August 2008

ISA84 safety certificate builds competence

There is an increased emphasis on safety in today's process facilities. That is why ISA and the Automation Standards Compliance Institute are introducing three certificate programs that will increase knowledge and awareness of the ISA84 standard on safety instrumented systems, or SIS.

Each certificate program includes specialized training on ISA84 and an exam offered through Prometric testing centers.

The classes are intended for professionals involved in and responsible for SIS in a facility, such as electrical engineers, control systems engineers, and process automation engineers.

"Users and contractors can buy the greatest certified systems out there, but if they don't put them together and use them properly, industry will not be any safer. The key to safety is management support of their people; their knowledge of what to do and how to do it," said Paul Gruhn, training manager at ICS Triplex in Houston, as well as the primary instructor for the certificate courses and one of the team of eight people putting the exams together.

"The three certificates together will help educate and upgrade employees' knowledge about safety instrumented systems, which we hope will lead to a safer plant environment," said Dale Lee, ISA's director of education. "It will also help confirm to hiring managers that candidates have some knowledge about safety instrumented systems."

The ISA84 (IEC 61511) standard on safety systems in the process industry says people must be competent and qualified, in terms of engineering knowledge, training, and experience, such as process, logic system technology, field devices, regulations, and leadership skills. "One way of confirming people's qualifications is for them to take courses from recognized organizations and take exams proving that they've learned the material," Gruhn said. "Two organizations exist that have been doing this for up to seven years," he said. "But ISA (and the new Automation Standards Compliance Institute) has the size, visibility, recognition, marketing and sales muscle, multi-company, and multi-industry involvement to do this very effectively."

"The work of the ISA84 standards committee involves leading experts who agree ISA should offer this type of training to improve understanding and implementation of the standard," Lee said. "Those involved with writing the ISA84 standard represent major companies in the automation safety realm, so their involvement with the certificate could increase the marketability of professionals who take the classes and pass the exam."

"Some management might think all this is a waste of time, effort, and money," Gruhn said. "However, multiple studies have shown just the opposite; improving safety improves productivity. What employers can get out of all this is safer plants that get it right the first time, run with higher productivity, and lower total costs."

Three certificates, one career boost

Three certificate programs are available for ISA84.

Certificate 1

Safety Instrumented Systems Specialist requires the completion of a three-day instructor-led training course with an exam. There are no required prerequisites; however, it is recommended applicants have at least two years experience in process automation and two years technical-related education. Applicants can choose to take a classroom course or an online instructor-assisted course. The first instructor-led course will be offered at ISA EXPO 2008. The online, instructor-assisted course, Understanding & Implementing ANSI/ISA84, will be offered 15 September to 7 November 2008 through ISA CyberU.

Certificate 2

Safety Integrity Level Determination Specialist requires the completion of a two-day instructor-led training course with an exam. Most training focuses on practical applications and exercises. Prerequisites include the ISA84 Certificate 1 and five years experience in the process industry with a minimum of two years experience in process safety in the facilitation of and/or participation in process hazard analysis or performed SIL determination and selection under supervision or independently. The first course for this certificate will be available in first quarter 2009.

Certificate 3

Safety Instrumented Systems Hardware Design and Analysis Specialist requires the completion of a two-day instructor-led training course with an exam. Most training focuses on practical applications and exercises. Prerequisites include the ISA84 Certificate 1 and five years related experience in the process industry with a minimum of two years experience in process safety in specifying instruments and control systems, programming PLCs, SIL verification calculations, creation and modification of instrumentation and control design documents, supporting start-up, or operation of process plants and facilities. The first course for this certificate will be available in second quarter 2009.