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Developments in the IECEx Service Facility Certification Scheme

Author : SGS Baseefa Technical Manager Ron Sinclair

01 July 2019

IECEx is best known for its worldwide Product Certification Scheme, with the benefits of providing a certificate which is viewable on the internet and directly acceptable in many countries, along with the transportability of its test reports, as a means of securing local certification, at minimum cost, where necessary.

Alongside this core activity, the IECEx system has set up other schemes to look after the integrity of those products, once they have been delivered to their operational location.

The IECEx Service Facility Certification Committee looks after the schemes which certify the capability of companies providing services to the owners of such equipment.  Initially, it certified companies providing repair and overhaul of equipment in accordance with IEC 60079-19, with currently nearly 300 certificates issued by the 19 certification bodies within the scheme.  This was recently extended to companies providing inspection services (IEC 60079-17) and, in future, will also encompass those companies providing installation design services, and physical installation services (IEC 60079-14).  Eventually, it is also planned to include those companies undertaking hazardous area classification (IEC 60079-10).

A major development under consideration is the extension of the Repair and Overhaul scheme to encompass non-electrical equipment.  It is true that IEC 60079-19 includes significant information on repair of the mechanical aspects of electrical equipment (such as metal spraying as a recovery process for shafts) and this can be applied directly to non-electrical equipment, but the standard does not formally include reference to non-electrical equipment manufactured to the ISO 80079-36 and -37 standards.  ExSFCC working group WG05 is to work in conjunction with the standards maintenance teams for IEC 60079-19 and ISO 80079-36 to prepare appropriate documentation.  This will formally result in the inclusion of the hazardous area code “Ex h” within the certification options for Service Facilities.

One of the difficulties is the non-prescriptive nature of most of the requirements in ISO 80079-36, with significant reliance being placed on the “Ignition Hazard Assessment”.  Without specific standard requirements, it becomes a challenge to “repair to standard” as allowed by IEC 60079-19, when the original certification information is not available.  It is unlikely that most repair workshops would be able to reconstruct the relevant Ignition Hazard Assessment, so any repair without certification documentation would have to rely on “good engineering practice”, and might miss some significant aspect of the explosion protection.

The accreditation standard ISO/IEC 17065 applies equally to certification of products and certification of services.  Although almost all IECEx product certification bodies have national accreditation (in the UK accreditation by UKAS) this does not apply to the same extent for service facilities certification. 

The ExSFCC is looking at the implications, and will be proposing requirements in relation to the witnessing of actual audits during the IECEx Management Committee that is due to meet in Dubai in September.

The Management Committee comprises representatives of all the national committees of countries that are members of the IECEx System and have an interest in the various certification schemes that go to make up the entire IECEx system.  The UK national committee is typical of others in the system, in that it has proper representation from the various certification bodies, and from a number of manufacturing interests, but always the users of Ex equipment are seriously under-represented.

This follows through to the representation on the ExSFCC, where there is virtually no representation from the user community, despite the fact that the user community is the direct recipient of the services that are being certified.

Since having access to independently validated service providers is a significant contribution to the containment of the costs of running a plant, it is strange that the users do not seem to want to take part in the development of the services.  The certification bodies, and the officers of the schemes, do their best to anticipate the needs of the user community, but it would improve the match between supply and demand if those consuming the certified services were to take a more major part in their development.

About the author

SGS Baseefa Technical 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 also chairman of Cenelec TC31, represents electrical standardisation interests on the European Commission’s ATEX Standing Committee and chairs the IECEx Service Facility Certification Committee.

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