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IECEx: a view from the chair (2)

15 October 2014

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, the chairman of IECEx, gives his insight on developments within IECEx and the wider world of explosion protection.

In August the annual meeting session of the IECEx system took place at The Hague in the Netherlands. As happens every year, delegations from all member countries came together to debate the current topics of our conformity assessment system. The week started with meetings and training workshops of Ex TAG, which groups both Certification Bodies (ExCB) and Test Laboratories (ExTL) inside the IECEx system.

It is very important for the whole system that all these organisations get a regular platform for the exchange of knowledge and experience. This helps to maintain the high level of competence in the system.

This year, two notable events took place.

Firstly, the so-called proficiency test program became mandatory for all test labs. This was initiated five years ago by the German ExCB and ExTL Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).

The idea is to provide a set of special test samples. Each ExTL then carries out type tests for these samples and sends the results back to PTB for evaluation. Special training courses and dialogues are than offered in order to adjust the test results between the different laboratories. The whole can be considered as a big multinational calibration program of all IECEx Test labs and is designed to establish and maintain sufficient trust across the organisation and its customers.

The second event was the appointment of Prof. Xu Jianping of China as the new Ex TAG Chairman from the beginning of 2015. He will succeed my fellow Hazardex columnist Ron Sinclair (MBE) from the UK, who has chaired the organisation over the last six years with great success.

With the growing acceptance of the IECEx system across Asia, I am very happy Prof. Xu Jianping, an expert in his field, has joined  our Executive Team.

Traditionally, during the last two days of the week, the meeting of the Management Committee (IECEx MC) takes place. With over 100 delegates and observers from almost all IECEx member countries, this was my first experience chairing the event. But my nervousness dissipated quickly as it progressed - it is in fact both satisfying and fun to manage such a professional and successful organisation!

The results of the last year have been really impressive: at the time of writing there are now more than 16,000 equipment certificates available in the online database and 580 experts have got certificates of personal competence.

The new certification schemes for service providers for hazardous areas, including equipment selection, installation and initial inspection as well as maintenance and inspection, are now ready to start. We have got a lot of positive signals from the process industries that there is high demand for third party certificates for such service companies.

The excellent reputation of IECEx inside the IEC organization was expressed in the addresses of Dr. Hiromichi Fujisava, IEC Vice President and Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO.

UAE and Israel are the two newest member countries, and Belgium has indicated an interest in becoming member country No. 34 by sending observers.

Amongst many decisions taken during the two days, the following should be of special interest:
•  The procedure to get equipment certificates according with the new standard IEC 60079-33 (protection method “s”) was endorsed by the membership.

•  The growing importance of service facility certificates was reflected by the decision to establish an appropriate organisation during the coming months.

•  Unit 000 in OD 504 of the IECEx PCC scheme, which covers basic knowledge necessary to work safely in hazardous areas, was implemented. To distinguish this from the dedicated experts who get certificates of personal competence (CoPC) for the already-existing Units 001 to 010, we call the certificate for the new unit ‘Ex Facility Orientation Certificate’ (EFOC).

•  Also in the IECEx PCC scheme we introduced a structure and organisation for the endorsement of Ex-training providers. These “Recognized Training Providers” (RTP) have to fit certain requirements regarding Quality Management, competence of the trainers and actuality of the training material. If all these requirements are fulfilled, the RTP will be displayed in a table on the IECEx homepage.

Thierry Houeix from France has been elected as the new treasurer, Alexander Zalogin from Russia as IECEx Vice Chairman and Tim Duffy from the USA as Chairman of the IECEx Mark Committee.

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