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Summer in Brussels

Author : SGS Baseefa General Manager Ron Sinclair MBE

15 September 2014

The European Commission’s ATEX Experts Working Group met in early July in Brussels for its regular twice-yearly cycle to discuss issues relating to both the existing 94/9/EC directive and the new 2014/34/EU directive that will replace it on April 20, 2016.

Stock image
Stock image

There had been some confusion about the way in which the new directive will supersede the old one, including, I must admit, in my own mind.  However, this has now been clarified, but I am not sure that many people will welcome the clarification. 

It seems that, as written, the clarification is that on April 19, 2016, Notified Bodies will be issuing EC-Type Examination certificates to 94/9/EC, and the manufacturer will issue a Declaration of Conformity (DoC) to 94/9/EC.  On the following day, April 20, 2016, Notified Bodies will be issuing EU-Type Examination Certificates to 2014/34/EU and manufacturers will issue a DoC to 2014/34/EU.

The Commission has agreed that this is practically unworkable and, in response to representations from Orgalime (one of the European manufacturers’ associations) and others, will consult across all the relevant New Legislative Framework (NLF) directives to find a common solution.  This is clearly something that should have been thought of when writing the NLF, but was missed, and we are now effectively playing catch-up.

The Commission believes that it will have the necessary advice in place by the end of 2014, and it would certainly be unwise to start taking any action before this is published.  However, what seems to be emerging as a potential solution is to allow manufacturers to claim compliance with both directives in their DoCs for a specific period over the transition. 
(Normally declaring compliance with both such directives would not be permitted.) 

What is clear, though, is that there is unlikely to be any leeway for Notified Bodies and that, although documents can be prepared, it will not be possible to issue any documentation to 2014/34/EU until one minute past midnight on April 20, 2016.  I can foresee that there will be some major mailings that morning as manufacturers vie to be the first with a new certificate!
This arrangement becomes workable because EC-Type Examination Certificates and valid QA Notifications to 94/9/EC will remain available indefinitely to support DoCs to 2014/34/EU, subject only to the current rules on “State of the Art”.

Each country in the European Economic Area (EEA = EU + EFTA) will undertake its own procedures to notify bodies for the new directive.  Transfer of NB status from one directive to the next is not automatic, as the criteria for notification have s changed in recognition that the previous regime was open to a degree of abuse.  The new common feature is that accreditation by a national accreditation body will form the basis for notification.  There is a loophole, but other national governments will have to review the alternative basis for notification and have the right to object.

In the UK, the relevant government department, BIS, has stated that all existing UK NBs have an accreditation relationship with UKAS and that their next accreditation visit will look at any additions necessary to confirm accreditation to 2014/34/EU.  Once all UK bodies have had a complete year in the new cycle, BIS will issue notification for all bodies on the same day.  This will ensure that no one UK NB is given a commercial advantage through time differences in the notification process. 

My best guess is that notifications will take place sometime in the second half of 2015, but as we will not be able to issue documentation to the new directive before April 2016, the actual date is not particularly relevant.

Harmonisation Issues

In my role as chair of Cenelec standards committee TC31, I had to report to the meeting that it had not been possible to obtain consensus on the imminent -publication of the text of EN 60079-1:2014.  Three countries had expressed major concerns on the potential reduction in safety permitted by allowing cemented joints to leak, but had not been able to prevent an overall positive vote for the document.  This issue had already been discussed at an earlier European Commission meeting, and it was decided in Brussels that there would be a delay in what would otherwise have been the automatic harmonisation of the standard.

This will allow further technical discussions at the formal ATEX level, above the standard committee, to determine if it will be appropriate to tell TC31 to revise the document before it can be harmonised.  As a standard which has been refused harmonised status cannot be used to demonstrate “State of the Art”, this leaves manufacturers in a degree of limbo .  Assuming that harmonisation is agreed, with or without a change to the text, there will still be the usual three-year overlap, so manufacturers can certainly continue using the older edition of the standard in the meantime.

As things progress, I will keep readers up to date on this in future articles in HazardEx.

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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