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There are various organisations in Australia and New Zealand concerned with the safety of electrical installations in hazardous areas. These include the electrical, coal mining and workplace regulatory authorities within each state, and the insurance industry. A common theme in legislative requirements administered by these authorities is the use of contemporary safety management, which requires fit for purpose equipment, competent personnel and appropriate procedures, all within a controlled work environment and supported by a systematic approach. It also requires risk controls to be implemented and effective. If the risks are high, then a high degree of confidence in the application of risk controls is required. This high degree of confidence can be attained through some form of independent assessment at critical points in the life cycle of equipment and of industrial installations.
Where there is a potential for explosive atmospheres to occur, the consequence of an explosion can be very serious, with multiple fatalities and significant damage to plant, and loss of production and public confidence. In the vast majority of industrial and mining facilities, a major source of energy is electricity. Where there is a potential for explosive atmospheres to occur in such installations, a key risk control to prevent an explosion from an electrical source of ignition is the use of explosion-protected (Ex) electrical equipment.
It has been accepted that, because of its high-risk nature, a high degree of confidence in the Ex properties of electrical equipment must be maintained throughout the life cycle. As there is significant potential to compromise Ex properties of electrical equipment at the overhaul, repair or modification phase of the life-cycle, a high degree of confidence in those activities needs to be established.
The NSW Coal Mining Legislation requires workshops that repair and overhaul Ex electrical equipment to be licensed. They have also stated that they intend to transition from licensing such workshops to requiring those workshops to be certified pursuant to the ANZEx Scheme, in particular the Recognised Service Facilities Program (refer MP87. 2).
The aim of the Recognized Service Facilities Program is to provide a consistent framework from which Ex service facilities (workshops) can be recognized as having the facilities, management systems, work processes and competencies necessary to overhaul, repair or modify Ex equipment and which, in turn, gives a high degree of confidence that overhauled and / or repaired equipment is returned to the end-user in an Ex condition.
End-users are encouraged to use service facilities recognized under this Program to overhaul, repair or modify their Ex electrical equipment. Service Facilities that overhaul, repair or modify Ex electrical equipment (Ex service facilities) are encouraged to gain recognition and maintain it. Manufacturers of Ex equipment are also encouraged to gain recognition, as the requirements for manufacture may be quite different from those required for overhaul and repair. However, it is recognized that repair of non-conforming newly manufactured equipment may be part of the manufacturing process. Suppliers of Ex electrical equipment are encouraged either to gain recognition themselves or have agreements with Recognized Service Facilities so that the equipment they supply can be overhauled and repaired with a high degree of confidence.
The Recognized Service Facilities Program provides the means for facilities that overhaul, repair or modify Ex equipment to demonstrate they have the premises, tools, equipment, management systems, work practices and competencies necessary to restore Ex electrical equipment to a condition that complies with any approval or certificate of conformity (CoC) and to demonstrate compliance with the relevant Ex product Standard, AS/NZS 3800, IEC 60079_19 and AS/NZS 2290.1, where applicable. The Recognized Service Facilities Program permits the use of the Recognition Identifier on overhauled, repaired or modified Ex product and associated reports and thus provides distinctive evidence to confirm a Recognized Service Facility’s capabilities and that overhaul, repair or modification was undertaken under the Recognized Service Facility’s Quality Management System Requirements.
The Australian coal mining industry recognized the importance of overhaul and repair of Ex equipment and developed a specific Standard, AS 2290.2, for the overhaul and repair of explosion-protected equipment for coal mines (Group I) in 1979. To support this Standard the NSW coal mining regulator implemented a program of ‘approved Ex Service Facilities’ in the late 1970s/early 1980s, where facilities that overhauled and repaired Ex electrical equipment for NSW coal mines had to possess suitable facilities (including premises and tools), and competencies necessary to conduct the overhaul and repair work in accordance with AS 2290.2. This program included the Competent Persons program where individuals had their knowledge of the repair, overhaul and modification of Ex equipment assessed by oral and/or written examinations. During the mid to late 1980s the NSW coal mining regulator reviewed the requirements for Ex service facilities approval and introduced requirements for the implementation of certified Quality Management Systems.
Throughout the 1990s, AS 2290.2 evolved into AS/NZS 3800 and encompassed both Group I and Group II industries. At the same time non-regulatory bodies such as NATA and SAI Global began providing accreditation/certification services for facilities that overhauled and repaired Ex electrical equipment. National Competency Standards were also established for hazardous area electrical equipment. With this entire framework in place, coal mining regulators have recognized the need to fully embrace the equipment certification and Ex Service Facilities recognition capabilities available. It is now recognized that the infrastructure is in place and is mature enough to consolidate the recognition of Ex Service Facilities that repair, overhaul or modify hazardous area equipment. It is due to this set of circumstances that the Management Committee, P-008, has endorsed the inclusion of Ex Service Facilities and their recognition within its scope of activities. As a result end-users can have a high degree of confidence in the Ex properties of hazardous area equipment that they purchase, or have overhauled, repaired or modified where the Ex Product Certification Program and Ex Recognised Service Facilities Program are used. It is also recognized that the IEC Ex Scheme has been expanded to encompass Ex Service Facilities. As such it is envisaged that, as the ANZEx Recognised Service Facilities Program and the IECEx Scheme evolve, there will be close alignment between the two.
The rules applicable to each program can be accessed through the menu system.