IEC certifies competency of personnel working in hazardous areas
This not only provides a clear competitive advantage to people who work in this field, but for the very first time, gives companies a tool to ensure that workers, including contractors, have the competency to work and apply the important Safety Standards associated with explosive environments. This need was repeatedly expressed by the oil and gas industry, one of the Ex industry sectors set to benefit from this new type of certification.
Safety in hazardous areas is non-negotiable. When equipment is not installed, maintained, inspected or repaired according to strict Ex standards by competent persons, the outcome can be devastating. What may be tolerable in non-explosive atmospheres can directly lead to explosions that not only destroy property but can cost human lives or cause severe injuries. Intuitively, one assumes that danger lurks only in obvious industries, such as chemical, mining, oil and gas. This assumption is wrong. Industries with some of the highest explosive risks include sugar refineries, grain handling and storage silos, as well as wood and metal saw mills among others.
While certification programmes for personnel already exist in a number of industries, in particular in the service sectors, – including healthcare for example – international certification of personnel competency is a first for the Ex (explosive) related industries.
To obtain an IECEx Certificate of Personnel Competency, the candidate will have to undergo a series of knowledge tests and an assessment of qualifications and experience. The IECEx Certification of Personnel Competencies Scheme uses several criteria to establish a person’s level of competence when working in Ex industries. The person under assessment must be able to demonstrate competence to perform tasks, as defined in the scope of their IECEx Certificate, such as:
Regular re-assessment ensures that the certified person maintains these competencies. The certificate is personal and non-transmittable, and valid across international borders. It can be obtained through an approved IECEx Certification Body.
The world’s first IECEx Certificate of Personnel Competency was issued by SIRA Certification in the United Kingdom. SIRA has been recognized as an approved IECEx Personnel Competency Certification Body (ExCB) in July 2010. To date, one other ExCB, Baseefa, has been approved to issue certificates under the IECEx Certification of Personnel Competencies Scheme. Both SIRA and Baseefa are world leaders in conformity assessment solutions, specializing in the safety of equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres. In the coming months, several more ExCBs are expected to be recognized as approved IECEx Personnel Competency Certification Bodies.
The IEC is the world's leading organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology". IEC International Standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, solar energy, nanotechnology and marine energy to mention just a few. Wherever you find electricity and electronics, you find the IEC supporting safety and performance, the environment, electrical energy efficiency and renewable energies. The IEC also administers three global Conformity Assessment Systems, IECEE, IECEx and IECQ for testing certification and approval of equipment, systems and components to its International Standards.
IECEx (the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres) covers certification of electrical and electronic products and systems in the highly specialized field of explosion protection, as well as certification of personnel competencies (maintenance and repair). This includes all areas where inflammable gases, liquids, and combustible dusts may be present, i.e., the oil and gas industry, mining, refuelling stations for cars, trucks and planes, printing and paint industry, grain storage and handling, sugar refineries, and so forth.
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