For a significant amount of time now, end users of safety automation have been demanding certificates, prepared by expert independent third parties, of compliance to IEC 61508 for the equipment that they purchased. The practice is so common and prevalent that any manufacturer that desires to sell equipment into safety applications in the process industries is virtually required to produce a certificate or have his offering ignored. At end user companies, the requirement for use of certified equipment is often enshrined in their engineering procedures and purchasing processes.
What is not as common is the certification of end user applications. At first glance, the thought of certifying application might seem odd. Most applications are performed by the operating companies themselves, and obtaining a certificate for your own work doesn’t seem like it would have much appeal. In this case appearances may be deceiving. In the recent past, I have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of requests for certification and a growing acknowledgment of the value in some situations.
Specifically, end users are becoming interested in certification of SIS lifecycle activities that they are having performed by other parties. Situations might include the use of packaged equipment that has SIS functionality “built in”, or the subcontracting of the analysis, design, or construction of SIS equipment to systems integrators or engineering companies. The operating companies that receive these packages of equipment are starting to see real value in having an independent third party check the work. Additionally, central engineering staff of large organizations are also starting to see value in having a third party to check the work the is occurring in remote plants and in subsidiary organizations.