Fire and Gas Detection Functional Safety System Certification - Four Possible Pitfalls to be Aware of (click on the title to view the full Det-Tronics article)

Given that functional safety standards continually evolve, use of applicable certifications can be confusing at best. Expertise in different certifying agencies vary by a lot.

Owners, operators, managers of processes that are intrisically hazardous need to be informed and diligent in selecting products, services related to the fire and gas detection safety systems.

Some possible pitfalls to beware of:

1. Self-certification is risky.

Selecting properly certified flame and gas detection products and installing these products to approved safety codes and
standards are both vital for safety purposes. There are considerations to weigh each step of the way, including operational efficiency, maximum productivity and overall safety. Ultimately, certified products, correct installation and proper day-to-day operation are all factors in achieving the highest safety standard.

Product certification is crucial to safety because it establishes a systematic means to evaluate safety at the extremes and for special use conditions. Without valid third-party product certification, the risk is greater for a catastrophic event due to the lack of diligence.


2. Not all product certifiers are equally qualified.

Product certifiers are evaluated by accreditation bodies. Such organizations look for conformance with competency standards to ensure that products are evaluated and certified by the product certifier to meet expected performance levels. The responsibilities of accreditation bodies go beyond simple audits and include approving key policy documents, reviewing the evaluation process and monitoring the product certifier’s audit programs.

Not all product certifiers issue functional safety certifications per IEC 61508 within their scope of accreditation.

The IEC 61508 standard requires “evidence of competence” for all who perform assessments. While it does not require a formal authorized or accredited status, most customers who purchase IEC 61508-certified products demand a product certifier that demonstrates a high level of technical

The product certifier that meets this high level of accreditation must demonstrate strong competency in the key areas of functional safety. This is demonstrated during an audit by a well-established accreditation body. For example, to certify that a product meets IEC 61508, the product certifier must have full competency in functional safety areas.


3. What you can (and can’t) learn from documentation.

When evaluating products for a functional safety system, much can be learned through a careful review of the product certificate.
Each certificate includes the standards met and particularly significant, the year of release of standard used to issue certification.

Information on manufacturer’s claimed capabilities can be obtained by reviewing the product safety manual. This is necessary to determine the robustness of the product and process safety certifications.
The product’s proof test, which is contained within the safety manual, defines necessary maintenance required during product use to assure ongoing proper functionality.


4. Confusion surrounding SIL.

It is important to understand that a SIL capable certification does not mean that the product is performance approved.
A SIL-capable product certificate may list a variety of codes and standards. Such a list must not be mistaken for compliance to each, as mentioned at the start of this paper.
It may only reference that during evaluation such codes and standards were considered. Codes are not accreditable by any agency— the only way for a product to be properly certified is if a product certifier tests and evaluates it to the related standard, and the product certifier is recognized as competent for the standard by an accreditation body.
Some groups that offer product certifications may not be able to issue accreditation certifications to the standards required for a specific application.