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Clarity in the heat of Dubai

Author : Ron Sinclair

15 July 2014

The May meetings of IECEx were held this year in Dubai.  It is always difficult to find a location that is easy to get to for delegates from all over the world, but Dubai has excellent connections in all directions, and the people are extremely hospitable.

Although the prime meeting is always that of the IECEx Executive, making preparations for the main Management Committee meetings in August, the opportunity is also taken to hold various other meetings and working groups while many of the participants are together.  In this case, there were six full days of meetings, with more than one meeting on two of the days.

The first three days were dedicated to various meetings related to the Personnel Competence Certification Scheme.  The number of certified individuals is now starting to increase exponentially, mirroring the take-off experienced in equipment certification.  As the scheme matures, it becomes necessary to make adjustments based on experience. 

Perhaps the major adjustment is the decision to include a lower level of certification as a starting point with the new Unit IECEx 000.  There has been a tendency to think of Unit IECEx 001 as this starting point, but that was never the intention.  It was developed to cover the broad, basic understanding that was necessary to support the other nine units, rather than as the stand-alone unit as it has sometimes been treated.

SGS Baseefa continues to lead the development of the combined question bank that will be used in all examinations by all certification bodies.  This now extends to more than 3,000 questions, covering all 10 units of competence.  From this question bank, the examination papers are tailored to each individual candidate, to match the competencies they are claiming.
The first drafts have been prepared for a scheme to “endorse” training providers.  The plan is to take a QA approach, validating the training body’s methodology for developing training to match the IECEx Units of Competence, rather than to “approve” the content of individual training courses. 

Courses are subject to continuous development as standards change, so it would not be feasible to sustain a programme of approving individual courses.  The endorsement will also cover the body’s processes for validating the capability of the individual trainers.  To be an effective trainer in the Ex field, it is necessary to have the technical background, rather than just the ability to deliver course material prepared by others.

A major task started in Dubai was the preparation of  the IECEx Equipment Certification Scheme to cover the certification of non-electrical equipment that will shortly (probably early next year) be covered by the new standards ISO 80079-36, -37 and -38, which are the developing international versions of the European EN 13463 series standards.  The major difficulty at the core of these documents is how to certify a “risk assessment”.  Procedures need to be in place for the validation of the certification bodies’ competence in this area before scope extensions can be granted.

As part of this process, there will be an informal training and discussion session during the first day of the August meetings.  IECEx Certification Bodies that are also European Notified Bodies for the ATEX Directive should already have the relevant experience, but with the European Commission admitting that the procedure for accepting Notified Bodies has been less than perfect, it will be important for IECEx to develop its own protocols.

The IECEx Marks Committee reviewed procedures for dealing with infringements of the rules applicable to both the IECEx Certification Mark and the IECEx Logo.  The Mark itself (only applied under specific licence to certified equipment) is well under control, but there is concern with increasing use of the logo in odd places, such as Linked-In forums, although in that particular case it was felt that there was no possibility of anyone thinking that IECEx officially sponsored any of these forums.

Theoretically, August will be the last meeting for three members of the executive, who are all due to retire at the end of the year: myself as chair of ExTAG, Alexander Zalogin as vice-chair of ExMC and Tim Duffy as chair of ExMarkCo.  It may be that no other names are put forward, in which case a final three-year extension is permitted, but it will be good to welcome new blood to keep IECEx invigorated. 

I have enjoyed my past five and a half years in the post of ExTAG chairman, and it has been a privilege to work with many of the most experienced individuals in the world of Ex protection.  During that period, we have seen the development of both the Service Facility Certification Scheme and the Personnel Competence Certification Scheme as well as seeing the Equipment Certification Scheme go from strength to strength. 

But perhaps the major achievement in the period has been the adoption of both the IECEx Certification System and the IEC TC31 standards as the preferred model for safety in hazardous areas by the United Nations.

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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