RGS Electro-Pneumatics Ltd has been building Ex solenoid valves for almost 50 years at its factory in Lancashire, England. But as Jamie Dummer, the company’s Managing Director explains, Ex certification can be a blessing or a curse.
One of the great benefits to buyers and users of technical equipment in recent years has been the increasing use of standards, a common yardstick by which to judge the suitability for purpose of such products is a useful tool.
For hazardous area operation, the standards of design, manufacture and use of electrical apparatus are of paramount importance to ensure the safety and security of plant and employees.
Testing of Ex products is complex and time consuming than for safe area products, and thus costly, while the typical approval turn-around will be 12 months or more. From RGS’s viewpoint as a builder of solenoid valves for the process industries, certification presents a challenge.
Plainly, it would not be sustainable for the company to make product solely for its home market to the exclusion of other regions, yet for hazardous area operation, it is of course essential to carry appropriate certification for all the target markets.
Until recently the choice and prioritising of market and certification submission has been a difficult commercial balancing act, almost always resulting in incomplete international coverage.
At best, the complication simply builds in some additional cost and delay, at worst, it reduces customer choice and inhibits the development of new markets. Enter the IECEx. This is a multilateral certification scheme based on the International Electrotechnical Commission’s international standards.
It caters for differing countries whose national standards are either identical to, or close to IEC standards. In these cases, the IEC national committee in each country accredits the appropriate certification body to participate in the IECEx.
Once accepted the national bodies may test Ex product to IEC standards, with the certifications being transferable between countries at low cost and with little or no further product testing. While not all member countries have yet fully harmonized their standards, some national differences still exist.
These are generally catered for by the IECEx ATR, which covers the differences in an annexe. Where they are not covered, some local top-up testing may be needed. RGS sees that this truly global concept and practice will reduce trade barriers caused by different conformity assessment criteria in various countries, and will help the development of new markets.
RGS international customers are better served by the improved availability of certified Ex so-lenoids wherever they choose to build a new plant. Its distributors and agents can have greater confidence that RGS will be able to support them in emerging opportunities increasingly worldwide.