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Unanimity in Split

Author : Ron Sinclair MBE - Chair BSI EXL/31; Chair Cenelec TC31; Chair ExTAG; MD Baseefa

08 December 2011

While the UK was still waiting for the Indian summer to arrive, nearly 150 delegates from all around the world enjoyed fine early September weather in Croatia. Our hosts, the Ex Agency, arranged a magnificent venue just outside Split, where we could take our tea and coffee breaks on a terrace looking out onto the Adriatic.

IECEx Mark
IECEx Mark

As usual, the IECEx “week” consisted of a number of different meetings. On Monday, the ExTAG Training Day looked at progress with the new IECEx Unit Verification Certificate, as well as the development of the IECEx Competence Certification Scheme. Member certification bodies (ExCBs) shared their experiences.

Later that afternoon, all the IECEx assessors who were present in Split met to share issues related to the assessment of ExCBs and ExTLs, and to discuss harmonisation of assessment procedures.

Tuesday was the formal session of ExTAG, the Test and Assessment Group of IECEx, where the ExCBs and ExTLs meet to take forward technical discussions relevant to the schemes. I have chaired this group for three years and was gratified to have my work recognised by my peers in being nominated to fulfil the role for a further three years.  

A major point for discussion was the continued absence of a small number of bodies from the meeting. The concern is that ExCBs and ExTLs that don’t attend may miss critical points of discussion and end up providing a poor service to their customers, as well as possibly bringing the whole scheme into disrepute. (This is a common issue with ATEX Notified Bodies in Europe, where a number regularly fail to participate in the relevant forums.) The management committee has been asked to look at possible sanctions. Perhaps manufacturers should ask their certification providers about their attendance records …. ?

Of major importance for the future, ExTAG has begun the development of the Operational Document defining the procedure for certification of Ex s equipment. It is possible that IEC 60079-33 will be published in the middle of 2012, and the IECEx Scheme needs to know how it will handle the process of multiple verification.  

PTB from Germany is supervising a testing proficiency programme for both Ex d (pressure determination) and Ex i (spark test ignition). Interim results were presented and showed an encouraging convergence. Once the project is completed, there may be recommendations on techniques to ensure an even closer convergence of the results.

Wednesday saw a different group of people receiving presentations related to the UNECE adoption of the IECEx System as a recommended regulatory framework.  The move towards adoption in many places is encouraging (particularly in Brazil), but legal issues remain in Europe and North America. However, the speakers from the European Commission and MSHA in the USA both indicated a willingness to take things forward,  albeit in a longer timeframe than many of us would want.

Thursday and Friday were the days for ExMC, the formal Management Committee of the IECEx System. There had been growing concern over the misuse of the IECEx logo and a draft guidance document was approved. Hopefully this will be on the IECEx web site by the time you are reading this. It was confirmed that under no circumstances should the logo appear on an item of equipment. The proper mark for equipment is the IECEx Mark and this is subject to strict licencing from the individual ExCBs (see illustrations).

The Working Group responsible for piloting the Personnel Competence Certification Scheme was converted to a committee within the IECEx System, reflecting the growing importance of this service. Exponential growth is foreseen, mirroring the growth which happened with Equipment Certification, where it is anticipated over 9,000 documents will be on the web site by the end of this year.

The committee noted that international standards for non-electrical equipment should become available in 2013 or 2014, and the executive committee was asked to start making preparations for their introduction to the certification process. This should be an interesting time, as the initial action with non-electrical equipment is to undertake the ignition risk assessment. As this is similar to the approach being taken with Ex s for electrical equipment, it may be necessary to rationalise different regimes for a similar process.

There is still a gulf in approach between different countries in the attitude to supervised but unwitnessed testing as an input to IECEx Certification. However, some of the differences identified in previous years have been resolved, and it was agreed that a questionnaire would be circulated to national committees to establish if it is worthwhile looking at a path forward. I need to emphasise that, even if not witnessed, such tests would be done under the supervision and authority of the relevant ExCB, normally through a process of rigorous agreement of testing protocols verified by regular auditing.

After the sea and sun of Split, we look forward next year to accepting the invitation of QPS to Calgary in Canada, where the surroundings could be equally interesting but inevitably colder.

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