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IECEx: successful beyond our dreams

Author : SGS Baseefa General Manager Ron Sinclair MBE

14 November 2014

As Thorsten Arnhold wrote last month, IECEx held a very successful series of meetings in The Hague at the end of August, hosted by Dekra.  In this issue, I will add a little detail in respect of the IECEx ExTAG meeting. 

Ron Sinclair
Ron Sinclair

This was the last ExTAG meeting that I will have chaired, as my term of appointment ends at the turn of the year, and I join Thorsten in welcoming Professor Xu Jianping from China as my successor.  There are always regrets when moving on, but I know that ExTAG will be in very good hands with both Professor Xu as chair and Julien Gauthier as secretary, both backed up by Christine Kane from the IECEx Secretariat in Australia.

The success of IECEx is beyond the dreams of those who met in London about 20 years ago and took the first faltering steps to create an organisation with such world-wide import.  By the end of 2014, we anticipate that not far short of 20,000 IECEx equipment certificates will be on line, all on the searchable certificate database at  These certificates allow direct acceptance of products in many parts of the world and, in others, where the associated reports smooth the path to local certification. 

It is highly significant that the United Nations has given special recognition to IECEx, along with the related IEC standards, as a model to be followed when specifying equipment for installation anywhere in the world.

We have the benefit of using a common reporting procedure throughout the IECEx Community, and, in our ExTAG meeting, we discussed the possibility of automating the reports in a way that would link the clauses directly to any ExTAG Decision Sheet that was relevant. 

These Decision Sheets (all publicly available on the IECEx website) record agreed ways of dealing with clauses in the standards where differing interpretations might be possible, and with other similar issues.  With over 50 such sheets currently applicable, it will be very useful to both report writers and report readers to be able to access the text directly from within the report.

We discussed the best way to document the certification of equipment which was, in fact, an assembly of already certified items, such as skid-mounted components.  We will shortly publish yet another Decision Sheet, explaining the limitations of such a process and, where applicable, allowing reference to IEC 60079-14.  This is an installation standard, but some parts of it are directly applicable in assemblies, for example in relation to wiring between different components, where IEC 60079-14 is used as a guide to the choice of cable and cable entry devices. 

It would not be appropriate to add the standard directly to the certification scope of a Certification Body, as much of the standard deals with pure installation matters that are outside the remit of IECEx Equipment Certification.  However, there does seem to be a commercial need for this type of certification, and the IECEx System tries to respond positively to such a need.

This might be regarded as a temporary solution to the problem as it is anticipated that, by the time you read this, the relevant grouping of people in the TC 31 standards committees will have had the opportunity to ascertain if it could be feasible to create a brand new standard, in the IEC 60079 series, specifically related to assemblies.

On behalf of the regulatory authorities in Europe, Mrs Ursula Aich made a thought-provoking presentation on market place misunderstandings of the certificate suffixes “U” and “X”.  It was agreed that lack of competence among both manufacturers and purchasers of equipment had led frequently to situations where Component Certified “U” equipment was being installed directly, without being the subject of further certification, as required both by the standards and by the ATEX Directive in Europe.

IECEx does not have any means of directly policing the use of certified equipment, so it was very useful to have this input from somebody directly involved in that policing process, and able to inform us where things appear to be going astray.  There was also concern about certifiers issuing certificates with “X” conditions that allowed a form of “self-certification”, by the manufacturer or the purchaser, rather than having the final product certified by an appropriate certification body. 

These concerns were taken on board and we shall be looking at how we can control the misunderstandings and misuse of both the “U” and “X” marks, in order to achieve a level playing field for all those interested in buying and selling Ex Equipment.

About the author:

SGS Baseefa General Manager Ron Sinclair MBE gives his insight into the world of standards. He 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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