Areas where there is a risk of explosion that could cause injury to people or damage to the environment are subject in most countries to legal or comparable regulations. As a certification scheme, IECEx creates a global framework for the independent testing and certification of devices and services in the explosion protection sector.
General information about international legal basis and standards
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is responsible for global standards in the electrotechnology sector. IEC publications equate to recommendations according to which nearly all standards are oriented. Until a few years ago, requirements for areas subject to gas explosion were specified in the standard series 60079. Since many requirements are the same for both sectors, both series of standards have been summarized under the series IEC 60079. For some standards, this step has already been taken; others will follow.
However, national regulations can deviate from these standards. This is why it is necessary to test to what extent the IEC standards can be applied in the individual countries.
Explosion protection for devices
The various methods of guaranteeing ignition protection for devices are called ignition protection types. These are described in the various parts of IEC series 60079. These are construction regulations that are recognized in many countries.
The physical-chemical principles for the occurrence of explosions are like technical and organizational processes and measures that can be used the same around the world for prevention, despite slight differences.
Therefore the suggestion was made to subject the approval conditions for electrical devices to a worldwide regulation and thus to enable free global trade in goods thanks to country and region-neutral certificates. As a result, the IEC has set up a process whose goal is precisely this unification: The IEC-Ex schema.
Around the world, there were previously 54 recognized IECEx certification bodies (ExCB = Certification Body) and approximately IECEx test laboratories (ExTLs), which are accredited according to high uniform standards and monitored regularly. For IECEx it applies that a certificate is only granted if both the type tests on test samples are passed and proof of the presence of an effective quality management system has been proven with an audit. Currently, however, there are still some regional and national approval processes such as the ATEX directive in the area of the European Union and national approvals in the USA (UL, FM).
After the IECEx scheme was established for the testing and certification of new products, another important area of explosion protection was covered with a suitable certification scheme: the maintenance and repair of explosion-protected devices. This certification procedure was given the name “IECEx Certified Service Facilities Program.” Depending on the maintenance and repair work, during an audit experienced assessors determine whether the required personal expertise with respect to the function of the product in question and the ignition protection types used has been achieved, whether the correct testing facilities are sufficiently available, whether identification and traceability measures are specified and implemented as subcontractors are trained and monitored.
The standards “IEC 60079-19: Equipment repair, overhaul and reclamation,” the “Operational Document OD 013: IECEx Operations Manual – Assessment and Certification of Ex Repair and Overhaul Service Facilities,” and “OD 014: IECEx Operational Document: Quality System Requirements for IECEx Service Facilities involved in repair, overhaul and Modification of Ex Equipment” specify the basis for this assessment.
The third component of the IECEx scheme aims in a similar direction; here the concern is the certification of the personal expertise of specialized professionals who are active in areas subject to explosion. Similarly, this should provide worldwide operators with the security that the personnel used has the necessary qualification and experience in order to be able to perform the various, sometimes very complex work in areas subject to explosion.