECEx system. Two weeks after my trip to Washington I flew to Jakarta via Singapore. There I had some very interesting and encouraging meetings with regulators, engineering companies, insurance companies and end customers. My impression was very positive. Indonesia has a very powerful economy with a number of world class process companies, especially in the oil and gas and chemical sector.

Currently in Indonesia companies use a mix of NEC, European (ATEX) and international regulations for hazardous areas – which is far from providing an all-embracing safety system. This makes the country an ideal candidate for IECEx, as our system not only unifies the requirements for explosion protected products but can also ensure a high quality workforce through the application of the competency scheme.

These factors are highly appreciated by Indonesia’s neighbour, Malaysia, a key IECEx member.

The future membership of Indonesia would be an important step for IECEx and with this in mind, the next international conference of UNECE and our organisation will be held in Jakarta in August 2018. I will keep you updated on any future developments on this matter.


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