Targeting safety, growing popularity

IECEx prevalence in the Ex industry sector

Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors.

Mine drilling machine
Ex equipment as well as repair and overhaul are at the core of IECEx testing and certification...

Mitigating risks

The risk of fire or explosion exists in a variety of other sectors, such as transportation – including aerospace – furniture manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and repair, pharmaceuticals, food processing, grain handling and storage, sugar refineries and coal mining. They all utilize flammable substances in quantities that may result in concentrations that are potentially explosive, whether that is during normal operation or due to abnormal situations arising.

Zero risk may not be conceivable but there are measures that can be taken to mitigate hazards and make sure that those working in Ex environments do so in the safest possible way. These include installing and operating equipment that incorporates an explosion-protection technique as part of its design and manufacturing. It is also necessary to hire staff that has the required training, skills and competences to work in hazardous areas. 

IEC, through IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, has the mechanisms in place to help industry, authorities and regulators ensure that equipment (electrical and non-electrical) as well as the people working in Ex locations benefit from the highest level or safety. 

IECEx at a glance

The Conformity Assessment System operates the following industry-specific Schemes: 

  • IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme
  • IECEx Certified Service Facilities Scheme
  • IECEx Scheme for Certification of Personnel Competence 

In addition, the IECEx Conformity Mark Licencing System operates in association with the IECEx Certified Equipment Scheme. 

High demand for certification of non-electrical equipment

Following the publication in 2016 of five ISO and ISO/IEC International Standards developed by IEC Subcommittee (SC) 31M: Non-electrical equipment and protective systems for explosive atmospheres, the demand for certification in compliance with ISO 80079-36, Explosive atmospheres - Part 36: Non-electrical equipment for explosive atmospheres - Basic method and requirements, and ISO 80079-37, Explosive atmospheres - Part 37: Non-electrical equipment for explosive atmospheres - Non electrical type of protection constructional safety "c", control of ignition source "b", liquid immersion "k", has kept growing steadily. 

The service meets the need for industry to ensure that not only the electric motor is tested and certified but also the mechanical devices it is connected to. Non-electrical equipment may include dosing pumps, cabinet coolers, sensing devices, couplings, pumps, gearboxes, brakes, hydraulic and pneumatic motors and any combination of devices that are part of machinery, fans, engines, compressors, assemblies, etc. 

Training for personnel certification

To meet Ex industry needs and ensure that all safety aspects have been covered, IECEx set up the IECEx CoPC Scheme in early 2010, providing companies working in the Ex field with independent proof that a person has the required competence to implement the International Ex Standards and to work on, or repair, equipment located in hazardous areas. The CoPC complements the other IECEx Schemes to ensure that equipment and people working in the Ex field operate in the safest possible conditions. 

To assist applicants in their preparation for the CoPC, IECEx launched the IECEx Recognized Training Provider (RTP) programme for organizations that have specific programmes in support of IEC International Standards and the IECEx System. These RTPs provide candidates with knowledge and understanding of the terminology and protection concepts for electrical equipment used in explosive atmospheres, based on the IEC 60079 series of International Standards prepared by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres. They cover theoretical and practical assessments and assist candidates in selecting and preparing for the relevant units of competence. 

There are currently 20 RTPs, in Australia, Asia and Europe and North America, listed on the IECEx website; several others may join them in the coming months. It is worth noting that one of the oil majors, PETRONAS of Malaysia, has successfully achieved IECEx RTP status for its own internal training facility. 

Spring and summer events in 2018

Since 2012, when the first IECEx international conference took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, all subsequent events organized by IECEx – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2014, Gdańsk, Poland, in 2015 and Shanghai, China, in 2017 – have been extremely successful. So much so that IECEx decided to have not just one but two events in 2018: in Split, Croatia in April and in Jakarta, Indonesia, in August. This shows the growing importance of the IECEx System throughout the world. 

Split, 23 April 2018

As was the case with previous IECEx events, the Split conference was jointly organized with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the national standards body (NSB), i.e. the Croatian Standards Institute (HZN). Held back-to-back with a series of IEC TC 31 meetings, it was a golden opportunity to benefit from the experience and expertise of leading experts in the Ex field. 

A total of 120 participants were present, mainly from Croatia and also from neighbouring European countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. 

It is worth noting that while most of the participating countries are not large manufacturers of Ex equipment, they all expressed a great interest in the three schemes operated by IECEx as well as in the RTP programme. They even called for a two-day follow-up meeting that would allow a more in-depth approach to the topics that were discussed in Split. 

Jakarta, 8-9 August 2018

The two-day IECEx International Conference will take place in early August (after publication of this article) in Jakarta, again in conjunction with UNECE and Badan Standardisasi Nasional (BSN), the Indonesian NSB. 

The major focus will be on the competence of people working in hazardous areas and on the certification of service providers. The event will also discuss the correct understanding and application of the relevant TC 31 Standards. As in Split, high-level experts will make presentations, share their expertise and knowledge and answer questions from the audience. 

Attendance at IECEx conferences is free of charge to ensure that as many people as possible can participate. All presentations given at these events can be downloaded from the IECEx website under “Meetings and Events”. 

UN endorsement

IECEx maintains endorsement by the United Nations via the UNECE as THE certification system for the assessment of conformity in Ex areas. Since the UNECE Common Regulatory Framework for Equipment Used in Environments with an Explosive Atmosphere was issued in 2011, several regulators have been aligning with the Common Regulatory Objectives listed in the publication; for instance, the US Coast Guard uses IECEx for equipment on foreign-flagged ships within their jurisdiction. 

IECEx operates the only global online certificate system dedicated to the Ex sector, allowing instant verification of claims of compliance of certificates issued by more than 80 IECEx Certification Bodies. 

New website

At first sight, nothing seems to have changed on the IECEx website: same look, same navigation and main topics greeting visitors on the homepage. Regular visitors will have notice subtle changes in the design and colours, and a more modern feel when navigating the site. The major improvements include a more robust IT platform and a higher degree of security on the site. And last but not least, the site is fully responsive, meaning that its pages automatically resize to look good on any device – a must today. 

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