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Planning can be fun!

Author : Jim Munro, Chairman, IEC Committee TC31 - Equipment for Explosive Atmospheres

07 September 2012

As I write this article my wife and I are finalising our plans to make a 13-day walking tour around Mont Blanc in August 2012, starting in France, passing through Italy and Switzerland, and returning to France to complete the circuit.  We will be joined by our daughter and two friends with whom we often walk.  It has proved quite good fun deciding which of the possible routes to take, where we should stay, arranging the accommodation, working out what to take and so on.  

Jim on the Mont Blanc circular walk
Jim on the Mont Blanc circular walk

Yet when I start talking about the TC 31 Strategic Business Plan in the TC 31 plenary meetings, eyes seem to glaze over and the general opinion seems to be ‘let’s just leave it for the Chairman and Secretary’.  Undeterred, I intend to talk a bit here about the TC 31 planning process and the strategies we use to try to work as effectively as possible.  Perhaps TC 31 planning can be fun too.

Why plan?  If I take the walking analogy, without enough planning to know what route to take or where to stay (our goal each day), we could lose our way and end up somewhere wrong, or have to walk longer distances to get to our accommodation.  We could even find members of our group heading in different directions.  The same is true of planning for our standards development process.  We need to set goals and develop strategies so we are clear where we are heading and how we intend to get there.  The time our officers and experts apply to our work is precious, we want to be sure their time is spent productively.  We also want to be sure that the users of our standards will end up with something that serves their purposes as well as possible.

The document we follow in TC 31 is our Strategic Business Plan (SBP).  The current approved plan can be found on the IEC website ( in the TC 31 Dashboard.  However, we are now in the process of revising that plan.  

Perhaps it would be helpful at this point to provide a bit of background about our TC 31 meetings.  At present we hold one plenary meeting of TC 31 a year, generally around October or November.  This meeting is open to all P-Members and O-Members of TC 31.  Our next meeting will be on 4 and 5 October this year in Oslo, Norway.  This is the formal business meeting of TC 31 where decisions relevant to the work of TC 31 are taken.  I will talk more about the Oslo meeting in a later article after it is completed.  In addition the above meeting we hold a Chairman’s Advisory Group (CAG) meeting about mid-way between the plenary meetings.  The last CAG meeting took place on 26 and 27 April this year in Northbrook, Illinois, USA.  At this meeting we have the various officers of TC 31; chairmen, secretaries, convenors and project leaders attending.  Generally decisions are not taken at this meeting but it provides a valuable source of strategic thinking with so many key people in our work attending.  In addition to the above meetings we have the meetings of the various sub-committees, working groups, maintenance teams and project teams, often in conjunction with the plenary and CAG meetings.

Our CAG meeting this year presented an opportunity to revise our SBP to make it relevant to our latest activities and directions.  The draft prepared from this was circulated in early August (as document 31/1006/DC) to the TC 31 national committees for information and comment so it can be finalised in the TC 31 meeting in October and submitted to the IEC Standardization Management Board for approval.  So I thought that I would take the opportunity here to talk bit about our proposed goals.  If you would like to make comment, please feel free to do that through your national committee.  Any input is most welcome.
The following then are our proposed goals for the next SBP (four are new and one is continued over from the previous plan and ongoing):

Objective 1 (new) - Provide clearer information on the significance of changes that occur when a standard is revised.

One way clearer information is being provided on changes to standards is through making use of the IEC facility for ‘Redline Standards’.  This works similarly to the ‘track changes’ option of Word so all changes in a document can be seen.  Most recently this has been done for the 6th editions of IEC 60079-0 and 60079-11.

However, TC 31 has been seeking a method to more clearly indicate the significance of changes to standards.  A way forward has now been agreed, making use of a table to be included in the forward of standards identifying the relevant clauses where changes have occurred and clarifying their significance.  The draft SBP covers this approach and the proposed way forward, including the use of interpretation sheets (I-SHs) where needed to highlight changes between existing published standards and previous editions.

Objective 2 (new) - Jointly with UNECE and IECEx market the UNECE CROs incorporating adoption of TC 31 standards

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has just issued a publication called “Common Regulatory Framework for Equipment Used in Environments with an Explosive Atmosphere”.  It provides Common Regulatory Objectives (CROs) that can be used by countries as a basis for new or revised regulations in the field.  The standards referenced in the publication are those from TC 31.  The use of these together with the application of the IECEx System is being recognised by the UN as ‘best practice’.  

This objective looks at having TC 31 work in conjunction with UNECE and IECEx to target regions where it would be appropriate to hold seminars/conferences and to foster relations with a view to improved adoption of TC 31 standards and the use of the CROs.  

Objective 3 (new) - Publish first dual logo non-electrical standards covering equipment requirements

This objective reflects the ongoing work of subcommittee SC 31M and good progress have already been achieved.  It covers the following dual logo standards which are under development:
* ISO 80079-36: Explosive atmospheres – Part 36 Non-electrical equipment for use in explosive atmospheres – Basic method and requirements
* ISO 80079-37: Explosive atmospheres – Part 37 Non-electrical equipment for use in explosive atmospheres – Non electrical type of protection constructional safety “ch”, control of ignition source “bh”, liquid immersion “kh”
* ISO/IEC 80079-38: Explosive atmospheres – Part 38 Equipment and components in explosive atmospheres in underground mines
Committee Drafts for Voting (CDVs) were issued for all three documents in June 2102. This means the technical requirements for these standards are effectively finalised.

Objective 4 (new) - Publish first IEC/IEEE standards for electrical resistance trace heating

This objective addresses the development of the new joint IEC/IEEE standards above.  This is an exciting new area of cooperation that should see wider adoption of common requirements which will include the USA.  Work has progressed well through a number of maintenance team meetings and a second round of committee drafts (CDs) were issued in June 2012 for comment.

Objective 5 (continued) - To continually improve the effectiveness and relevance of TC 31, and its subcommittees, project teams, maintenance teams and working groups 

This objective includes three key strategies of:
• Ensuring the TC Good Working Practice document provides the key to consistent and effective practices within TC 31.  This document is revised about once a year and can be found in the TC 31 Dashboard.
• Ensuring that there is a schedule of meetings published and maintained to assist TC 31 officers and convenors in planning for meetings.  This resided on the IECEx website but is also accessible from the TC 31 Dashboard.
• Maintaining close contact with IECEx to ensure TC 31 standards remain relevant for the IECEx System. This includes, for example, my attendance at IECEx meetings and IECEx update reports at TC 31 meetings. 

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