International award for development of gas detector Standards Dr Chris Simpson

John Lumsden, Standards Council Chair, presents the 'IEC 1906 Award' to Dr Chris Simpson

Issue 30 – August 2011

Dr Chris Simpson has worked for 34 years – nearly half his life – on helping to develop Standards for gas detection systems, intrinsic safety, and other equipment for hazardous areas. For 20 of those years, he has been a delegate to the IEC subcommittee for gas analysers and, for some of that time, intrinsic safety. Last month, Chris received an IEC 1906 Award for his contribution to the development of IEC gas detector Standards. Created in 2004 by the IEC Executive Committee, the IEC 1906 Award commemorates the IEC's year of foundation and honours its experts around the world, whose work is fundamental to the IEC.

Significant contribution to Australian and New Zealand Standards

Initially from Britain, Chris moved to New Zealand 2 years ago from Australia where he had lived for 40 years. In 1976, while working for international industrial safety company Mine Safety Appliances (MSA), he was asked to join a Standards committee that had absolutely no knowledge of gas detectors, and he has never looked back.

The expertise Chris has to offer when developing Standards comes from his 40-year career with MSA, during which time he was involved in the designing, engineering, calibration, testing, commissioning, training, troubleshooting, sales engineering, and compliance matters of a wide range of safety products and in a wide range of disciplines. In some of these other areas he has at times assisted the relevant Standards committees. These range from industrial safety and firefighting helmets, emergency rescue breathing apparatus (he designed a lot of such equipment for the Royal Australian Navy), cartridge respirators, and the testing of portable breathing air cylinders.

Getting into the IEC

Chris says almost 20 years ago, the Hazardous Area Committee for Standards Australia decided to go to the IEC, as far as possible, as the source for their Standards. 'To do that we realised we had to get into some of the key positions on several IEC committees so that we could input to the process and make the Standards palatable to us' says Chris, 'So some of my friends and I did just that! At that stage, my particular task was to work on the draft of a series of Standards on Electrical apparatus for the detection and measurement of flammable gases – IEC 61779. It took some time for us to get to a place where we were comfortable with these Standards. In about 1995, New Zealand joined the process of trying to adopt IEC Standards as AS/NZS Standards. In the end, in my area, the IEC 61779 (Parts 1-6) series came out in 1998 and we published AS/NZS 61779 (Parts 1-6) in 1999.'

Currently at the IEC as an expert member, Chris is responsible for the further development of the 61779 series as the 60079-29 series on gas detectors. He says that the work he undertook to develop the first edition (2007) of IEC 60079-29-2 (subsequently AS/NZS): Explosive atmospheres – Gas detectors – Selection, installation, use and maintenance of detectors for flammable gases and oxygen, took him 300 hours during weekends. More recently, he has done most of the drafting for the extended second edition, but, he says, 'not at such great length'.

Chris has had extensive involvement in IEC documents including producing many drafts that have been incorporated into international, regional, and local Standards. He is also chair of joint Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand subcommittees on intrinsic safety and on gas detectors, and serves on the parent Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand Hazardous Area Committee.

Receiving the 1906 Award was, nevertheless, a complete surprise to him. Attending the recent Meritorious Service Awards event in Christchurch, Chris says he was confused as to why he was being seated at the main table. 'I had absolutely no idea,' says Chris. 'Then Debbie Chin started talking about me in her speech and announced I had won the Award; it was lovely.'

The IEC 1906 Award citation reads:

For his significant contribution during nearly 20 years to the development of IEC gas detector Standards through active participation in meetings and countless hours spent in drafting or revising these Standards.
Thanks to his extensive expert and practical knowledge of gas detectors, he has had a major impact on the quality of the technical content and readability of the Standards.

Fair play, safety, and good practice

Chris believes the areas in which he has mainly worked – equipment Standards and guidance Standards – are important as they can link the designer, the manufacturer, the testing authorities and the user of such equipment, and give at least a minimum expectation to all of themas to what may be regarded as 'fair play'.

On a personal note, he says he has benefited from his role in developing Standards through the number of friends he has made around the world. He also gets pleasure from seeing his work in print, but most of all is 'a sense that the collective work has made, and will continue to make, a difference to safety and good practice in many countries'.

Published in energy.