Worldwide certification scheme for explosion-protected electrical equipment

The International Electrotechnical Commission has launched the IECEx multilateral certification plan.

Peter Bremer
SP Swedish National Testing and Research Institute

The International Electrotechnical Commission has launched the IECEx multilateral certification plan. Based on IEC standards, the plan will reduce the need for retesting and recertification for different markets, benefiting Ex-equipment manufacturers, purchasers, and users. This impacts a range of industries with potentially explosive atmospheres due to flammable gases, vapors, mists, or combustible dusts, including rigs, processing plants, and gas pipelines.

Sweden is one country participating in the management committee of the scheme, with the SP Swedish National Testing and Research Institute as an IECEx certification body.

The IECEx Scheme will facilitate international trade in electrical Ex-equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres by:

  • Reducing testing and certification costs to the manufacturer
  • Reducing time to market
  • Increasing international confidence in the manufacturer's quality systems
  • Increasing international confidence in the product assessment process.

The objective is worldwide acceptance of the IEC standard, IECEx certificate, and one mark for Ex-equipment, eliminating the need for multiple national certifications yet preserving an appropriate level of safety.

The plan provides a route for attaining an IECEx Certificate of Conformity based on an IECEx Test Report and an IECEx Quality Assessment Report.

Any certification body accepted into the plan will be able to issue certificates of conformity or endorsed IECEx test reports. The certificate will attest that the equipment design conforms to the relevant IEC standards and that the product is manufactured under a quality plan assessed and surveyed by a qualified IECEx certification body. An endorsed test report will attest that the equipment design conforms to the relevant IEC standards.

Certification bodies and testing laboratories must reside in a participating country to be accepted into the IECEx Scheme. They will be accepted following satisfactory assessment of their competence, based on ISO/IEC guides 65 and 17025 and IECEx technical guidance documents.

Agreements between regional and international standards bodies, such as that between Cenelec, which is the European committee for electrotechnical standardization, and IEC to coordinate their work with parallel procedures, will help converge the standards. Cenelec standards for Ex-equipment are increasing based on IEC standards, and similar trends exist in other regions.

The European standardization body CEN is also developing a number of standards for equipment other than electrical equipment to support the European ATEX Directive 96/9/EC, which covers both electrical and non-electrical equipment for hazardous areas.

This work includes standards for non-electrical equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres.

The need for corresponding international standards might result in development of such ISO standards. Any need for corresponding internationally recognized conformity assessment procedures for such equipment should not be too difficult to meet, based on the established IECEx Scheme.

For more information, contact Peter Bremer, SP. Tel: +46 33 16 54 05; fax: +46 33 12 50 38; peter.bremer@sp.se, www.sp.se.

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