Gases, vapors and mists may escape during the production, processing, transportation and storage of combustible materials in the chemical and petrochemical industry. This can also happen in the production of petroleum and natural gas, in mining and in many other sectors.

These flammable gases, vapors, mists and dust can potentially form an explosive atmosphere with the oxygen in the air. In the event that this atmosphere is ignited, an explosion can occur that can cause serious damage to human life and property. In order to avoid the danger of explosion, protective regulations in the form of legislation, directives and standards have been developed in most countries to ensure a high level of safety.

Due to growing international economic commitments, progress has been made in harmonizing explosion protection regulations. For Europe, the conditions for harmonization are laid down in the Directives 2014/34/EU and 1999/92/EC. As a counterpart to the European ATEX regulations, there is also the IECEx certification scheme that aims at worldwide coverage.

What is ATEX?
Explosive conditions can occur at industrial workplaces and in installations. European regulations have been drawn up to protect employees, installation, buildings and the environment against the risks of an explosion. Better known as the ATEX directives. In Europe, 2 mandatory Directives are in place

1. ATEX 114 (Officially 2014/34/EU – previously ATEX 95) specifies the requirements for equipment that is used in hazardous areas. Equipment must be so constructed in such a manner that it cannot create an ignition source that could ignite an explosion hazardous environment.

2. ATEX 153 (Officially the 99/92/EC – previously ATEX 137) gives the minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres. It is also called the “social directive”. This specifies how the installation owner must protect his employees and users against the risks of an explosive atmosphere.

Article 3 of the Directive gives the successive measures that an installation owner must take:

  1. Preventing the presence of an explosive atmosphere.
  2. If that is not possible: prevent the ignition of the explosive atmosphere.
  3. If that is not possible: limit the consequences of an explosion, in particular with regard to the health and safety of employees.

The new ATEX directives fall under the New Legislative Framework (NLF), which aims to improve and supplement the existing rules and to improve the practical aspects of implementation and enforcement. Examples are:

  • Improving accreditation and market surveillance
  • Improving requirements for notified bodies, which have a verification task in the conformity procedures
  • Improving the supervision of these notified bodies to reduce the risk of non-compliant products to be marketed.

The New Legislative Framework also removes the inconsistency between the different product guidelines.


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