Fire! The very word conjures up chaos of the worst kind. Thankfully, fire in electrotechnical equipment is relatively rare due partly to the ongoing efforts of TC 89 Fire hazard testing.
Fire safety is a concern in every geographical region, and TC 89 seeks to establish global methods and guidance for assessing fire hazard in electrotechnical products. There is a rapid global increase in the use of electrotechnical products in all application areas.
In the developed world, fire claims 10 – 20 people per million of population per annum, and fire losses amount to approximately 0.2 % of gross domestic product per year. Occupied buildings account for a majority of fatal fires. In addition, uncontrolled fires, and their effluent, are perceived as a significant environmental concern.
Electrotechnical products present two potential hazards: they contain or convey electrical energy and, therefore, may be a source of ignition and an avenue of fire spread.
TC 89 aims to establish a basis for assessing fire hazard which facilitates an objective evaluation and trade-off between adequate safety and minimum overall cost.
Any reduction in the incidence of uncontrolled fire can only be regarded as having a positive environmental benefit on the risk to health, post fire contamination and clean-up, and long term environmental effects.
The risk of fire needs to be considered in any electrical circuit. The primary aim is to prevent ignition due to the electrically energized part but, if ignition and fire do occur, to control the fire preferably within the bounds of the enclosure of the electrotechnical product.
The best method for testing electrotechnical products with regard to fire hazard is to duplicate exactly the conditions occurring in practice. In most instances this is not possible. Accordingly, for practical reasons, the testing of electrotechnical products with regard to fire hazard is best conducted by simulating as closely as possible the actual effects occurring in practice.
TC 89 was formed in 1988 by the decision of the Council of IEC to change former Subcommittee 50D into a full technical committee for all matters related to fire.
Canada is responsible for the secretariat and the chairman, Uberto Vercellotti, is from Italy.
TC 89 is a horizontal committee with a safety pilot function within the IEC to give guidance and develop standards related to fire hazards for use by other IEC Committees. TC 89 is assigned to write basic safety publications.
The scope of TC 89 is to prepare international standards, technical specifications and technical reports in the areas of:
- Guidance and test methods for assessing fire hazards of electrotechnical equipment, their parts (including components) and electrical insulating materials.
- Fire hazard assessment, fire safety engineering and terminology as related to electrotechnical products.
- Measurement of fire effluent (smoke, heat, surface spread of flame, corrrosive and toxic gases), and reviews of the state of the art of current test methods as related to electrotechnical products.
- Widely applicable small scale test methods for use in product standards and by manufacturers and regulators.
TC 89 publications are widely used by many parties including IEC/ISO product committees, regulators, manufacturers, test laboratories and specifiers etc. most of whom are actively represented in TC 89. TC 89 publications are widely used at the regional (e.g. European Standards) and national level.
TC 89 publishes reviews of the current state of the art in fire hazard testing, and provides a critical and objective assessment of current test methods. The purpose of these technical specifications and technical reports is also to provide guidance to IEC technical committees on the selection and use of these published test methods.
In 1999 the need arose to properly identify who exactly our customers are and the degree to which they take up the horizontal guidance of TC 89. One of the goals was to try and avoid inappropriate or continued use of outdated, or technically deficient test methods. This, coupled with an awareness that the relationship between IEC horizontal committees and product committees, and the general use of IEC and IEC/ISO Guides was not fully utilized, led to the formation of the TC 89 Outreach Programme.
All committees that made use of TC 89 publications were contacted and asked to fill in a questionnaire. The results revealed that some product committees lack familiarity with horizontal committees and IEC and IEC/ISO Guides and, while others are aware, they choose not to get involved to the extent intended by the IEC. TC 89 continues to work closely with those committees willing to learn more about TC 89 test methods and guidance.
The use of certain IEC and IEC/ISO Guides continues to be marginal due to the fact that they are, for the most part, merely informative documents. TC 89 is continuing to work to try and raise the awareness amongst product committees of the essential core messages of these IEC and IEC/ISO Guides.
TC 89 working groups meet twice a year in the spring and autumn. The plenary is held every autumn. TC 89 recently met in conjunction with the 69th IEC General Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.
TC 89 membership is represented by 17 Participating members and 15 Observer members of the IEC and is involved with 16 active liaison committees.
A key driver in the field of TC 89 is the rapid growth in information technology systems, particularly relating to the accommodation of electrical and data systems into the structure of buildings.
Advances in the understanding and use of FSE (Fire Safety Engineering) will have a positive impact on the demand for TC 89 publications, especially for test methods which provide performance based data in a format suitable for use in FSE.
TC 89 is in the process of collating and assimilating the state of the art and will advise the IEC accordingly.
TC 89 has been actively involved in fire related seminars and conferences. In 2006, two fire related seminars are planned in conjuction with its spring and autumn meetings in co-operation with the National Committees of Iceland and Sweden repectively.
How can TC 89 be of help?
The biggest problem for product committees is to determine which fire hazard test methods are most appropriate and, once one has been chosen, what test conditions to use. This situation can largely be solved by accessing the following selection of guidance publications written for that very purpose.
It must be remembered that TC 89 provides test methods and guidance and does not set requirements for individual products.
About the Author
Secretary, IEC/TC 89
PO Box 110
85 Clarence Street
Lanark, Ontario K0G 1K0, CANADAPhone: +1-613-259-2548
|Nicolas N. Maennling is a Standards Consultant working out of Lanark, Ontario, Canada. He enjoyed a 29 year career as an Electro-Mechanical Technologist at Nortel Networks and all its predecessors plus Bell-Northern Research and latterly managed the ISO 9000 Certified Components Engineering Laboratory. He was downsized out of Nortel in 1994. In the late 1970s he was responsible for the initial laboratory work into assessing the relative flammability of electronic components used in Bell Telephone Central Switching Offices. This activity led to involvement in the standards committee IEC TC 89 Fire hazard testing. In 1991 he became convener of WG 12: Test flames and resistance to heat. Small scale heat and flame test methods. In 1993 he became International Secretary of TC 89.The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is the leading global organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. These serve as a basis for national standardization and as references when drafting international tenders and contracts.|
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