gas plant

Complying to the Applicable Scheme

The requirements for hazardous areas compliance changes around the world.  Make sure you know the requirements for your local jurisdiction.

Author: Brad Guy 

In a three-part series, Brad Guy writes about the issues related to hazardous areas compliance.  In Part 1, we focus on the importance of complying with the applicable scheme.

In the summer of 1988, the Piper Alpha platform disaster in the North Sea had killed 167 people and left several more injured and traumatised.

It is still one of the worst offshore oil disasters the world has ever seen.

Following the catastrophic incident, the major oil and gas industry stakeholders came together to discuss the outcomes and recommendations from Lord Cullen’s Public Inquiry into the disaster.

The Inquiry detailed the various reasons for the initial explosion and ongoing fire. This initial consultation assisted in introducing the world’s first core competency scheme for people working in the oil, gas and chemical industries in both electrical and mechanical disciplines.

Regulation was put in place to help protect the health and safety of workers along with assets and plants.

Stakeholders from the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association (EEMUA), Shell, BP, and British Gas were included in the discussions. JT Limited were also included in discussions due to their previous experience in vocational assessment and training.

The first CompEx Centre was established in 1994 at Aberdeen College in Scotland by JT Limited, allowing them to deliver competency-based training and assessment in oil, gas and chemical workplaces to cover equipment manufactured under the ATEX directive.

In the early 1980s and 90s, the existing certification organisations encountered numerous difficulties to provide any consistency. This was due to the differing standards and regulations between countries and sometimes even between different regions in the same country.

All through Europe, certification organisations were not offering consistent and efficient services to hazardous areas. They did not respond to the challenges of international export or the needs of governments wanting a guarantee that imported equipment had been tested and proved safe when installed in certain flammable environments.

By the early 1990s, industries involved in hazardous areas requested the IEC provide a forum to discuss the creation of an international system that would provide manufacturers with a single structure. Here, testing and assessment would only need to be conducted once and would be accepted by all members of the scheme.

In 1996, the IECEx was established and supported by certification bodies in the UK, France, Canada and Germany.

In 2002, the European Union (EU) decided to create the ATEX directive 94/9/EC, also known as ATEX 95, to allow the free movement of goods throughout the EU by harmonising the technical and legal requirements for products that would be used in potentially explosive atmospheres. In other words, ATEX 95 was concerned with equipment.

Directive 99/92/EC, or ATEX 137, was also created to ensure a minimum level of protection from potentially explosive atmospheres existed, covering the protection of employees’ health and safety.

ATEX 137 places the duty of care on the employer, who must show that explosion risks have been determined and assessed with hazardous areas ensuring:

  • Hazardous areas are classified into zones;
  • Appropriate management systems are in place and include:
    • training of workers; and
    • control of work.

Workplaces and work equipment (including warning devices) should be designed, operated, and maintained with safety in mind.

Each country in the EU uses regulations as the base requirement for the directive.  For example, in the UK, the requirements under this directive (ATEX 137) are implemented in the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR).

JT Limited run the CompEx Scheme, a global competency scheme, used by the major oil, gas and chemical industries in a systematic approach to protect both their workers and ensure capital assets remain compliant and safe in a high-risk industry.

The ATEX directive is mandatory throughout the EU and is accepted in New Zealand but not in Australia, limiting international opportunities.

Australia has its own certification scheme (ANZEx) that is said to be identical to the IECEx scheme, both which are accepted schemes in Australia and New Zealand. This means Australia accepts equipment certified under either scheme.

Note: Some countries that have no scheme may choose any accepted scheme, which includes the ANZEx scheme.

Consequently, Australian personnel working in the hazardous area industry are limited to working on Australian projects in alignment with the competencies required for the projects. For example, a prerequisite for installation of electrical equipment for hazardous areas (EEHA) on an Australian installation is the Australian Electrical Licence.

Most Australian personnel deemed competent in the field of hazardous areas will have competencies under the ANZEx Electrotechnical package competencies.

Some Australian expats have managed to achieve competencies under CompEx that cover the ATEX directive and IECEx, or have obtained personal competencies (CoPc’s) through the IECEx scheme allowing them to install and maintain electrical systems installed in hazardous areas outside the shores of Australia.

The scheme that preceded ANZEx scheme in Australia was the AUSEx scheme. AUSEx was phased out on 31 December 2003 when the ANZEx scheme was introduced to align with the IECEx.

The AUSEx scheme allowed for equipment to be tested to manufacturing standards when they successfully passed all tests and conditions. Test reports were sent to the certification body where a Certificate of Conformity would have been issued for the equipment.

The AUSEx Certificate was valid for a 10-year period with no further testing required during that time. After 10 years, a letter of extension may be issued by the certification body if the equipment still complied with current standards.

The expiration period for AUSEx certificates was in relation to manufacture only, which meant if AUSEx equipment is still installed, it may remain in service (if it is given regular maintenance and passes inspection). The equipment can be changed out for identical equipment (like for like), if the replacement item was purchased prior to the expiration of the certificate.

If identical equipment is not available then the replacement will be considered as a new installation.

The AUSEx scheme was replaced with the ANZEx scheme on 1 January 2004, a type 5 scheme that requires initial testing and ongoing assessment to ensure the equipment remains aligned with current standards.

Any equipment not certified to an acceptable scheme will need to go through a conformity assessment to ensure compliance with present standards.

Justification is required to have a conformity assessment conducted, where the responsibility lies with the owner of the installation, meaning suitable equipment is not readily available even with IECEx or ANZEx certification.

A conformity assessment may have a:

  • Negative result where the equipment cannot be installed in a hazardous area for an Australian installation.
  • Positive result (unconditional) where the equipment may be installed in a hazardous area for an Australian installation.
  • Conditional result where the equipment may be accepted but with certain conditions imposed, or a possible requirement for further testing.

The table below shows the equipment automatically accepted in Australia and New Zealand:

Complying to the Applicable Scheme - Table

A conformity assessment should be avoided where possible by ensuring all equipment fitted within the installation has either IECEx or ANZEx (and in some cases AUSEx) certification.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss the importance of the correct issue of certificate.

You can read some of our other hazardous areas compliance articles here.