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Hazardous Area Ex Personnel Competencies - All Described In IEC Standards

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hes aug 18 11Hazardous Area Ex Personnel Competencies - All Described In IEC Standards

Hazardous area industries require competent people being active in all levels. Competency has to be shown both on theoretical and practical level. Competency is not just one-time exercise, it has to be refreshed in every 5 years to comply latest industry regulations and trends. Hazardous area competency (HAC) shall be the basis for both electrical and non-electrical explosion protection. HAC is an add on to one’s basic knowledge of being electrician or mechanical fitter (Read More)

(further education).

Company shall highlight the definition of competencies related to IEC standards 60079-14, -17 and -19, incl. ISO 80079., using the definition how we can build up inhouse competency systems for improvement of overall safety of hazardous area industries.

The legal way of explosion protection defines the following approach in each case for hazardous area industries:

First – avoid the presence of hazardous material
Second – do not ignite if any present / eliminate of all sources of ignition
Third – if you can avoid or limit the presence of hazardous material: safety distance, bursting disc, etc.

It can only be done and managed by competent personnel.

In all cases:

Ex personal competency must be verified and comply with latest IEC versions;
In many cases ex product certification, guarantee, warranty issues are strongly connected to Ex personnel competency;
Ex personnel competency itself does not make one be an electrician, mechanic, engineer;
To practice one’s basic education in hazardous environment Ex personnel competency has to be proven.

Ex personnel competency is not only about installation, operation and maintenance - it is about understanding of all possible ignition sources. Sources of ignition should be effectively controlled in all hazardous areas by a combination of design measures, and systems of work:

Lusing electrical equipment and instrumentation classified for the zone in which it is located. New mechanical equipment need to be selected in the same way. (see above);
Earthing of all plant/ equipment (see technical measures document on earthing);
Elimination of surfaces above auto-ignition temperatures of flammable materials being handled/stored (see above);
Provision of lightning protection;
Correct selection of vehicles/internal combustion engines that have to work in the zoned areas (see technical measures document on permit to work systems);
Correct selection of equipment to avoid high intensity electromagnetic radiation sources, e.g. limitations on the power input to fiber optic systems, avoidance of high intensity lasers or sources of infrared radiation;
Prohibition of smoking/use of matches/lighters, mobiles;
Controls over the use of normal vehicles
Controls over activities that create intermittent hazardous areas, e.g. tanker loading/unloading;
Control of maintenance activities that may cause sparks/hot surfaces/naked flames through a permit to work system;
Precautions to control the risk from pyrophoric scale, usually associated with formation of ferrous sulphide inside process equipment

Company shall apply standards.

Company shall apply to have one Ex personnel competency system

dedicated for personnel (Responsible persons (supervisor), Operatives / technicians (selection, erection, inspection)
and how to integrate this personnel competency on daily level as an engineering lead

The IEC standards define the Verification Dossier as per follows.
It is necessary to ensure that any installation complies with the relevant equipment certificate as well as with this standard and any other requirements specific to the plant on which the installation takes place. To achieve this result, a verification dossier (about SITE, Equipment, Installation) shall be prepared for every installation and shall be either kept on the premises or stored in another location. In the latter case, a document shall be left on the premises indicating who the owner or owners are and where that information is kept, so that when required, copies may be obtained.

All above means there are many topics which shall be covered by competent hazardous area professionals, which for the company shall train its employees.


The competency of responsible persons, operatives and designers shall be verified and attributed, at intervals relevant to national regulations or standards or user requirements, on the basis of sufficient evidence that the person:

A. Has the necessary skills required for the scope of work;
B. Can act competently across the specified range of activities; and
C. Has the relevant knowledge and understanding underpinning competency.


There are several ways to achieve the required level of Ex personnel competency.

All required competencies are described / defined in following IEC standards:

IEC 60079-14: Electrical installations design, selection and erection
IEC 60079-17: Electrical installations inspection and maintenance
IEC 60079-19: Equipment repair, overhaul and reclamation

The Ex training and certification systems shall help to establish a framework and support the common understanding.

The formula is simple:

One does have basic skills like electrician, instrumentation, machinery. In order to able to work on a potential hazardous area site (E.g engineering, design, project, commissioning, installation, operation, maintenance, overhaul, repair) and related to hazardous area compliance (E.g HSE, purchasing department, etc) one shall upgrade his/her skills with hazardous area Ex personnel competencies.

This is the best interest of the hazardous area owner, but mandatory too in terms of work safety.

If no further regulation exists, than either the hazardous area owner shall create one InHouse Competency System as a requirement, which both internal and external workforces may comply with, or apply international training and certification packages and act accordingly.


One Ex personnel InHouse competency system in each Company shall exist. Explosion protection shall be the lead of operation, and not a possible follow up action.

The applied 3rd party training / certification center shall be according to the conformity assessment - general requirements for bodies operating certification of persons (ISO/IEC 17024:2012).

Company shall have a strategy how they measure Ex personnel competency according to ISO/IEC 17024:2012 focusing on internal (own colleagues) and external (contractors) manpower. It is better to define how and what Company understands as a minimum level of Ex personnel competency and how the Company measures it.

The simplest way has been described above in the standards, makes sense to follow worldwide. There are few international training personnel training concepts on the market for hazardous area industry owners, whose interest is to have one dedicated for their operation.

Following units we may apply for:

Awareness: Detailed knowledge of explosion protection (gas / dust)
Operative / technician: Read hazardous area classification and design / installation / maintenance / detailed inspection
Supervisor (manager): HAC / read design / understanding Ex installation and maintenance concepts / close inspection

Following further modules might be relevant:

Non-electrical explosion protection: ISO 80079-36 is already part of IEC 60079-0; IEC working group works on topic installation, etc. of non-electrical Ex devices
Repair: Detailed knowledge of IEC 60079-19
Design: Detailed knowledge of IEC 60079-14 with regards to design

Company shall cover all operations including specification, design, installation, operation, maintenance, repair focusing both electrical and non-electrical explosion protection as per part of the Ex InHouse Competency System (see #ExAM).

For further details please contact:
Arpad Veress
ExNB Certification Institute
Kozák Square 13-16, H-1154, Budapest