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ATEX, NEC, DSEAR… What are they and how can they help you?

December 18, 2018

Safety Expert Corner Tools

Are there any explosive gases, vapours, mists or dust areas in your workplace? If so, then you may need special equipment, designed specifically for use in potentially explosive atmospheres within offshore platforms, mines, petrochemical plants and other industrial working environments. Here we explore how these types of atmospheres can occur and why it’s important to consider ATEX and NEC certifications when buying new equipment.

As an operations manager you might be aware of potentially explosive atmospheres that can ignite under certain conditions. To ensure safe working environments, employers are obliged to classify them into zones and perform a risk assessment. By respecting these classifications, it is possible to identify the right type of tools that will perform safely in each zone.

What is ATEX?

ATEX stands for "ATmosphere EXplosible" and is the designation commonly given to the two European Directives regulating these atmospheres:


  1. The ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU outlines the requirements and certification procedures for equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres. It states manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safe performance of equipment, which needs to be certified according to the required specifications for the areas where it will be used. 
  2. The Directive 99/92/EC, also known as 'ATEX 137' or the 'ATEX Workplace Directive', provides employers with guidance on how to specify the different zones and defines minimum requirements for the protection of workers potentially at risk of encountering explosive atmospheres. The directive also explains how to select the right group and category of equipment for different explosive atmospheres.

Did you know? In the UK, this directive is implemented by DSEAR (The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations). ATEX applies only to countries in the EU. However, for regions like North America, similar workplace zone systems are specified according to the NEC (National Electric Code) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).


Classification of ATEX areas

The ATEX 137 directive provides employers with guidance on how to specify the different zones. This classification of areas is based on the frequency and duration of the occurrence of an explosive atmosphere, including gas, vapour and mist.

Zone Definition

Zone 0

A place in which explosive gases are continuously present or for long periods of time or frequently.

Zone 1

A place in which explosive gases occasionally appear.

Zone 2

A place where there is normally no presence of dangerous gases, or only occurring for a short period of time.

Zone

Definition

Zone 20

A place in which combustible dust are present continuously, or for long period of time or frequently.

Zone 21

A place in which explosive dust clouds occurs occasionally under normal activity

Zone 22

A place in which explosive dust is not likely to occur or only occurring for short periods.

The most known industries for having areas where explosive atmospheres can occur are the mines and oil & gas or petrochemical sites. These industries have driven the development towards higher levels of safety due to accidents in the past.

However, there are other industries, such as paint factories or mills, with also a high risk of explosive atmospheres. So, it is vital to use tools that have been properly certified for the actual workplace, as defined by the conforming regulations.

“ ATEX is here to help you choose the right equipment to ensure your operators’ safety in explosive atmospheres. ”

Harald Odenman , Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

Disclaimer: This article is neither a magnum opus control exposure to explosive atmospheres nor legal advice for your company to use in complying with your local regulations. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand how to address some important points. This information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on this paper as legal advice, nor as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.


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