IEC 62368.1… Hazards begone!

Update introduces increased safety measures to counter death and injury among installers. Josh Jennings reports.

As the relevant Standard continues to mature, audio and video equipment professionals are reminded to take special care regarding design, construction, installation and operation.

The third edition of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s IEC 62368.1 (published in October 2018) covers an extensive range of AV, ICT and business and office equipment such as smart wearable devices, mainframe computers and telephone exchanges. It’s also a noteworthy refresh on the Standard’s first and second editions.

Safety requirements around work cells, outdoor equipment and insulating liquids (often used in cooling products) are some of the changes to a Standard that will continue to evolve to remain future-proof.

Fundamentally, IEC 62368.1 is intended to help ensure the safety of operators and others who could come into contact with the equipment and, where outlined, maintenance and service personnel.

Standards Australia Committee TE-001 chairman Paul Robinson says it’s imperative for technicians installing the products to familiarise themselves with the safety markings and instructions on or with the equipment. They should carefully follow the information provided.

“Failure to comply with any of the applicable safety parameters could lead to a risk of harm to persons exposed to the non-compliant item,” he says.

“The severity of the harm would be dependent on the degree of non-compliance.”

Why does the Standard signal a big change in the way experts and consumers who install products approach safety?

IEC 62368.1 is a hazard-based and performance-focused Standard that’s evolved out of IEC 60065 (primarily an AV equipment safety Standard) and IEC 60950-1 (primarily an ICT safety Standard).

It is based on the principles of hazard-based safety engineering (HBSE), a science discipline that has developed over the past 25 years. It is also a shift away from compliance with legacy prescriptive requirements.

IES 62368.1 classifies energy sources, outlines safeguards to protect against those energy sources and issues guidance on the requirements for applying the safeguards. These have been adopted to minimise the likelihood of pain, injury and property damage (from fire).

Last October, Standards Australia published the AS/NZS deviation of IEC 62368.1 (based on the second edition).

AS/NZS 62368.1 focuses on general safety, electric shock, electrically caused fire, hazardous substances, mechanically caused hazards, thermal burn hazards and radiation hazards.

Radiation hazards extend beyond electromagnetic radiation to acoustic protection from portable music players, which other standards don’t cover.

Compliance with the Standard through the HSBE application process first entails testing whether a product’s energy source is hazardous.

If it is, the next stage is to uncover how energy can be transferred to a body part. This informs the subsequent requirement to design a safeguard that will prevent energy transfer to a body.

The next part of the process is to check the safeguard’s effectiveness. Once the safeguard is effective, the process is complete.

Figures from Safe Work Australia show that 142 workers died as a result of contact with electricity between 2003-2015, meaning there was an average of 11 workers each year.

Of those deaths, 87% (123) happened when workers were installing electrical infrastructure. Almost half of the deaths occurred in the construction industry.

Product compliance engineers, product design engineers and others involved in the development and production of IEC 62368.1 compliant equipment will design it for installation by people in three classes of skill level: ordinary persons, instructed persons or skilled persons.

Paul says each class has a different degree of intrinsic knowledge of the risks posed by equipment. The level of skill for mitigating those risks varies too.

  • Ordinary persons essentially applies to the general population.
  • Instructed persons are those who have been trained or supervised by a skilled person and responsibly employ safety equipment and procedures for the relevant energy source,
  • Skilled persons are those who have the appropriate training, qualifications and experience to recognise the existence and location of hazards in equipment. They have the capacity to apply their knowledge and skills as a safeguard against pain and injury.

Paul says installers should not attempt anything beyond their knowledge, training and certification. Equipment installers are also reminded to perform due diligence.

“Another thing that should be checked is the safety certification for the equipment itself, as well as the intended use and installation environment.

“Has the equipment been certified to meet the Standard for use in the intended application?”

Even if the equipment is certified, improper use means it will be potentially hazardous.

“Is equipment intended for indoor operation being used outdoors instead? Special precautions may be necessary.

“The Standard covers hazards arising from foreseeable misuse, but not every misuse condition may be foreseen by the developer and the certification body.”

Paul says local companies that distribute international equipment certified to the IEC Standard, or other national or regional deviations of the IEC Standard, should check that the equipment is compliant with the national deviations contained in AS/NZS 62368.1.

Often distributors can access an IECEE CB Scheme test report to check that equipment is compliant with the IEC Standard. The test report is made available through the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components (IECEE).

Paul says a CB test report should show that equipment is compliant with Australian national differences, as applicable. If this information is absent (as happens), a local supplier needs to approach a national test laboratory or components body to evaluate the national differences and record the results.

Everybody in the supply chain should check the equipment certification. This applies not only to equipment covered by the standard but all electrical and electronic equipment.

It is also important for distributors to make themselves aware of any special handling or storage requirements that apply during shipment and storage. These include lifting, transport, stacking and ambient environmental requirements, if specified.

The Australian national deviations from IEC 62368.1 (edition 2) are mainly consistent with those from the combination of AS/NZS 60065 and AS/NZS 60950.1.

However, the differences can be viewed in greater detail at the back of the Australian Standard document (Annex ZZ).

The Australian Preface at the front of the Standard lists many of the significant differences from IEC 62368.1. Some of the key examples include modifications for the following:

  • the use of Australian/New Zealand (ANZ) flexible power cords;
  • mechanical stability of displays used for television purposes;
  • application of AS/NZS 3112 for direct plug-in devices such as power-supply plug packs with integral mains pins; and
  • application of child accessibility protection to all coin or button battery chemistries (not just lithium cells).

AS/NZS 62368.1 will have a substantial effect on forecast changes for AS/CA S008: 2010 and AS/CA S009:2013. The Communications Alliance is revising these Standards as part of a scheduled five-year review.

On 20 March 2019 the Alliance released public comment drafts for DR AS/CA S008:2019 and DR AS/CA S009:2019 to help readers familiarise themselves with major changes proposed in the two drafts.

The review of the two drafts is informed by the latest available cabling industry information, specifically concerning:

  • distribution of hazardous voltages over communications cabling;
  • new electrical energy classifications; and
  • catering for the growth in connectivity of devices used in customer premises.

Technicians who need to comply with these Standards will be affected by AS/NZS 62368.1, as DR AS/CA S008:2019 and DR AS/CA S009:2019 take cues from aspects of AS/NZS 62368.1.

These include the classification of energy sources and of ordinary, instructed and skilled persons.

AS/NZS 62368.1:2018 is intended to completely supersede the 2015 industry Standard four years on from February 15 2018.

In the interim, equipment may, under the 2018 industry Standard, be compliant with the 2015 Standard or the 2018 Standard.

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