Forum: Global Safety Standard

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 08:11 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
Global harmonization will be coming to the safety world in a few short years with the merger of two standards.

By 2016 at the earliest EN ISO 13849 and IEC/EN62061 should merge into one standard with common terminology, said Derek Jones, Business Development Manager, Safety, Rockwell Automation UK, during his discussion at the Rockwell Automation Safety Automation Forum Tuesday in Philadelphia.

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IEC/EN 62061 and EN ISO 13849-1 cover safety-related electrical control systems. Both standards produce the same results but use different methods. They provide users with an option to choose the one most suitable for their situation. A user can choose either standard because they both ended up harmonized under the European Machinery Directive.

The outputs of both standards are comparable levels of safety performance or integrity. The methodologies of each standard have differences that are appropriate for their intended users.

IEC/EN 62061 allows for complex safety functionality which may undergo implementation by previously unconventional system architectures. EN ISO 13849-1 provides a more direct and less complicated route for more conventional safety functionality implemented by conventional system architectures.

An important distinction between these two standards is the applicability to various technologies. IEC/EN 62061 is for electrical systems. EN ISO 13849-1 can apply to pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical as well as electrical systems.

In a global environment, having one standard in place not only makes sense, it becomes a model for how standards bodies should work together in the growing safety arena.

“What always seems amazing to me is how many bricks there are in the wall of safety,” Jones said.

This new standard that will be coming on line in a few years underscores the value and importance of standards, Jones said.

“Standards are the uniformity of language of description and methodologies,” he said. “Accidents don’t happen because things break, they happen because someone stopped paying attention. Standards are all about getting a bunch of people to come together and say this is the way we want the machine to work.”

Understanding how machines work has changed quite a bit over the years.

“What a machine is today is quite a bit different than a machine 20 years ago,” Jones said. “With machine changes the requirements for safety change too. How do we get a handle on that machine and make it function as it should. What has to fail for a machine to spring to life and shake hands with you?”

Standards help make the difference to allow a uniformity of understanding to make sure everyone knows what should be going on at all times.

Jones said the standards help people understand when they do one thing in one location, it could have an effect further on down the line. If they are well-versed in the standard, they will be able to avoid any kind of safety incident.

“When we come down to the control system, it is the compound thing we have to think of.”

People violate standards and procedures all the time and end up getting away without an incident, but that just means they are delaying the inevitable.

“We think we are doing the best thing; we do the wrong thing and we see people doing the wrong thing and that is an accident waiting to happen.”



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