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Competence of personnel in the oil & gas industry - an international first

Author : Bob Cooper, director of Sira Certification Service

29 November 2010

In July 2010, IECEx, (a conformity assessment scheme providing confidence that equipment, services and personnel covered by an IECEx Certificate meet specified requirements) launched the IECEx Certification of Personnel Competence Scheme (CoPC) - the world’s first international scheme for the certification of personnel associated with equipment, installations and servicing used by Ex industries.

This scheme provides companies with independent proof that a person holding an IECEx Certificate of Personnel Competence has the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the International Ex Standards. It is a personal and transportable certification that can evolve with a candidates’ job function.
The scheme is timely, and will meet the major demand for a global competence standard demanded by Oil and Gas industries and also coal mining sectors. It satisfies the need for personnel certification by providing a single system for the certification of persons working in potentially explosive atmospheres.
What is IECEx?
IECEx is the single International Scheme covering certification to standards that relate to equipment, services and personnel operating in potentially explosive atmospheres (commonly referred to as ‘Ex’ or ‘HAZLOC’ areas). It provides an internationally accepted means of demonstrating compliance with international standards.
Equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres around the globe can be certified to IEC standards using the IECEx scheme. The introduction of the CoPC Scheme introduces, for the first time, an internationally-accepted scheme to certify “competence” of personnel working in potentially explosive atmospheres.
Why is competence important?
The need for ‘competent’ persons is well documented in industry legislation, codes of practice and international standards. DSEAR (Dangerous Substances & Explosive Atmospheres Regulations), for instance, states in section 7, para 4:
“Before a workplace containing places classified as hazardous is used for the first time, the employer shall ensure that its overall explosion safety is verified by a person who is competent in the field of explosion protection as a result of his experience or any professional training or both.”
The international standard for bodies operating certification of persons (ISO/IEC 17024) makes specific reference to the subject when defining personnel competence. Competence is defined as “Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and/or skills and, where relevant, demonstrated personal attributes....” (ISO/IEC 17024: 2003, Para 3.6).
Before the introduction of the CoPC Scheme, several other personnel certification schemes existed in the marketplace. However, none of these schemes achieve the international acceptance afforded by the IECEx CoPC Scheme.
The progress of the scheme
The concept of an internationally-accepted personnel certification scheme was raised during IECEx 2005 annual meeting and later acted upon at the IECEx Working Group WG12 (a group which contained 18 industry experts from 10 countries, charged to develop the Scheme). It has been under development since 2007 and, with the launch of the scheme in July 2010, it provides:
 A single set of rules and procedures
 A single set of competence outcomes that align with IEC Standards, e.g. installation, maintenance, inspection, repair
There has been considerable demand for the IECEx CoPC scheme in the oil and gas industry, with oil giants Total and Petronas, amongst others indicating that once sufficient operatives have achieved certification, the scheme will form part of their mandatory requirements for staff and contractors accessing their sites around the world.
The Application
To obtain an IECEx Certificate of Personnel Competence, a candidate prepares an application and submits it to an approved IECEx certification body.
The application must include a completed application form. An experience log which contains evidence of relevant education, training and work experience must also be sent, along with the required application fee.
The experience log must be submitted in accordance with the requirements of IECEx Operational Document ‘IECEx OD 502’.
Following successful assessment of the application, the person will undergo knowledge tests before receiving an IECEx certificate. Regular re-assessment ensures that the certified person maintains their competencies.
Knowledge ‘Units’ have been established to test a person’s level of competence when working in Ex industries. The first Unit (Ex 001: “Apply basic principles of protection in explosive atmospheres”) is a pre-requisite for most of the other units and should be the first unit that applicants undertake. The table below shows the 10 units that can be applied for. Candidates can therefore ‘tailor’ the scheme in order that their competence qualification mirrors their job function.

The 10 units making up the Competence Scheme
Ex001 apply basic principles
Ex002 area classification
Ex003 installation
EX004 maintenance
EX005 overhaul/repair
Ex006 test electrical installations
Ex007 visual & close inspection
Ex008 detailed inspection
Ex009 design electrical installations
Ex010 perform audit inspection
As the scheme gathers interest from the major players in the oil and gas industry, it is only a matter of time before industry embraces the scheme as the preferred option for personnel certification.
Sira, will be running training workshops during HazardEx 2011. The training covers the knowledge requirements delegates need to undertake Unit 001 assessment (Apply basic principles of protection in explosive atmospheres) for the IECEx Certification of Personnel Competence scheme (CoPC).
The training, worth over £600, is being offered free of charge to HazardEx delegates who register for the workshops before the event. See the back of this issue for more information on how to register.

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