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The European Notified Bodies Group Meeting

02 February 2018

Once a year, most of the European Notified Bodies for the ATEX Directive (ExNB) meet in Brussels.  This group is sponsored by the European Commission and its function is to sort out details of procedure and technical interpretations for the operation of the ATEX Directive, in much the same way as IECEx ExTAG discusses and issues Decision Sheets related to the IECEx Scheme. 

Because many of the certification bodies are members of both systems, there is an attempt to maintain a commonality of approach, where possible.

As IECEx is a self-governing system, it can have its own system of sanctions where bodies transgress (fortunately a very infrequent occurrence).  In Europe, ExNB does not have quite the same teeth, because the ATEX Directive is effectively the law in each country, but its views are taken into account by the Commission when it advises national governments on proceedings that should be taken.

It is the national governments that are responsible for notifying their respective conformity assessment bodies to the Commission, hence the term “Notified Body”.  The Commissions ATEX web page gives access to the “NANDO” list of Notified Bodies.

Among many other topics, this year, we looked at how to handle the transition between the different editions of ISO 9001, which must happen later this year.  The specific QA standard for Ex Equipment is unlikely to be available until possibly early 2019, so there is a gap to be filled.  The agreed policy is that Notified Bodies will use the ISO/IEC version of 80079-34, which should be published by the relevant date, without waiting for the EN version.  Further, as a fall-back, if there is a delay in publication of the ISO/IEC version, we will use the FDIS draft document, which will be available early this year.  The FDIS is available to purchase from IEC and can act as a “pre-purchase” for the final version of the standard.

Related to QA aspects, there is a reminder that all manufacturers have a responsibility for checking that their ATEX Type Examination Certificates still reflect the “State of the Art” as outlined in the current harmonised standard, and the QA assessor will be checking that there is a specific procedure in place to ensure this is done.

If a new IEC or ISO edition is published ahead of the EN version, it is good general advice to work to that edition, but the various Notified Bodies are in a position to give detailed advice.
Normally the EN version follows quickly after the international version, with official “harmonisation” taking place a few months later.  A harmonised standard is recognised as covering relevant Essential Health and Safety requirements of the directive, so conformity with the standard is the normal method of demonstrating conformity with the directive.

However, we have a current problem for ventilated rooms, as the new standard IEC 60079-13 overlaps the scope of the European only standard EN 50381.  Normally the older standard would be retired in favour of the later document (there are 13 years between their dates of issue), but, in this case, there is a requirement to keep the older document as it is referenced in some national legislation relating to activities in the North Sea.  We cannot have two standards with different requirements both claiming to be state of the art, so this is a problem for further resolution.

The two most recent standards available from IEC, 60079-0 and 60079-15 were published in 2014.  There has been a delay in putting the EN versions forward, as the Cenelec rules have changed about the presentation of Annex ZZ.  This may not seem a big deal to most of the people who use the standards, but it is meaning a lot of extra work for the CLC-TC31 secretariat.  The strong advice is to use the IEC text until the EN versions are available.  The table of differences between these new standards and the previous editions is available as a free download from the IEC web site (select “preview”), so manufacturers can start preparing for the changes, even if they wait for the EN version before buying the document.

About the author

SGS Baseefa Technical Manager Ron Sinclair MBE gives his perspective on the latest developments in the world of standards every two months in Hazardex magazine.

He is chairman of BSI Committee EXL/31, responsible for the UK input to both European and International standards for Electrical Equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. He is also chairman of Cenelec TC31, represents electrical standardisation interests on the European Commission’s ATEX Standing Committee and chairs the IECEx Service Facility Certification Committee.

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