1 June 2005
Engineers get certified!
By Robin McCrae-Steele
Why should automation engineers get certified? Certified for what and by whom? Who mandates certification of plant personnel? What does this buy engineers?
Neither safety standards nor any safety regulatory bodies mandate plant personnel certification by any specific organization. As a matter of fact, safety standards don't even mandate certification of safety instrumented systems (SIS) equipment by any specific testing lab, such as TÜV or Factory Mutual (FM). However, what the standards and regulatory agencies do require is engineers meet certain target safety measures. Logic solvers manufacturers use in a SIL 1 through SIL 3 safety instrumented function (SIF) need to meet IEC 61508 or the requirements of proven in use.
But documenting a logic solver meets the standards' proven-in-use criteria, with all the hardware and software target measures, fault insertion tests, and safety manual documentation becomes an insurmountable task for an end user. The cost would be prohibitive, and the liability is not something the plant would want to undertake.
So, if industry requires TÜV to certify SIS hardware and software, why not certify the engineers that design, integrate, program, install, operate, and maintain the SIS? Standards such as IEC 61508, IEC 61511, ANSI S84.01, and national regulatory agencies require all personnel involved in any stage of the SIS safety life cycle to have proven and documented competency for their assigned tasks.
As with SIS hardware and software certification, assessing plant and contractor competency holds more credibility when a third party does the certifying. In the same way all project specifications now require SIS logic solvers to carry a TÜV certificate to the appropriate SIL, the tendency is to also require that engineers specifying, integrating, programming, installing, and maintaining these systems have a TÜV ASI—Rheinland certification of competency. After all, what good is it to have the best hardware in the world if the engineers implementing the project cannot prove competency for the task they're assigned?
While the main driver is of course process safety, one big motivator is avoiding litigation actions in the case of process hazard incidents, where personnel competency requires recognized third-party documentation of training and certification.
Behind the byline
Robin McCrae-Steele is a senior safety consultant and BDM at Invensys-Premier Consulting Services.
Certification here to stay
By Ellen Fussell Policastro
Certifications are a "key asset for companies and workers for the 21st century," said Chris Weaver, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission in Baton Rouge and one of the forerunners of ISA's Certified Industrial Maintenance Mechanic (CIMM) certification program. It's a win-win situation because employers and employees see the advantage and can work together to achieve it, she said.
Triconex is another company who recognized the industry's certification needs and teamed with a consulting group within Invensys Process Systems (IPS), as well as TÜV Industry Service, to develop a course to certify and train engineers on functional safety.
"It's a fairly hot topic in the safety world now because there wasn't a way to do it before," said Bill Barkovitz, vice president of marketing at Triconex in Irvine, Calif. "The key thing that's different about the way we're doing it is, instead of being a vendor that just created a course, we teamed with TÜV and an independent third-party company that does certification of systems."
Barkovitz said the concept of functional safety certification is interesting because some end users think they don't need certification. "But it happens to be called out in the standard, so there you've got a dilemma," he said. Another important aspect of the training is end users approve the content of the course. "So it's actually customers saying, 'this is what we want to be certified against,' not just Invensys or Triconex saying, 'we'll give you a piece of paper.' "
The engineering sector will start to notice. As certification grows in the workforce, it will become more powerful, especially the more it becomes accepted, said Weaver, "because it informs the education providers of what they need to include in their curriculum. If an industry is invested in certification and developing it and giving assessment, then recognizing it, they may place equal or more value on certification as they do on the diploma or degree," she said. "And once you set the standards for certification, and they are uniform nationwide, then there isn't much question."
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