The main standards for hazardous area equipment globally are ATEX, IECEx and North American NEC 500/505. For ATEX and IECEx, covering most of the world, the IEC 60079 series of standards are typically used for the approval of equipment installed in hazardous areas. Most national or regional domains derive their own standards from the IECEx standards and issue a version, often identical, as their own national or regional standard. The most frequently used electrical equipment protection standards are:
- 60079-0 General requirements
- 60079-1 Explosion proof enclosures
- 60079-7 Increased safety
- 60079 -11 Intrinsic safety
- 60079 -15 Non sparking, hermetic sealing and restricted breathing
- 60079-18 Encapsulation
This article defines the most common regional standards for installing wireless equipment inside a hazardous area and how compliance to these standards is managed.
ATEX is used mostly within the European Union, but many other countries in the Middle East or Asia Pacific region will also accept them.
UKCA is the new mark for product compliance for the UK and also covers the Ex standards. From 2023 all products placed on to the UK market must be approved to this standard. In the meantime, ATEX approved products are permitted.
IECEx is generally considered a more global standard, but most countries will not accept this standard outright. IECEx is predominantly used for the basis of obtaining the local regional standards. Although countries such as Australia and Singapore accept these standards without requiring a national version, this also includes all offshore installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
NEC 500 North America
In the USA, all electrical equipment must be approved and certified by a Nationally Recognised Testing Laboratory (NRTL) accredited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In Canada, all electrical equipment must be approved by a certification body accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). As with ATEX and IECEx, the certification must be displayed on the equipment and a certificate or declaration of compliance alone is not sufficient proof of compliance. In the USA, The National Electrical Code or NEC, specifically NEC500 or NEC505 stipulates the requirements for the use and installation of electrical equipment in hazardous areas. Workplace safety laws regulate all equipment and ensures that it must be approved/ certified by a NRTL accredited by OSHA.
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Who Governs the Hazardous Area Standards?
In Europe the ATEX directives ensure that every ATEX certificate must be recognised by a notified body.
IEC standards are also already fully accepted in national standards in some other countries as well. This means one IECEx certificate is currently sufficient for the international sale of explosion-protected equipment in the regions of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Israel. No further national certificate is required. In Europe, only an additional ATEX label and the resulting ATEX certificate is required. In the USA and other regions, the IEC standards are applied with some differences.
The IEC’s standardisation work is organised across 150 Technical Committees (TC) and Subcommittees (SC) with various areas of focus. They are tasked with controlling and creating international standards.
The IEC TC 31 (TC 31) is one such TC, which controls the standards associated with equipment for explosive atmospheres. The IEC TC 31 is tasked with establishing and updating the IEC standard series IEC 60079 (electrical explosion protection) and IEC 80079 (non-electrical explosion protection).
In addition to the ATEX directives, the IEC standards set out the rules all manufacturers of electrical equipment destined for use in hazardous areas must follow.
The TC 31 exists to ensure a uniform set of standards and technical requirements are applicable worldwide in the field of explosion protection. This is intended to reduce the effort spent on certification so the same products can be used globally.
How Is Compliance to These Standards Managed?
Certifying the equipment is not the only cost you must consider for your business. There are also the ongoing costs associated with quality assurance. All Ex-product manufacturers must get their Quality Management Systems certified to fully comply. In the case of NRTL approval the manufacturing facility must be certified as well. ATEX requires an Ex manufacturer to complete a Quality Assurance Notification or QAN as it is more commonly known.
The CSA Group define the QAN as follows;
The Quality Assurance Notification is therefore involved with the continued monitoring of systems and processes in relation to those Ex products. It involves periodic audit of the manufacturing process by a qualified auditor. For ATEX certification, this is called a Quality Assurance Notification (QAN)
Source: CSA Group website
For IECEx it is called a Quality Assessment Report (QAR) and for North American Certification they have a requirement for auditing the actual factory where the equipment is manufactured.
In addition, a Certificate of Conformity (CoC) is required. The IECEx CoC comprises of two elements. The first element is the assessment of product samples against relevant standards. The second element requires an assessment of the manufacturer’s quality systems based on parts of ISO 9001:2008 and ISO/IEC 80079-34:2011.
It is also worth noting that certification aims to verify a compliant design, it is not intended to be the initial determination of compliance. Therefore, redesign or re-engineering is almost always required for products that were never originally intended for hazardous area use, further adding to the time and cost before certification can be assessed.
The certification process can cost upward of $50,000 to get approvals covering ATEX, IECEx and North American certification and require significant changes to your existing quality processes. As a business you are subject to a yearly audit at an additional cost to maintain your certification. For North American certified products, audits are required four times a year at a much higher cost to the business.
For more information or to see how Extronics can help you with your hazardous area wireless connectivity, please contact a member of our team on +44 (0)1606 738 446 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.