The Importance of ATEX Equipment

July 24, 2017

The explosion and fire in a large multinational waste management company in Antwerp in February 2016 reminds us of the importance of ATEX equipment and regulations. The incident occurred in a bunker where highly flammable liquid wastes had been stored in tanks, IBCs, drums and containers. Extensive damage was caused to the waste management facility. It was extremely fortunate that there were no fatalities.

Incidents such as this reinforces the importance of ATEX equipment in these highly explosive environments.



ATEX Regulations


The ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU covers equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

National authorities are responsible for implementing the Directive in the EU by transposing its provisions into their legislation. As a result, EU countries and others who apply the Directive’s requirements are responsible for implementation and enforcement, as well as the management of notified bodies.

Under the ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU ATEX regulated equipment includes:

  • Light switches
  • Torches
  • Electrical Motors
  • Phones
  • Fans
  • Plugs and socket outlets
  • Rotary Valves
  • Fork Lifts
  • Mechanical breaks & gears


ATEX Background


Explosive atmospheres can be caused by a mixture of air and flammable substances such as gas, vapour, dust fibres or flying’s all under atmospheric conditions. If there is enough of the substance mixed with air a source of ignition is all that is required to cause an explosion. ATEX does not apply to oxygen enriched atmospheres and pressurised environments.

Preventing releases of dangerous substances and sources of ignition are crucial. By using the correct equipment this aides in eliminating the risk.




The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 puts emphasis on employers to eliminate the control of risk from explosive atmospheres in the workplace.

In DSEAR an explosive atmosphere is defined as a mixture of dangerous substances with air, under atmospheric conditions, in the form of gases, vapours, mist or dust in which, after ignition has occurred, combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture.

Atmospheric conditions are commonly referred to as ambient temperatures and pressures. That is to say temperatures of –20°C to 40°C and pressures of 0.8 to 1.1 bar.

Employers must classify areas where the hazardous explosive atmospheres may occur. The classification given to a zone depends on the likelihood of an explosion occurring in that particular area.

Areas that are classed into zones it is crucial they are protected from sources of ignition. This is where the equipment and protective systems used should be carefully selected to meet the Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996.

The legal requirements as an employer – Risk Assessment

  • Identify work area where the hazardous materials are used stored and handled.
  • Are potential substances used, stored and or generated?
  • Can the hazardous materials be released?
  • Can this release result in an explosive atmosphere?
  • Are there sources of ignition present?
  • Determine the impact of fire or explosion.
  • Conduct risk assessments to identify potential hazards.
  • Classify the work area in to zones based on the likelihood of explosion.


Equipment and protective systems intended for use in explosive atmospheres


Areas that are identified as explosive atmospheres must be marked with a specified EX sign. Protective anti-static clothing must be provided by the employer that doesn’t have an electrostatic discharge which could ignite the explosive atmosphere.

The Directive 94/9/EC allows the free trade of ATEX protective systems and equipment with the European Union by removing the need for separate testing and administration for each Member State.

Please see link below to video to see what can happen without adequate ATEX Protection



Simple Steps that can be taken:

  1. What chemicals are in the workplace?
  2. Carry out a risk assessment before you start work.
  3. Take measures to eliminate possible ignition sources.
  4. Have the appropriate personal protective equipment: spark-free tools, antistatic footwear, etc.
  5. Use an oxygen/explosive meter before, during, and after work.
  6. Have adequate fire extinguishing equipment.

For more information on ATEX regulation you can contact us by clicking here




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