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The IECEx Recognized Training Provider Program


10 April 2018

As regards the industrial internet of things and Industry 4.0, concerns have been raised about the impact of these new technologies on the situation of the working population. What will happen if intelligent machines replace their human counterparts by carrying out work at less cost and more reliably? The only reasonable answer I have found to this question is to continuously improve the competence levels of the workforce. 

The Recognized Training Provider Program (RTPP) of IECEx is a perfect example of how to establish an appropriate system to enable the transfer of high level competence.

Established in 2016, the RTPP now consists of 21 international training organizations offering training courses for all aspects of hazardous area businesses.

The goals of this program point in the following directions:

1. To provide an opportunity for Ex training bodies to benchmark their current operations to the IECEx 05 competence requirements
a) As defined in OD 504 (and in future the Technical Specification IEC TS 60079-44: Explosive Atmospheres: Specification for competence)
b) And other aspects such as the personnel requirements of the IECEx Service Facility Scheme

2. To provide the international market with confidence that such organizations
a) Have implemented processes to manage and provide training services related to the selection, design, inspection, installation, maintenance, repair, overhaul and reclamation of equipment operating in Ex atmospheres

3. The market expects that an IECEx RTP
a) Will provide sound training that covers the activities above and
b) Can provide a pathway to the IECEx CoPC Scheme.

All aspects and elements of the RTPP are defined in the Operational Document (OD) 521. As with all IECEx documents, this paper can be downloaded 24/7 and free of charge from the IECEx homepage. It contains a framework based on the following elements:

a) Proposition that an independent and voluntary assessment program will enable employers to evaluate merits of their peoples` training and education.

b) Ex installation 'safety records can be improved with the assistance of extra tools and greater awareness achieved by qualified trainings.

c) Adequacy and consistency of Ex training at national and international levels can be ensured.

d) Assurance that training is being provided with linkages to the latest versions of relevant Ex Rules and Standards.

e) At the time being training of individuals involved with the installation, maintenance, inspection and operation of facilities utilizing Ex equipment is for most countries and industries not well regulated or specified at National Levels.

Furthermore OD 521 contains some requirements regarding the Quality Management of PTPs.

There is no need of a formally certified QM system, but the relevant elements of ISO 9001 and additional requirements are included, such as:

a) Control of documents: training course materials, etc.

b) Information contained within the RTP`s documentation shall be current and compatible with the IECEx 05 rules.

c) Control of records: documents related to the RTP status; training records of both candidates and trainers.

d) Quality management system planning: all relevant elements, requirements and provisions adopted to ensure compliance with OD 521 shall be documented in a systematic manner.

e) Responsibility and authority shall be defined i.e. effective coordination of training activities

f) Review and maintenance of training course materials

g) Competence, training and awareness: especially the qualifications of training staff.

Regarding Knowledge and skills of the whole training organization and the individual trainers, OD 521 says:

a) The RTP shall demonstrate capability and history of providing training to technical oriented persons in Ex technologies and related fields.

b) Requirements and recommendations for RTP - trainers:
* IECEx CoPC Certificate is recommended
* Knowledge of Ex technologies and relevant standards is required
* Understanding of application of standards, directives, specs, etc.
* Access to the Ex sector and relevant Ex standards is necessary
* Should be involved in the preparation and maintenance of training materials.

The RTPP of IECEx is a success story which increases the safety level in process plants and helps staff to improve their personal competence. It is useful for all stakeholders involved in hazardous area operations.

On the other hand, the European Commission’s announcement that the validity of ATEX certificates published by UK Notified bodies would be withdrawn in 2019 is a highly negative move.

On 10 January 2018, a notice to stakeholders was sent out containing the message: “Where economic operators hold certificates issued by a UK Notified Body prior to the withdrawal date (30 March 2019) and plan to continue placing the product concerned on the EU-27 market as from the withdrawal date, they are advised to consider either applying for a new certificate issued by an EU-27 Notified Body or arranging for a transfer… to an EU-27 Notified Body.

As in so many other cases, European manufacturers and their customers will face increased costs because of unnecessary bureaucracy, without any safety or other benefits.

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