Ex certification in South Africa

August 2nd, 2013, Published in Uncategorised articles

by Paul Meanwell, president, South African Flameproof Association (SAFA)

For the foreseeable future, all explosion protected (Ex) equipment used in South Africa, whether manufactured locally or imported, will need IA certificates before it can be put into use legally. These certificates may only be issued by a South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited test laboratory, or by a laboratory granted temporary permission to issue certificates by the regulator – either the Department of Labour or the Department of Mineral Resouces.

Both regulators reference SANS 10108, the classification of hazardous locations and the selection of equipment for use in such locations. This document is sold together with SANS ARP 0108, owned by the regulator and containing the regulatory requirements.

The two documents together give the requirements for all Ex equipment used in South Africa and, in turn, reference the IEC 60079 series of standards.

How does this benefit South Africa? IEC experts are spread across 30 countries, ensuring well-constructed standards. This means less time spent writing standards locally with our limited resources. As an observer member of TC31, we are able to give input to the IEC standards and to attend meetings when required.

So, with the standards and regulations in place, how do we ensure that products comply? Back to the IA certificate, but should we need one? Is it necessary? It serves as a certificate of assurance to the user that the equipment has been tested and/or assessed by an accredited laboratory and found to conform to the standard(s). It also spells out the rules for the use of the product, considering the environment, location, gas group or dust it was designed for, and specific operating requirements imposed by the designer or the test authority for its safe use.

Clearly, there is a requirement for such a certificate. But what of imported equipment?

The majority of imported Ex equipment is also designed and manufactured to the same standards. It is fully tested and certified, usually by a test laboratory in the country of origin. Why, then, would we need a South African IA certificate?

The IECEx System is a global initiative aimed at setting the standard for product conformity and testing to IEC standards. Test laboratories apply to the IECEx for accreditation of their facilities. Strict rules are applied to meet the accreditation criteria, and peer assessments and re-assessments take place to ensure that the laboratories comply. International certificates are issued for products tested and assessed by accredited laboratories, and stored online where any user of the equipment can check for a valid certificate at any time.

South African manufacturers can now have product tested by IECEx accredited laboratories, and market their products globally, often with no further certification requirements. Regulators in many countries are increasingly accepting imported Ex product with IECEx certificates, with no further certification requirements. In terms of removing barriers to trade, minimising time to market and keeping costs down, this is definitely the way to go.

I feel that it is time for our regulators to make a much more detailed study of how the IECEx System works internationally, and get on board and up to speed with the international Ex community.

(The comments and opinion of the author are not necessarily those of the South African Flameproof Association.)

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