Directive for Equipment & Protective Systems Intended for use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres (ATEX) – 2014/34/EU
Professionally referred to as the ATEX Directive – deriving from the French expression Atmosphère Explosive – the first iteration, 94/9/EC, came into force on 1st July, 2003 before being recast on 19th April 2016 as 2014/34/EU.
As indicated by the full name, the ATEX Directive ensures that equipment intended for use in environments where potentially explosive atmospheres may form (generally referred to as ‘Hazardous Locations’) are safe to operate. Specifically, the ATEX Directive is designed to ensure equipment is ‘Intrinsically Safe’ or, in other words, cannot provide a source of ignition that may lead to an explosion. It applies to all equipment falling within its scope that is placed on the market or brought into service within the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA).
Equipment intended to be used in Hazardous Locations outside of the EU and EEA, is often required comply with the IEC’s IECEX Standards, which are similar in many respects to ATEX. Although voluntary in many countries, “Ex” compliance is often strictly enforced within industries where risks of explosions are significant and constant, such as the Petrochemicals and the Food Processing industries.
For manufactures complying with ATEX, in addition to applying the CE Mark they must also apply the Ex Mark to their goods.
Even outside of industries with a long history of requiring Ex Certification, contractual demands that equipment be suitable for use in potentially explosive atmospheres are increasingly frequent. Responsibility for designating all or part of a commercial premises as a Hazardous Location (a process known as Zoning) often falls on the operator of the facility, guided by local regulations. With such operators growing increasingly safety risk averse, more and more industrial facilities are being identified as Hazardous Locations as a precaution. This in-turn leads to equipment manufacturers and suppliers being asked to provide ATEX or IECEX compliant products on far more frequent basis.
Grouping and Categorisation
The ATEX Directive and the IECEX Scheme group and categorise equipment based on the type of environment the equipment is intended to be used in, and the degree of protection against causing explosion the equipment offers.
Under the ATEX Directive there are two Groups equipment is placed under:
- Group 1 – equipment intended for use in underground parts of mines, and in those parts of surface installations of such mines, liable to be endangered by firedamp and/or combustible dust.
- Group 2 – equipment intended for use in other places liable to be endangered by explosive atmospheres.
Equipment within each Group is then Categorised further:
- Group 1
- Category M1 – equipment designed and, where necessary, equipped with additional special means of protection to be capable of functioning in conformity with the operational parameters established by the manufacturer and ensuring a very high level of protection.
- Category M2 – equipment designed to be capable of functioning in conformity with the operational parameters established by the manufacturer and ensuring a high level of protection
- Group 2
- Category 1 – Equipment in this category is intended for use in areas in which explosive atmospheres caused by mixtures of air and gases, vapours or mists or by air/dust mixtures are present continuously, for long periods or frequently.
- Category 2 – Equipment in this category is intended for use in areas in which explosive atmospheres caused by gases, vapours, mists or air/dust mixtures are likely to occur occasionally
- Category 3 – Equipment in this category is intended for use in areas in which explosive atmospheres caused by gases, vapours, mists, or air/dust mixtures are unlikely to occur or, if they do occur, are likely to do so only infrequently and for a short period only
Some categories of equipment may require assessment by a Notified Body.*
How Technology International can help
At Technology International we understand that turnaround time is very important to manufacturers as many companies take a long time for ATEX approvals. Our turnaround time is a key element to effectively delivering compliance solutions to the market. We can provide complete ATEX solutions for all zone ratings by partnering with cost-effective ATEX Notified Bodies for approvals that require EU Type Examinations.
With over 20 years experience, Technology International Group are best placed to help you and your company understand the requirements and obligations of ATEX Directive, with services including:
- Determining if products fall under the ATEX Directive – not all products intended for use in hazardous locations require ATEX approvals.
- Assessing products to the proper ATEX standards
- Conducting the appropriate inspection/testing
- Developing complete technical files to meet the requirements of the ATEX Directive
- Keeping manufacturers informed of changing regulations
Whatever a client’s individual requirements Technology International can tailor support solutions to meet their specific needs and budget.
*Technology International is not a Notified Body for ATEX. The rules governing the appointment of ATEX Notified Bodies would conflict with other commercial activities, so we have chosen not to become an ATEX NB. This allows TI to provide ATEX services that a Notified Body would be prohibited from delivering.