The International Electrotechnical Commission IEC and fire safety activities

International electrical standards are established by the "International Electrotechnical Commission" (IEC), which was founded more than 100 years ago in 1906. The objective is to promote international cooperation on all questions of standardization and related matters in the fields of electrical and electronic engineering.
The IEC is composed of 69 National Committees, (52 members and 17 associate members) representing all the industrial countries in the world. The preparation of the Standards, in some instances also technical specifications, technical reports or guides is entrusted to technical committees. The IEC cooperates with numerous other international organizations, particularly with ISO, and also with the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC).
More than half of the more than 3 500 IEC-standards are safety standards. The main IEC Technical Committees concerned with fire safety and related standards are:

  • IEC/TC20 Electric Cables IEC 60332
  • IEC/TC61 Appliances IEC 60335
  • IEC/TC74 IT Equipment IEC 60950
  • IEC/TC89 Fire Hazard IEC 60695
  • IEC/TC92 Audio/Video (TVs) IEC 60065
  • IEC/TC108 IT + Audio Founded in 2002

One of the most important IEC developments regarding fire safety is the introduction of external ignition requirements for IT and audio/video equipment in IEC/TC 108 "Safety of electronic equipment within the field of audio/video, information technology and communication technology" based on the new IEC Technical Specification IEC/TS 62441 "Accidentally caused candle flame ignition".
Criteria regarding "resistance against external ignition" were developed, which include testing with a Bunsen burner flame simulating a candle flame (UL 94 vertical test). Materials or items (outer housings) subjected to this flame shall not release enough heat to ignite other items and have to meet at least the classification UL 94 V1. These new requirements are foreseen to be introduced into the existing IT equipment and audio/video standards IEC 60950 and IEC 60065, respectively, and apply worldwide. They also were to be taken over in the new standard IEC 62368 "Audio/Video, Information and Communication Technology Equipment - Safety Requirements" with the objective to substitute the two existing IT and audio/video standards.
Since recently, however, this approach is questioned, as in April 2008 the Draft IEC CDV (Committee Draft for Vote) 62368 has been rejected by the IEC Member countries. The reason is reservations regarding non defined chemical risks and insufficient safety against electric shock. The takeover of the requirements of IEC/TS 62441 into the two IT- and audio/video standards (the votes will take place end of June and in September 2008) is open, too.