Working for Our Members

30 September 2019

EEMUA is an international industry body with an established history as a source of technical expertise in the field of safe operation of potentially hazardous fixed industrial assets; power stations, refineries, chemical plants, storage sites, energy transmission systems and manufacturing facilities. Since being formed in 1950 it has developed a global reputation for the authoritative nature of its guidance, and the training based on that guidance. Its members have provided the expertise necessary to ensure that “we follow EEMUA” has become a shorthand for saying we ensure clear processes are in place for the safe operation and maintenance by competent staff of safety critical industrial assets. The Association’s relationship with standards bodies provides a means for including the users’ view in the framework of standards for equipment, and the relationship with national regulators has provided a route for ensuring the interpretation of those standards is consistent. This is EEMUA acting as the “voice of the user” – an industry body focussed on technical aspects of site operation, and the complex engineering issues which affect safety.

EEMUA has never regarded itself as a trade association in the conventional sense. We do not comment or lobby on commercial or political matters. This stance has been reaffirmed at multiple Council meetings, with the reasoning neatly summarised by one Council member – “We know that when EEMUA meets with the regulators, it has a reputation for ‘engineering purity’; what it says can be trusted, and that is valuable.” There is another aspect as well; EEMUA members come from a range of industries and geographies. Political and commercial issues may not be common across the boundaries of markets and nations; but the laws of physics do not change.

There are times where lines are not clear cut, and issues must be considered which affect members across the world, and in a wide range of sectors. In those cases, EEMUA will act on the engineering considerations, and ensure we are the voice our members have said they wish us to be.

A recent, and high profile, instance of this has been the UK decision to leave the European Union: “Brexit”. On the issue of UK membership of the EU itself, EEMUA was, and remains, neutral. EEMUA is an international membership organisation. Its members’ activities span the globe; the Association will continue to work on behalf of all our members, aiming to improve the safety, environmental and operating performance of their industrial facilities in the most cost-effective way, regardless of the treaties binding the countries within which sites are located.

It is EEMUA’s role to ensure that the voice of the user is heard in the negotiations and planning for the separation of the political systems, and that the engineering truths in operating potentially hazardous industrial sites are not forgotten. From this standpoint, the three key concerns of our member sites are:

Continuity of operation. On the day after Brexit, sites should be able to operate with the same equipment in place which they had the day before. Critical components which have been assessed to international standards should still be able to be used, performing the function that they have been designed to do. In other words, Brexit will not change the laws of physics.

Continuity of regulation. Currently, sites across the European Union operate according to local regulations derived from European Directives. Since these regulations are in national laws this situation will not change. EEMUA expects the rules governing site operations to be clear and consistent. Our own guidance provides industry and regulator accepted good practice for operation across a range of disciplines, and across national boundaries. We would expect it to provide a good basis for ensuring a common level of competence, both before and after Brexit. Operating procedures in place at member sites are aimed at ensuring safety of staff, the public, and the environment. There should be no requirement to suddenly change established processes.

Continuity of supply. We would expect that after Brexit the security of utility services – power supply, gas supply, water supply – to sites would be guaranteed. 

Of course, our members will have a wider range of concerns than this, but Council was clear that this is what fell within our core area of expertise, and what would be appropriate for EEMUA to comment on.

Continuity of operation, a basic requirement, was initially uncertain. The ability of UK notified bodies to issue EU marks (CE, ATEX, …) for conformity assessment would be lost, but initial information from the EU27 indicated that installed and in use equipment with certification from UK notified bodies could not be used after the exit date. Some EU27 based member sites informed us that they had been instructed to start removing and replacing UK certified devices and components. The topic did not seem to be covered at all in early briefings. We continually raised this issue at every government and trade body meeting we attended, as well as through our links with the UK Accreditation Service. The introduction of a UK mark, and UK market acceptance, for a time limited period, of the CE mark, dealt with the issue for UK sites – something we learned of early, during sessions reading advanced copies of proposed legislation in order to pass comment, while under strict obligations not to divulge their contents. Eventually the EU27 announced that UK certified equipment in use, or on the market, at the time of exit could still be used, although the new UK mark would not be accepted. While UK equipment manufacturers and certification bodies may chafe at the imbalance, our members’ requirement has been met. The case has been made very strongly that continuity of operation from the day before to the day after Brexit is a safety issue, and that was one of the key considerations behind the eventual decisions. Short notice, large scale replacement of established equipment is an unnecessary risk.

In contrast, continuity of regulation appears straightforward. Sites across the European Union operate according to local regulations derived from European Directives. Since these regulations are in national laws this situation will not change. In the future, there may be divergence, and EEMUA as a body may then decide to note this in our guidance, which will continue to provide an international baseline for good practice. It is worth noting that despite the commonality of Directives across the EU, national implementations often vary. The German interpretation of the Seveso III Directive, governing sites with a significant risk of major accidents to the environment, is very different from that in the Netherlands, for example. Hence, our view is that divergence is already present to a degree across the European Union but sudden, wholescale changes to operating procedures driven by purely political considerations would be an unacceptable risk.

The infrastructure that helps maintain continuity of supply is already in place. There remain some concerns about the commercial arrangements for energy transmission across interconnectors, and the future trading arrangements for the raft of such projects in development or planning stages. Such discussions start to take the association further from its set boundaries, and show the discipline needed to maintain focus. These are not areas we have an expertise in, and we would be unlikely to contribute usefully. We will watch to ensure the result satisfies our members’ requirement for continuity of supply.

For the first time in many years EEMUA has “lobbied” – on a carefully defined set of principles, and for a very specific set of critical goals, of benefit not only to our members, but to a broader set of stakeholders. We have had to remember, as well, that there is a significant set of members whose operation is outside the EU, and for whom this issue is distracting EEMUA from helping them, so we could not let this be our sole focus. We believe we raised the profile of the issues concerned, and were, overall, pleased with the outcome. We think we maintained our “engineering purity”.

Would we do it again? If our members needed us to. We are the “voice of the user” and will continue to raise relevant issues with regulators, legislators, standards bodies and manufacturers as needed and required by our Members whilst retaining our engineering and technical focus.