Some issues from LinkedIn forums
30 September 2013
Over the summer period we enter what is known as “the silly season” for journalism in the UK. Just as less happens of real political note, so we have a lull between the main sets of standard meetings in each half of the year, so I thought I would look at some of the standards and IECEx matters that have arisen in some of the LinkedIn forums over the last few weeks.
First of all, let’s nail some of the issues related to area classification. Zone 2 does not “become” Zone 0 if there is a gas release. It remains Zone 2 and the equipment installed in that area should, statistically, be fit for infrequent short-term exposure to the gas. (It would, however, be good policy to review the classification after any known event.)
This leads on to consideration of portable equipment. There seems to be a level of desperation to find portable EPL Ga Equipment (ATEX Category 1G) to take into Zone 0 for short periods.
There is a very good reason that we now clearly attribute the Equipment Protection Level to the Equipment and the Zone to the Installation. It makes the assessment of risk much clearer. Although each instance would need to be assessed and recorded, it should be obvious that taking portable equipment with EPL Gb into Zone 0 for a short period is generally no more dangerous than having it permanently installed in Zone 1.
Until Intrinsically Safe (Ex ia) LED torches and handlamps became available, it was common practice to use Ex e protection, on the basis that it was safer to have the light than not, and there were no other light sources available. The final part of the risk assessment is to make sure that the EPL Gb Equipment cannot accidentally be left behind energised in Zone 0.
Are the EPLs identical in meaning to the ATEX Categories and, if so, why are they not equally acceptable? There is a theoretical difference in the way EPLs and Categories are defined, but this does not lead to any practical difference in construction. EPL Ga does, in effect, equal Category 1G, etc. So why are ATEX and IECEx Certificates not interchangeable? The answer is nothing to do with EPLs or Categories, but everything to do with the fact that the two systems were set up for entirely different purposes.
It is fundamental to understanding the problem to realise that an ATEX Certificate does not confirm conformity with the listed standards. It merely confirms conformity to the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) of the directive, which may or may not be identical to the listed standards.
Furthermore, there are a number of different conformity assessment modules giving different degrees of confidence in the conformity assessment process. However, having the appropriate ATEX documentation and marking is critical to placing the equipment on the market in the European Economic Area (that is, the EU plus EFTA).
On the other hand, the IECEx Product Certification Scheme requires absolute compliance with the listed standards and has only one comprehensive conformity assessment process. It is easy to see why, with over 10,000 certificates issued and available to be searched on-line in the public database, IECEx is now preferred to ATEX outside Europe. The beauty is that, if the equipment is fit for IECEx, it is also fit for ATEX, subject only to some additional marking, so dual certification is not a major issue. (On the other hand however, meeting ATEX does not necessarily infer acceptability in IECEx.)
Finally, it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the IECEx Certificate of Personnel Competence is NOT a training scheme. There is a total separation between certification and training and the IECEx Scheme allows training to be undertaken at any time and from any provider. The proof as to how good the training has been is in how well the candidate can demonstrate that they have acquired, retained and applied the knowledge and skill gained during the course.