Navigating Explosive Environments: SIRIM QAS International Elevates Safety with IECEx Certification

TheEdge Fri, Nov 17, 2023 05:00pm - 5 months View Original

In an increasingly interconnected world, where industries span continents and technologies know no borders, ensuring the safety of individuals and assets is paramount. Nowhere is this more critical than in environments where explosive atmospheres pose a constant risk. The International Electrotechnical Commission System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, commonly known as IECEx, emerges as a beacon of global cooperation and safety in such challenging settings.

Enter SIRIM QAS International (SIRIM QAS), Malaysia’s premier conformity assessment body (CAB) and a leading testing, inspection, and certification (TIC) provider. SIRIM QAS has led the way with certifying matters related to IECEx. Kamal Sabran stands out as a distinguished figure, leading the charge as the Head of Product Certification and Inspection for IECEx at SIRIM QAS. His journey at SIRIM QAS, from a Certification Executive in 2001 to the Head of ECIS in 2021, is a testament to his dedication and expertise in the field.

Kamal Sabran, Head of Product Certification and Inspection for IECEx at SIRIM QAS, is responsible for all IECEx testing and certification carried out by SIRIM QAS.

The Crucial Role of IECEx Certification

IECEx certification plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and quality of equipment used in explosive atmospheres. Kamal noted that these environments are fraught with risks due to the presence of flammable gases, vapours, mists, or combustible dusts. IECEx certification ensures that equipment used in these hazardous settings, the personnel using them, and even the facility itself comply with rigorous international safety, design, and manufacturing standards, significantly reducing the risk of explosions and associated disasters preventing the loss of lives and millions in expense.

This certification also mitigates operational risks by ensuring the use of less prone-to-malfunction equipment. This will contribute to uninterrupted operations and maintenance efficiency. “IECEx certification helps companies in high-risk industries, such as oil and gas and mining, comply with IECEx standards and global safety regulations, preventing legal complications and fines. This certification even applies to industries such as furniture production due to the abundance of sawdust,” said Kamal.

The Genesis of SIRIM QAS’s IECEx Engagement

According to Kamal, SIRIM QAS’s engagement with IECEx certification was born out of a specific need within the oil and gas sector. “During this time, oil and gas players in Malaysia faced sky-high costs when it comes to maintaining or even replacing their Ex-motors. These motors are specially crafted to function safely within a piping system’s explosive environment in the oil and gas sector. In fact, it was common that the costs to repair or replace these motors reach upwards of RM1 million. So, it became evident to seek a more economical solution: the repair of Ex-motors under strict supervision. This need coincided with the inception of the IECEx scheme, leading to SIRIM’s entry into the world of IECEx certification.”

Following this, in collaboration with PETRONAS, SIRIM QAS embarked on a journey to explore and adopt the IECEx scheme. The result? SIRIM QAS now boasts a team of seasoned professionals well-versed in IECEx rules and standards, making the organisation well-equipped to offer exceptional services for IECEx-related assessments.

SIRIM QAS’s Commitment to Excellence

SIRIM has been working with international partners to effectively conduct its IECEx certification. Engaging two test labs, Karandikar Laboratories, which is located in India, as well as Japan’s technology Institution of Industrial Safety.

On top of this, Kamal stated that SIRIM QAS is taking its commitment to IECEx certification to the next level by establishing its own IECEx testing laboratory. This facility will feature specialised sections equipped with cutting-edge testing instruments, aligning with the IEC 60079 series standards. This is the standard of reference on how to keep environments safe and how to ensure it stays that way. This would also apply to SIRIM QAS’s own testing engineers. They too, must possess a high level of expertise, as prescribed by the IEC 60079 standards.

Under normal circumstances, the construction of an IECEx testing laboratory would generally take about five years to complete. However, for SIRIM QAS’s, the duration would be quicker, around three years. “We consulted with testing engineers who are familiar with the process, and after conducting a thorough gap analysis, we concluded that SIRIM QAS actually already has 70 percent of the equipment necessary for the laboratory. The rest we will work towards acquiring or manufacturing them ourselves,” said Kamal.

Having this lab in Malaysia offers numerous benefits for SIRIM QAS itself and its clients. This would reduce and eventually eliminate the need for overseas testing and would yield quicker test results. This in turn, would also make it more economical for all parties involved. Overall, this initiative would help to cement SIRIM QAS’s reputation as a trusted TIC body for IECEx in the Southeast Asia region.

Kamal Sabran, Head of Product Certification and Inspection for IECEx at SIRIM QAS, demonstrating how an inspection is carried out at a site or location that is at risk of explosives.

Building Trust and Reputation

IECEx certification is not just about preventing disasters; it also builds a positive image for companies operating in high-risk industries. It signifies responsibility, quality, and environmental concern, garnering trust and respect in the marketplace. It acts as a badge of honour, highlighting a company’s commitment to safe and thoughtful practices in dangerous environments.

Kamal also stated that “the IECEx assures potential investors and clients alike that their plant and facilities are operating safely with minimum risk of explosions as they adhere to the strictly prescribed rules and regulations of the safety standard, IEC 60079.”

Comprehensive Package

To successfully complete the IECEx certification, candidates are required to undergo training from IECEx recognised training providers (RTPs). SIRIM QAS, as the certification provider for IECEx, doesn’t offer training directly. This is done to maintain transparency and avoid any conflicts of interest. Instead, SIRIM QAS’s sister company, SITIM STS, provides the required training.

“Our sister company, SIRIM STS, offers a comprehensive package for prospective candidates whereby they are issued a single invoice that covers the training provided by them and the certification process conducted by us at SIRIM QAS. This not only saves candidates time but also reduces their expenses,” explained Kamal.

Proactive Strategies for Staying Informed

SIRIM QAS remains at the forefront of IECEx certification by proactively staying informed of the latest developments and trends. This involves continuous training for its team members, engagement with international Ex-testing and certification bodies, and active participation in technical committees related to explosive atmospheres standards. SIRIM QAS’s proactive engagement with industry developments and standardisation activities influences the evolution of standards and advances safety and quality in high-risk industries.

IECEx Certification: An ESG Commitment

In the world of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) commitments, IECEx certification aligns perfectly. It reduces environmental risks, prioritises worker safety and community welfare, and ensures governance, compliance, transparency, and accountability. IECEx embodies responsibility across ESG pillars, demonstrating a commitment to a safer, sustainable, and ethical operational approach.

In conclusion, Kamal Sabran's leadership and SIRIM QAS International's dedication to IECEx certification exemplify their commitment to ensuring safety, quality, and responsibility in industries operating in explosive atmospheres. Their proactive approach to staying informed and contributing to industry advancements positions them as key players in advancing safety and sustainability. With SIRIM QAS International’s IECEx certification as a cornerstone, certified organisations can work with confidence knowing that their endeavours contribute to a safer working environment in explosive atmospheres.

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