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IECEx: a view from the chair (4)

16 February 2015

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, the chairman of IECEx, gives his insight on developments within IECEx and the wider world of explosion protection. This month, an account of some successful training sessions IECEx ran in the USA in the final weeks of 2014, and increased interest in both Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

To plan a seminar in the USA in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is quite a challenge. You have to offer an interesting topic to attract enough people at that special time of the year when company operations are often winding down.

My US colleagues and I took the risk and organised three one-day training sessions on the IECEx system. The response was overwhelming: 120 people - engineers, technicians, managers and consultants - came to learn how our international certification system can help to extend their business activities on domestic and international markets.

With the decision of the US Coast Guard to accept IECEx certificates on offshore installations, IECEx has taken its first steps into this very special market. And, as a consequence of the shale boom, many US manufacturers of equipment for the oil and gas sector are well-placed to move into international markets where IECEx certification can help them sell their explosion-protected equipment and related services.

For me, as the Chairman of our IECEx system, it was an honour to speak at these seminars, and it gave me real satisfaction to see the interest of all these experts during the discussions in the breaks.

It was a great finish to my first year in this function and gave me strong motivation for the future. To find such interest and acceptance from the US market demonstrates the extent to which IECEx has become the worldwide conformity assessment system for hazardous areas.
This is all good, but I have to admit that we still have a lot of challenges to deal with in the future.

Many people still think that our IECEx rules, procedures and regulations will be a burden on their business if they become obligatory in their countries. These concerns are unjustified because unlike ATEX, IECEx is not based on legislation.

Instead, it helps companies meet governmental specifications to establish a sufficient level of safety in hazardous areas. Like a franchise system, it provides the infrastructure and tools to fulfil these specifications in a very efficient way.

Meetings such as our March conference in Kuala Lumpur with 300 participants or seminars like the ones described above are very important to get these important facts across. I am therefore looking forward to the next IECEx conference, which will take place from 22 to 23 April 2015 in Gdansk, Poland.

We can also proudly report that, as of the end of 2014, some 700 experts have been awarded the International IECEx Certificate of Personal Competence (CoPC) certificate since the scheme went live three years ago.

Interest has been particularly acute in Malaysia where SIRIM, the accredited IECEx CoPC certification body in that country, has certified 190 Malaysian experts in only 18 months.
This demonstrates the potential usefulness of our competency scheme worldwide, and our task as members of the IECEx executive and organisation is to intensify our marketing activities to duplicate the Malaysian success story in other countries. 

This is best accomplished through education, using meetings as our recent US event.  A further such event is planned for March 2015 at the request of the GCC Gulf Standardisation Organisation (GSO) in Saudi Arabia.

Last but not least, our goal for 2015 is to start the first conformity assessments of service providers for selection of equipment, for installation and initial inspection and for inspection and maintenance in hazardous areas.

During the last two years, many experts have helped by providing the necessary documentation, ODs, rules of procedure, etc., and now is time to proceed. I am convinced that this extension of our system will get similar levels of acceptance to our conformity assessment scheme for repair facilities. At the end of 2014, we had about 100 certified repair facilities in our online database.

In my first year as chairman of IECEx I have had a lot of fun and am looking forward to the coming year. The major reason for this very comfortable situation is the extremely strong support I have received from all my friends and colleagues in the IECEx family, and especially from the executive office in Sydney.

Thanks to all of them!

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