Certification schemes and conformity assessment: What you need to know
Author: Brad Guy
In Part 1 of this three-part series, we focused on the importance of complying to the applicable scheme. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the importance of the correct issue of certificate.
Industry standards are developed by standards committees such as EL-014 in the case of Hazardous Areas, where they account for the conditions and risks that are prevalent in hazardous areas.
There was a need for a national certification scheme and so an approvals-type scheme was created in the early 1960s. What became known as the P-003 scheme was concerned with the certification of explosion protected electrical equipment and operated under the direction of Standards Australia.
The P-003 committee authorised the issue of Certificates of Compliance or “Statements of Opinion” to ensure all equipment installed within a hazardous area had incorporated suitable protection into its design. They also advised regulatory authorities and industry in relation to the application of Australian Standards of electrical equipment for use in hazardous areas.
The committee comprised of members of electrical and mining regulatory authorities, who met every two months to deliberate on applications by using provided samples or test reports occasionally, to arrive at a decision on equipment suitability.
During the early ‘90s, the AUSEx scheme was created under the rules outlined in the Standards Australia Miscellaneous Publication MP69 and was an ISO system 1 scheme (type test).
AUSEx Certificates of Conformity (CoC) were issued by the AUSEx scheme after equipment was successfully tested by a certified testing laboratory (e.g. Simtars, ITACS, Test Safe) to the current standards at the time of manufacture.
The Certificates allowed certain equipment to be installed within a particular hazardous area like a zone, gas group, or temperature class.
When an AUSEx CoC expired after 10 years, a sample of the equipment from the manufacturer was then sent back to one of the certified testing laboratories. If the equipment was still being manufactured within requirements of the current standards (or only had minor differences), the manufacturer could ask for a letter of extension.
If AUSEx certified equipment was purchased with certification (prior to expiry), it could be installed within a hazardous area and remain there until such time when it required to be replaced due to damage or simply became unsuitable. Older plants may still have AUSEx equipment installed within the hazardous area, which is suitable, as the expiry is only in relation to the manufacture of the equipment.
This meant the equipment that had been purchased within certification and stored as a spare may expire prior to being installed. However, with the expiry date in relation to manufacture, equipment manufactured within certification can replace an identical piece of equipment. AUSEx equipment can only be exchanged on a “like for like” basis. Any replacement that cannot be considered like for like needs to be treated as a “New” installation and have ANZEx or IECEx certified equipment installed.
Australia participates in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IECEx) Scheme to align with international practices for conformity assessment. AS/NZS also aligned with the relevant IEC Standards in the field of Hazardous Areas, which led to the formation of the ANZEx scheme.
The ANZEx scheme replaced the AUSEx scheme on 1 January 2004 and is controlled under MP87. It is an ISO type 5 System Scheme that involves three basic elements:
- Type Test
- Quality Assurance
- Ongoing Surveillance of Manufacturers
A requirement of Ex Certification is to show an assessment of the manufacturer’s Product Quality Plan, this way the Scheme can identify the manufacturer.
The ANZEx scheme and AS/NZS standards align closely with the international system (IECEx scheme and IEC standards), another accepted form of certification in Australia and New Zealand where both countries have testing laboratories accepted by the IECEx. The information found on an ANZEx CoC conforms with the requirements of an IECEx CoC.
The ANZEx scheme has three testing laboratories and certification bodies – SIMTARS, Test Safe and TUV (previously ITACS).
Conformity Assessment is the evidence that specific requirements relating to a product, process, system are satisfied.
Equipment certified under alternative schemes or other standards may be able to be used in situations where suitable equipment with acceptable certification is not practically obtainable.
Justification for the use of this equipment needs to be made by the user, manufacturer or third party, along with the installation and marking requirements.
The justification is provided via a “Conformity Assessment Document”, which determines whether the equipment without certification has an equivalent level of safety with current acceptable standards for an Australian installation.
All information and justification for a conformity assessment will need to be recorded in the verification dossier.
In Part 3, we’ll finish the series by explaining the reading of a Certificate.
You can read some of our other hazardous areas compliance articles here.