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IECEx: a view from the chair (1)

18 August 2014

We are pleased to announce that Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, the new chairman of IECEx, will be writing a regular column in Hazardex.  He is currently Vice President of Technology at explosion protection specialist R. STAHL and has been actively involved in IECEx for nearly 10 years, heading the German IECEx mirror group since 2007 and the German delegations in Management Committee meetings. 

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, chairman of IECEx
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, chairman of IECEx

I started as the new Chairman of the IECEx System at the beginning of this year, and will in this issue of Hazardex give my impressions of my first 200 days in office. Up until now they have been very positive: all my expectations have been fulfilled so far.

The first highlight was the Second Regional Conference of the IECEx System which took place in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, from 19 to 20 February 2014.

With more than 300 participants from more than 20 countries, predominantly from Southeast Asia, this event was able to build on the huge success of the first conference, which took place in Dubai in 2012.

The key role played by the IECEx system  in this thriving region was emphasised by the fact that the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Abu Bakar Bin Mohamad Diah, welcomed the participants, organisers and speakers in person. In his very entertaining speech, this high-ranking politician emphasised the great importance of the process industries in Malaysia, particularly the extraction and processing of oil and natural gas. Since health and safety regulations in the workplace are also given high priority, there is great interest in IEC standardisation in the area of explosion protection and in the IECEx system.

This was corroborated by Mr Mohamad Faudzi Mohd. Yasir, the President of the National IECEx Committee in his introductory speech. 

The aim of the Malaysian government is to prepare the national economy for international competition in the most technologically demanding sectors, with a particular focus on innovation. The underlying intention is to develop Malaysia in the years to come as a leading economic power in the region, with a concomitant rise in general prosperity.

Adopting international standards and active participation in their development is expected on the one hand to satisfy the increased security needs of the population and on the other hand to enable the participation of domestic companies in international competition.

For hazardous areas, a clear decision was made in favour of direct national implementation of IEC standards 60079 and 80079, while in the area of conformity assessment the IECEx system was selected. It is hoped that the latter will provide, among other things:

•  Lower costs for tests and certification on the part of the manufacturers,

•  Shorter product development times,

•  International recognition and comparability of the conformity assessment process,

•  Easy and secure availability of the certificates via the IECEx online database and

•  globally active confidence in the certified products and services.

As provided by the IECEx statutes, for national implementation of the IECEx structures, a national committee (Management Committee for IECEx Scheme Accreditation – ExMC) was established in April 2009 and was recognized by the Malaysian National IEC Committee. All parties and organisations involved (e.g. Ministry of Labour, section Health and Safety, fire brigade and emergency service protection, the Navy Department, certification bodies, industrial associations, amongst others) are members of this committee.

The aim in the next few years is to make all hazardous areas in the country fully compliant with common standards (IEC standards harmonised with Malaysian standard - MS/IEC 60079 ff.) and thus to convert Malaysia into a "Centre of Excellence in the Ex field".

In accordance with this aim, the interest of the conference participants was particularly high in the following talks of the international speakers.

It was a great honour for me as the new Chairman to give an overview of the entire conformity assessment system. My intention was to illustrate that in order to guarantee the safety of a technical product, the complete service life must be taken into consideration. This statement applies, of course, in particular to such safety-critical applications as the use in hazardous areas. It is not sufficient to merely consider the development and production of a new product and to prove its suitability and safety through tests on prototypes. Other important factors are the proper selection of suitable products, correct installation and comprehensive testing of the installed products before their initial start-up. Once the system is running, more or less rigorous environmental and operating conditions act on the installed equipment and lead to wear from day 1. In order to guarantee a sufficiently high safety level, regular tests and maintenance must be carried out and, if repairs are required, they have to be performed properly.

Many investigations of explosion accidents have brought to light that sufficient competence of all employees is a decisive factor in guaranteeing a high safety level in hazardous systems.

While all previous national and regional certification systems for explosion-protected equipment have merely dealt with the new product, the IECEx system, following its latest extension last year, covers the complete service life.  Over the last 6 years, further certification schemes for repair workshops and for the expertise and experience of employees  in Ex areas have been added to the Certified Equipment Scheme already proven over many years. Since 2013 IECEx has also been offering certification of service providers for:

•  Equipment selection an planning,

•  Installation and initial inspection of the systems and

•  Testing and maintenance while the system is in operation.

The basic standards for these certifications are IEC 60079 Part 14, Part 17 and Part 19.

This comprehensive consideration of the entire service life and the wide international distribution (32 countries are already members and mutually recognise the test report when issuing national certificates) gives the IECEx system two remarkable unique selling points in the international certification landscape.

In another talk, Mr Basori HJ Selamat explained how his Malaysian test institute SIRIM QAS International has implemented the IECEx system for certification of competent persons.

Since March 2011 SIRIM QAS International has been accredited as certification organization for IECEx 03 – IECEx Certified Service Facility Scheme and since June 2013 it has had the approval IECEx 05 – IECEx Certification of Personnel Competencies (CoPC) Scheme.

The start of the new certification scheme can be regarded as successful for the certification body, but as mixed for the test persons: During the first few months, 64 persons were examined. Of these, 18 persons (which corresponds to 28%) did not pass the exam! This can be seen as an indicator for the absolute necessity of such an assessment scheme.

Mr Basori HJ Selamat summarised, that the importance of the CoPC scheme was related to the following essential aspects:

-  It provides operators with strong independent evidence that the certified persons have the knowledge and skills to apply the relevant IEC standards correctly and to execute the safety-critical jobs in Ex areas correctly.

-  It assists the operators in strengthening the safety awareness among employees, suppliers and external service providers and

-  It helps preserve the safety factors of the complete installed technology in Ex areas, since the operating and maintenance personnel have the required understanding and competence.

During the two conference days many other interesting presentations were given by distinguished experts i.e about the IECEx online certificate database, the certification of repair facilities correct installation of Ex  equipment and new IEC standards. The complete set of presentations can be downloaded from the IECEx homepage. The lively discussions during the breaks showed us that we could fully meet the expectations of the audience. For the organisers and speakers, this has been a confirmation of their efforts of spreading the international certification system.

This is why the next IECEx conference is already in the planning stage: It will be held from 22 to 23 April in Gdansk/Poland and will be aimed at interested operators, manufacturers and notified bodies, in particular also from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

In May the Executive of the IECEx system and some Working Groups have been invited to Dubai, UAE by the Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology where we had a week full of fruitful meetings. The results will be presented at the next General Meeting of the IECEx Management Committee in The Hague end of August. However the very special highlight of the Dubai meeting was that we could welcome the United Arab Emirates  as the 32th national committee in the IECEx family.

This new membership demonstrates the extent to which the IECEx system is finding growing acceptance in that oil and gas rich region, with a high demand for explosion protection in its process industries.

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