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IECEx: a view from the chair (6)

12 May 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, a review of the 2015 IECEx annual regional conference at Gdansk in Poland. 

Gdansk - Shutterstock
Gdansk - Shutterstock

On April 23 and 24, our 2015 IECEx annual regional conference took place at Gdansk in Poland. After Dubai in 2013 and Kuala Lumpur in 2014, the selection of this city helped us focus on the Eastern European and Scandinavian regions.

About 150 people registered altogether, most of them from Poland, but many also from Russia, Norway, Finland, Germany, the UK and other European countries. One of the participants even came from Malaysia!

In the keynote speech, Professor Kazimierz Lebecki of the Higher School of Labour Protection Management in Katowice spoke about explosion protection as an important and integral part of the whole safety concept in the process and petrochemical industries.

One of his most important messages was that even though explosion protection can be considered a mature discipline, it is always necessary to keep abreast of new technological developments to ensure it remains relevant. As an example, he cited developments in nanotechnology, which have created new challenges in the field of dust explosion protection.

To meet these new challenges, he proposed the establishment of a European research organisation and an international textbook containing the latest knowledge on explosion protection. IECEx, with its focus on personal competence and its international network of Test Laboratories, could contribute materially to these efforts.

Dr. Michal Górny, head of the Ex department at Polish testing authority GIG-KD BARBARA, gave a comprehensive overview of the history and current situation of explosion protection in Poland. As a member of the EU, Poland has to follow the ATEX directive, but the benefits of IECEx membership are strongly appreciated. Poland has been an active IECEx member since 2006, he said, and was happy to host this international conference.

Górny explained the well-established local network of industrial, research and governmental institutions which cover all aspects of explosion protection in Poland, with excellent contacts with the international Ex community. As a special future challenge for IECEx, he highlighted the field of mechanical explosion protection. When the new standard series IEC 80079 – XX becomes available, IECEx has to offer adequate procedures and services to meet the needs of this special field.

Many of the conference presentations and discussions were about competence. Peter Thurnherr from Switzerland, owner and MD of Thuba Ltd. and convenor of IEC 60079-14, gave a comprehensive overview of the most important aspects of electrical installations in Hazardous Areas. Based on his long experience, he illustrated how basic lack of competence among installers, engineers and operators could easily destroy the complete safety concept of a plant, placing the lives and health of staff at serious risk.

Ralph Wigg from Australia, Chairman of the IECEx PCC Scheme, was able to demonstrate in his presentation that IECEx had appropriate solutions to manage these challenges. Operational Document OD 504 covers Ex competence, and is setting the standard for the competence required for activities carried out in Hazardous areas. The more than 800 IECEx Certificates of Competence issued show the growing international acceptance of our third party assessment.

And with the new program of Recognized Training Providers (RTPP) launched this Spring, IECEx will also cover the educational aspects of competence.

Competence is also playing an important role for service providers. Thaison Vu, Ex certificate manager at Karsten Moholt, a Norwegian company specialising in repair, maintenance and inspection services for the offshore industry, explained that his company had been a certified repair facility from the very beginning of the IECEx Scheme for service providers, but had extended its IECEx involvement. Due to the demands of its main customers, the company decided to apply for Certificates of Personal Competence for its service staff.

Especially in service businesses, the IECEx certificates help to establish trust between the different parties involved in a project. This was also the message of Árpád Veress, MD of the Hungarian service company Veproil Ltd., who is active in hazardous areas training and consultancy work in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The whole program of the conference and the presentations can be downloaded from the IECEx homepage:

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