electrical equipment sort by issue
Year in, year out, the list of incidents happening in hazardous areas doesn’t seem to be diminishing. The oil and gas sector has had its share of fires and explosions, obviously, that have been widely reported both in the general media and in specialized trade publications. But it’s not alone. Mining is another sector where risks are high for a number of reasons, including leaks of poisonous gases, dust explosions, collapsing of mine stopes, flooding, or improper use/malfunction of mining equipment, e.g. safety lamps or electrical equipment. Not to mention sugar refineries and food processing plants, and any industry that operates, even partially, in potentially explosive atmospheres.
Explosions in a wide range of industrial or other installations can be caused by the wrong or faulty equipment, and/or by poor operating procedures or mistakes. Risks can be significantly reduced if equipment and systems that meet IEC Standards developed by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 31: Equipment for explosive environments, are used.
This article was first published in HazardEx on 20 April 2017 - subheadings and "About IECEx" section were inserted editorially by IEC
The one subject guaranteed to get everyone hot under the collar is the subject of the marking of Ex Equipment. There is not much disagreement about the need to identify the equipment type, its operational parameters and its manufacturer, but everyone seems to have an opinion on how the hazardous area code should be expressed. The discussions at the recent IEC TC 31: Equipment for explosive atmospheres, standards meetings in Sydney, Australia, were no exception, and we will return to this later. But first, we need an historical perspective.
Some industry sectors are automatically associated with explosive (Ex) atmospheres – oil and gas, petrochemical plants, mining and in particular coal mining. Many others won’t necessarily come to mind although the risk of fire and explosion exists and needs to be heeded. Food processing, sugar refineries, grain handling and storage, printing, paper and textile industries, sawmills, woodworking areas or waste treatment operations are all potential hazardous areas. Not to mention gas stations or aircraft refuelling and hangars.
Given today’s low-cost or free crystal-clear voice calls and the real-time transfer between continents of vast volumes of data, including multimedia content, it’s easy to forget that just 150 years ago it took nearly two weeks for news from London to reach New York. The laying of the first fully working transatlantic telegraph cable from Ireland to Newfoundland cut that time to a few hours. IEC first President Lord Kelvin played a key role in the success of the project.
Poor water quality and water scarcity continue to pose a major threat to human health and are responsible for millions of deaths every year. Extracting water and treating used and contaminated waters requires complex installations which depend almost entirely on electrical and electronic systems and equipment. Standardization work by many IEC Technical Committees (TCs) and Subcommittees (SCs) is essential to ensure that people across the world have access to appropriate water supply and water treatment.
Explosive (Ex) atmospheres – also termed hazardous areas/locations – which can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts, are by no means restricted to the oil, gas and petrochemical industry sectors. The risk of fire or explosion exists in a variety of other sectors, such as transportation – including aerospace – furniture manufacturing, automotive manufacturing and repair, pharmaceuticals, food processing, grain handling and storage, sugar refineries and coal mining. They all utilize flammable substances in quantities that may result in concentrations that are potentially explosive, whether that is during normal operation or due to abnormal situations arising.
Miners had learnt the hard way that their jobs were fraught with risks – fire damp, methane accumulation or suspended coal dust – when electric power was introduced. All it took to ignite methane for instance was a spark emitted by a lighting fixture or a motor. And the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry in the 20th century and the numerous accidents and explosions that occurred in oil drilling operations and refineries raised awareness of the dangers facing those working in this sector.
The safety of nuclear power plants (NPPs) and ensuring installations are safe to operate over their entire lifetime is of global concern to people, the industry and regulators. International standardization organizations cooperate to develop the best possible International Standards to achieve this. The IEC and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have harmonized in a single double logo International Standard qualification practices formerly given in two distinct publications.
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