DENES BOLZA: I understand that you’re visiting Australia courtesy of Fluke but wearing your standards cap.
LARRY ECCLESTON: Yes, I’m a member of several safety technical committees. One is the European IEC TC66 technical safety committee for test and measurement equipment, which is the reason I am in Sydney. Another is the US technical committee USTAG66 in support of the US ANSI/ISA-SP82.02.01 standard for general safety requirements for test and measurement equipment.
What work have you been doing here?
I’ve been invited as US delegate, by Standards Australia, to attend TC66, with regard to the creation and maintenance of IEC61010-1. This is a general safety standard for test and measurement equipment related to educational use, process control, and laboratory and centrifuge equipment.
How often does TC66 meet?
The committee generally has two meetings a year, depending on the need for changes. Some 25 countries are participating, not all at once but as their needs arise. Australia has direct impact into the international standard. That’s a powerful opportunity.
What stage are you at? How long is the process?
The committee has been involved in this effort for 10 to 15 years. We’re now at the stage of introducing the third edition to IEC61010-1, which will be coming out in one to two years.
Are there any major issues you’re grappling with?
No, only minor changes.
In practice, I guess, not everyone puts safety first.
The biggest issue with safety is that it’s not the primary focus of the user. But it goes a step farther - it’s not the primary focus of many manufacturers either, especially with regard to some product coming out of China. So the question is: how can manufacturers and users have a sensitivity for safety and recognise that it’s important - because the after-effects of an accident can be disastrous. If the manufacturer and user can understand that standards exist that are relevant and important to the manufacturer, and if the user can be made to understand by the marketers of the product that there are standards that the product should comply to, then he can be selective in making a safer choice when buying equipment. Once you create awareness and show a relationship to declining incident rates, then you have a lot of power to show that there is a real need - because it does improve safety.
Is cost still an impediment?
Unfortunately it is. If you give up safety for cost, it’s not a healthy approach.
How have attitudes changed in Australia?
Perhaps less so because Australia is new to adopting the standard. Queensland adopted the standard in 2002, before the Australian standard came out. New South Wales is looking at adopting the standard for the code of electrical work this year. Probably the forerunner on safety has been Victoria, which is probably why it sees less of a need to adopt the standard because they’re already at the forefront anyway.
What’s the status overseas?
In Europe, the standard has been adopted for many years, under the CE mark. It’s a full requirement there. The US and Canada have adopted a “harmonised” standard that matches the European standard, which has been in existence for quite a while.
Is Australia gradually catching up?
We think so. I’ve seen figures from the Office of Fair Trading in New South Wales, which reports that during 2004 there were 10 fatal electrical accidents and 165 non-fatal electrical accidents reported. These figures are similar to 2002, when 10 deaths and 175 non-fatal electrical accidents were recorded.
At what stage is IEC61010-1 right now?
It’s in a maintenance phase, such as cleaning up clauses.
What’s next on the agenda?
Risk assessment, which ties into quality systems.
Do you think that manufacturers are crying that it’s all too much?
It may be in some ways. In other ways you get into a dilemma of having to decide what is too much and what isn’t enough. Risk assessment requires that the manufacturer identifies the amount of risk. If his equipment has a very high risk of hazard, it doesn’t mean that he can’t manufacture. However, he has to notify the user that there’s a risk associated with the product and what to do to minimise that risk. The user may choose not to act on this but at least he has been informed.
What is the principal concern of IEC61010?
IEC61010 is principally concerned with the effects of transients from lightning, the worst-case scenario. The reasoning behind IEC61010 is that the lightning transient will be dampened as it travels through cabling and various devices of a building. The standard acknowledges that transients can come from the load itself, not just from lightning or utility activity. It states that equipment only belongs in a particular category “if it does not cause overvoltages increasing the level specified for that category”. In other words, if a normally Cat III piece of equipment generates transients that are at a Cat IV level, the equipment (and the electrical environment) become Cat IV.
Can you explain the meanings of the various categories?
Cat I would include equipment such as a photocopier, with a step-up transformer. It could have high voltages but will not have high energy. An example in Cat II would be receptacle outlet loads. The line side of the power supply in electronic equipment would be Cat II, while the electronic circuitry itself would be Cat I. An example of Cat III is a “permanently installed” (i.e. not cord and outlet connected) motor. Three-phase distribution is Cat III. Examples in Cat IV include (low voltage) outdoor lines and any run between meters and panels.
What’s the golden AS61010 rule?
Select your category first. Then select the voltage level - being a choice of 150 V, 300 V, 600 V or 1000 V. You can move up or down cat numbers but you will need to change the voltage level with it. For example Cat III, 600 V is the same as Cat IV, 300 V or Cat II, 1000 V.
What about older meters?
Good meters made before the IEC1010 standard would have been made against the IEC348 standard.
Can you transfer an IEC348 meter into IEC1010?
No, you can’t as the requirements for an IEC1010 meter are significantly higher. It’s like a 486 computer, which is not the same as a Pentium computer. The standards are too different.