Engineers Journal Article - Ex Apparatus Maintenance Obligations

17 January, 2014

Ex-apparatus Certification – why should it matter to you?

IECEx Certification provides independent auditing to ensure instruments are calibrated, personnel are competently trained and jobs are properly documented. It also protects companies from claims of ‘wilful neglect’ in the event of an incident, writes Derry Sheehan, managing director at Avonmore Electrical Ltd.

Explosive (Ex) areas in facilities can be known by different names such as ‘hazardous locations’, ‘hazardous areas’, ‘explosive atmospheres’ and relate to areas where flammable liquids, vapours, gases or combustible dusts are likely to occur in quantities sufficient to cause a fire or explosion. The increase in workplace safety has meant an increased need for Ex equipment. Such equipment is termed ‘Ex apparatus’.

Industry today is all about risk management – and investment in the maintenance of Ex apparatus will result in dramatic risk reduction. Ex equipment is used in diverse areas, but is typically found in:

  • Pharmaceutical plants;
  • Oil refineries, rigs and processing plants;
  • Chemical plants;
  • Surface coating industries;
  • Wastewater/effluent treatment plants;
  • Gas storage and handling;
  • Grain storage and handling;
  • Powder plants;
  • Fuel depots/service stations.

There is a huge vacuum of knowledge about Ex motors in general industry. If an item of equipment has an Ex nameplate, then it is assumed to be fit for purpose… but this is not necessarily so. ATEX directives state that documented maintenance by competent personnel must be available. (ATEX derives its name from the French title of the 94/9/EC directive: Appareils destinés à être utilisés en ATmosphères EXplosibles.)

End users can spend many tens of thousands of euro on equipment for use in their hazardous areas. Such equipment is more expensive to purchase than safe-area equipment and can involve expensive and complex control systems. But, what happens when the Ex equipment suffers failure? Can you be sure that your repairer knows fully what he can or cannot do to your machine? Do you possess a detailed history of maintenance and repair for your Ex equipment? And are you confident that your repaired equipment is not increasing your risk of explosion?

In terms of insurance and responsibilities, the user is obliged to keep maintenance records and to have competent people operating the plant. If an incident occurs at a facility that results in the insurance companies becoming involved, then the percentage liability will be increased back on the company if it is subsequently found to have demonstrated a ‘dereliction of duty’ – or, worse still, to be ‘wilfully neglecting’ its responsibilities. Having trained personnel and good maintenance records protects the company from such occurrences.

AVOID SUB-STANDARD REPAIRS

The only way to ensure that a company’s equipment is being repaired or overhauled to the highest possible standard is to utilise the services of an International Electrotechnical Commission Explosive (IECEx) service facility. The scheme has been developed by the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) to eliminate the growing concern within the industry that Ex equipment across the globe is not being repaired to a high enough standard. As a result of sub-standard repairs being carried out, people’s lives and businesses are placed at risk – unnecessarily.

The IECEx Certification Scheme is a global system. The objective of the IECEx Scheme is to facilitate international trade in equipment and services for use in explosive atmospheres, while maintaining the required level of safety and to achieve one single international database listing, crossing all borders. IECEx applies to new equipment, repair facilities and individuals.

This IECEx Scheme is an international certification scheme that covers the assessment and the on-site audit of organisations that provide services such as repair and overhaul service to the Ex industry.

It is different to other schemes that exist. The IECEx Scheme assesses the facility itself, the procedures and systems in place and the competence of the staff. Ongoing compliance is maintained by means of regular audits of the facility by the IECEx Certification Body (e.g. BASEEFA, the British Approval Service for Electrical Equipment in Flammable Atmospheres). Other schemes available only refer to the individual who has attended the course, and so the equally critical part of the process (the facility and the systems) is left unchecked.

IECEx is a very transparent scheme, which means that nothing is left to chance and all aspects of the repair process are audited in great detail. This gives users the confidence and reassurance that their Ex equipment is being repaired to a very high standard. Therefore, the risk for the user is greatly reduced because the equipment is being returned to original certificate condition, which will reduce the likelihood of there being an incident with that piece of equipment.

Avonmore Electrical has been involved in Ex repair for nearly 30 years and has recently been accredited by the British Approval Service for Electrical Equipment in Flammable Atmospheres as an IECEx-certified facility. It is currently the only such facility in Ireland. The company is hosting free half-day seminars, entitled ‘Introduction to Ex Motors’, twice a month on Fridays throughout 2014. Topics covered include:

  • Motor nameplates – how to identify an ex motor’;
  • Personnel competency – what determines If I am competent to work on Ex motors?’; 
  • User obligations – what inspections must be completed, how often and the records to be completed on these inspections’.

Workshop demonstrations of Ex procedures are also included. To reserve your place, please call (022) 47477, (01) 257 5000 or 086 8181406.

Derry Sheehan is the managing director of Avonmore Electrical Ltd. He first trained in Ex motor overhaul in 1991 and is currently the ‘deputy responsible person’ for the process involved in the overhaul repair and reclamation of explosion-protected equipment.

 

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