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Certification in Europe

Author : Ron Sinclair

03 February 2014

As the IECEx ExTAG (which I chair) is a meeting of all the certification bodies within the IECEx certification system, so ExNB (for which I am one of the vice chairs) is a meeting of all the Notified Bodies in Europe responsible for issuing documentation related to the ATEX Equipment Directive 94/9/EC.  Occasionally the terms ‘Certification Body’ and ‘Notified Body’ get confused: so what is the difference?

The role of a certification body is to perform activities related to certification which, by definition, is the action of a third party providing, in a document (the certificate), a statement of compliance with certain requirements (normally those laid down in a standard).

Notified body, on the other hand, is a legal term defining a body (which might or might not also be a certification body) which is authorised to issue documentation and undertake certain other actions in relation to a European Union Directive.  The term Notified Body (NB) comes from the requirement that a member state of the European Union “shall notify the body to the European Commission” for specific purposes in relation to one or more EU directives.

Most NBs (including my own, SGS Baseefa) have a full scope, allowing them to perform all activities related to the directive, whereas others have either a slight or a significant limitation.  That limitation may relate to particular conformity assessment modules in the directive, or to the types of equipment.  Some NBs can deal only with Group II equipment while some can deal only with Protective systems.  To check out the limitations for any particular NB, it is necessary to consult the NANDO database.  You can find this through the links provided on www.baseefa.com

Although ExNB parallels some of the activities in IECEx ExTAG, it does additionally interface directly with the European Commission, through the Commission’s desk officer responsible for the ATEX Directive 94/9/EC. 

Previously, I have referred to the imminent publication of a replacement ATEX Directive which will implement the principles of the New Legislative Framework (NLF) agreed within Europe.  This is now about one full year overdue from the original predictions, but the Commission have a very strong incentive to ensure that things now move forward quickly. 

In the spring, we will have elections to the European Parliament, and there is no guarantee how the incoming MEPs will view the changes brought about by the NLF.  The commission therefore see it as imperative that all the replacement directives (EMC, PED, etc. as well as ATEX) get through this final legislative hurdle and are signed off before the elections. We might therefore confidently predict that the new directive will be published sometime in the late spring.

Do we need to worry about the new directive?  Yes and No. The directive will have a two-year implementation period, to give manufacturers time to get new documentation in order.  Fortunately, most existing documentation can just be carried forward.  The Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) are not changing and pre-existing certificates to the current directive will be recognised, but new Declarations of Conformity (DoCs) will definitely be required.  And manufacturers from outside the European Economic Area will need to appoint someone within the EEA to hold documentation on their behalf.

Other news from the Commission included the agreement to publish a document highlighting the practical differences between equipment and components under the directive.  At the time of writing, this had not been published on the Commission web site, but should be available soon.  It is particularly targeted at manufacturers, rather than NBs, as much of it centres on Category 3 equipment/components. 

One bold statement in the document which might take a number of people by surprise is a reminder that a cable gland is treated as equipment by the standards, but remains a component in respect of the directive.  This is just one example where the standard writers have found it expedient to not follow the prescriptive text of legislation in order to make life easier for those installing and maintaining equipment in the field.

About the author:

SGS Baseefa General Manager Ron Sinclair MBE 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 chairman of Cenelec TC31 and ExTAG, the Test and Assessment Group of the IECEx International Certification Scheme.


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