IEC 62368-1 safety standard

There is a quite new electrical safety standard you need to know: IEC 62368-1. If you are working with electronics design, you need to notify this new standard. IEC 62368 is an entirely new product safety concept: it isn’t a merger of existing standards, but it does cover the older standards IEC 60065 and IEC 60950, which will be replaced in due time. It is a hazard-based, performance-oriented standard. The end goal is the design and manufacture of safe products by using it.

Historically, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and AV (Audio/Visual) equipment have been regarded as separate products and markets. 30 years ago, it was pretty easy to discern what was an Audio/Visual (AV) product and what was a computer (IT). At that time it made sense to have different safety standards for them: EN 60950-1 for computers and EN 60065-1 for audio/video.

The world has changed so that the line between “traditional” AV devices and IT equipment has become very blurry: for example your tablet computer is as much computer as it audio/video device. For this reason IEC decided to develop a new “hazard-based” standard would cover both electronic equipment and IT/Communications technology. The result wasIEC 62368-1, Audio/video, information and communication technology equipment – Part 1: Safety requirements. This new standard would cover both electronic equipment and IT/Communications technology. The IEC 62368-1 is intended to be more generic and technology independent than previous standards.

IEC 62368-1:2018 is applicable to the safety of electrical and electronic equipment within the field of audio, video, information and communication technology, and business and office machines with a rated voltage not exceeding 600 V (includes equipment rated 400/690V). The standard also apply to external power supply units and other accessories intended to supply other equipment within the scope of this part of IEC 62368 (but not motor-generator sets, battery backup systems and distribution transformers)

This document does not include requirements for performance or functional characteristics of equipment. It is basically a product safety standard that classifies energy sources, prescribes safeguards against those energy sources, and provides guidance on the application of, and requirements for, those safeguards. The prescribed safeguards are intended to reduce the likelihood of pain, injury and, in the case of fire, property damage.

The new 62368-1 has a completely new structure and assumes a new hazard-based approach. This new approach is based on the premise that damage can occur when energy of sufficient strength and duration influences a body. The consideration of the risk caused by possible sources of energy is the most important point for safe device design. Risk assessments are carried out in nearly all industry sectors with a risk potential or in which technical products can cause risks during operation. The risk assessment in general analyzes what can go wrong, how likely it is to happen, what the potential consequences are, and how tolerable the identified risk is.

In December 2020, the new IEC/EN 62368-1 will replace the existing safety standards EN 60950-1 and EN 60065-1. The date of withdrawal (DoW) for the outgoing standards IEC 60950-1 and IEC 60065 is December 20, 2020. In Europe the outgoing standards will be withdrawn in
favour of the new EN 62368-1 standard, and so presumptions of conformity with directives that reference the old standards will also cease
. It means that EN 62368 will become mandatory under the requirements of the LVD and the RED.

Fortunately in most cases you don’t need to do very much or redesign all your products. There are so many similarities on the demands of the new and older standards, that if your product is already tested and certified according EN 60950-1 or EN 60065-1, in most cases it is possible to update to the new EN 62368-1 with a few Delta Tests. Manufacturers, who are in the development phase and plan to place their products on the market from December 2020 onwards, must follow the new standard.

What is the next after the new electrical safety standard? Is there more coming to safety as software is eating hardware?

It seems that nowadays in many cases the safety of products goes beyond the physical layer, as mishaps in software performance can cause serious safety risks. In essence, this means that there are now two types of safety: basic safety and something we call functional safety.

Basic safety is what we define as freedom from unacceptable risk caused by physical hazards (fire, electric shock, environmental damage) as a result of a product’s physical construction or design.

However, what if that new software on the smoke detector stalls or crashes? That could seriously hinder its functioning. In other words: how safe is a product when something fails? In this respect, we see that traditional product safety is moving from a focus on the hardware to a focus on the (embedded) software.

Safety standards that include requirements for functional safety such as IEC 60730 ANNEX H (electronic controls for household use) were developed to cater to the need of electronics that increasingly perform safety-related functions, like the lock on your oven door. The mother standard of functional safety requirements is the IEC 61508 which provides the framework for many sector and application-specific functional safety standards.

 

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