An insight into the Annual IECEx 2015 Systems Meetings

This year’s IECEx System Meetings took place in Christchurch, New Zealand, 14th – 18th September, 2015. The schedule consisted of two main meetings, the ExTAG (Ex Testing and Assessment Group), discussing all matters relating to IECEx Product Certification and the formal IECEx System Management Committee (ExMC). A summary of key topics focused upon during the annual 2015 series of meetings is detailed below.

ExTAG Meeting

The ExTAG Meeting is the annual assembly of representatives from all Ex product test laboratories (ExTL) and certification bodies (ExCB) operating within the IECEx system. The purpose of ExTAG is to ensure a consistent approach to testing and certification among participating bodies in addition to strengthening the network of technical knowledge across its members.

One item discussed during the meeting was the existing limitations of certification of assemblies, and the demand on industry to be able to acquire such certification. At the beginning of 2015 an ExTAG decision sheet was published by the IECEx, providing guidance on how ExTLs can assess assemblies and how ExCBs can certify them. After further consideration, a second issue of this decision sheet was prepared and its contents discussed at the ExTAG meeting. The new issue contains a number of changes that strengthens the requirements and puts a greater emphasis on the obligatory capabilities of the ExCBs and ExTLs in order to fulfil this type of certification. The IEC technical committee for explosive atmospheres, IEC TC 31, has recently formed a team to look into creating a standard for assemblies and will meet this October during the 79th IEC General Meeting, taking place in Minsk, Belarus. This ExTAG decision sheet is intended to be an interim measure until such time that a standard is published.

The IECEx has been running a proficiency testing program for its test laboratories over a number of years. The proficiency testing program delivers numerous outputs, with its main focus being on the development of greater consistency across all IECEx testing laboratories. The output of the program also includes: the running of workshops on best practices; the preparation of best practice papers and ExTAG decision sheets; and visiting laboratories to aide in the development of testing techniques. In 2014, the proficiency testing program was made mandatory for all ExTLs and 2015 saw the finalisation of the program rules.

One of the IECEx requirements for every certificate of conformity is that it contains reference to the manufacturer’s user instructions. The ExTAG identified that greater consistency is required on how this is achieved and agreed upon the following guideline. Although the full content of the user instructions do not require controlling in the same way that the certification documentation is controlled (this would be unmanageable due to the potentially frequent amendments that manufacturers may wish to make to them), users would instead be required to generate a document containing the mandatory content of their user instructions in relation to the requirements of the applied standards, this then becoming controlled within the certification.

The application of the optical radiation standard IEC 60079-28 was discussed with respect to LED light sources. The scope of the latest edition of this standard provides further clarification on what is excluded from its scope, the conclusion of which is that LED lit luminaires for use, other than EPL Gc or Dc, are to be considered. However, the number of requirements within the standard that are applicable to most LED lit luminaires is quite small, and members acknowledge this. There was a general consensus that more work was needed to clarify how the standard should be applied for such equipment, a draft decision sheet has been created and is under consideration.

IEC TS 60079-40 was published this year.  The document is a technical specification for process seals; it is not currently a standard although it may become a standard in the future. The IECEx ExTAG members indicated their desire for the use of this document for assessment, testing and certification purposes, but due to current system rules this is currently not possible; changes were proposed to permit its use.

ExMC Meeting

The ExMC Meeting is the formal IECEx Management Committee meeting which is attended by a delegation from each Member Body (country) participating in the IECEx system, the IECEx Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Executive Secretary, the Chairman of each scheme within the IECEx (i.e., Testing and Assessment Group (ExTAG), Personnel Certification Committee (ExPCC), Service Facility Scheme Committee (ExSFC) and the Conformity Mark Committee (ExMarkCo)) and the IEC General Secretary & CEO. The Committee has overall responsibility for the operation of the IECEx system.

Following recognition by the IEC that much can be learned from the best practices of the various Conformity Assessment systems that it operates (IECEx, IECEE, IECQ, IECRE), a greater focus has been made to align the systems. As a result, the basic rules of systems are in the process of harmonisation and various other areas are being looked at, such as the witness testing requirements.

The IECEx system continues to grow: The ExMC was informed of a number of countries that are in advanced talks to become member bodies of the scheme, noting in particular the pending application of Belgium to join IECEx. The committee was pleased to note acceptance of Israel as the 33rd member body to the IECEx system. Along with this acceptance, the laboratory ITL (Israel Testing Laboratories) was also accepted as an ExCB and ExTL of the system. To adapt to the expansion of the system, the existing rules have been reviewed by the committee. The existing rules stipulated that the applicant ExCBs could only be accepted into the scheme if they operated a recognised certification or approval scheme at a national level. When these rules were written and approved, what had not been considered was the scenario when an application is received from a country that does not have a national scheme and wishes to adopt IECEx as their national scheme.  The rules were amended to accommodate such a scenario.

The committee received a report from the chairman of IEC TC 31 on the current status of the new IEC/ ISO standards for non-electrical (IEC/ISO 80079-36; IEC/ISO 80079-37; IEC/ISO 80079-38). The final drafts of IEC/ISO 80079-36 and IEC/ISO 80079-37 were expected to be issued for public comment in October, with final publication antic in March 2016. IECEx is working to complete the operational documents relating specifically to these standards so that, soon after their issue, IECEx test laboratories and certification bodies can begin to assess, test and certify products to them.

Further work is on going at IEC TC 31 on the preparation of an international standard for internal combustion engines for use in explosive atmospheres. The ad-hoc working group is expected to be formed into a project team shortly, with the expected issue date of the new publication in the middle of 2018.

A presentation was delivered on the work being completed by the IEC in the preparation of standards for cyber security. The work is still in its infancy but the progress being made is rapid. The IECEx is looking into the impact that a cyber attack could have on various types of protection. Although it is thought to be minimal, careful consideration is being taken and a temporary group is being formed to investigate.

The IECEx accepted the offer from the South African National Committee to host next year’s meeting. This is planned to take place in September 2016, near Durban, South Africa. The IECEx also noted the confirmed invitations to host its annual meetings out to 2021, further demonstrating the growing level of interest in IECEx.