What is ATEX and why was it introduced ?
ATEX is the name given to a set of European Directives relating to Hazardous Area Installations (Flammable Atmospheres) that takes it's name from the French "Atmosphères Explosibles", and spells out a set of Essential Health & Safety Requirements (EHSR's) and conformity assessment procedures which when followed should enable the industry to operate safely & avoid accident or incident.
ATEX is a so-called "New Approach" Directive which must be applied to equipment within its scope before being placed on the European market.
These requirements provide for a high level of protection for citizens within the EU.
There are two ATEX directives, 94/9/EC, commonly referred to as ATEX 95, and 99/92/EC, commonly referred to as ATEX 137.
For further information about the New Approach or Global Approach please visit http://www.newapproach.org/
Why was ATEX introduced ?
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC (commonly referred to as ATEX 95) of March 23rd 1994, is a directive adopted by the European Union (EU), under it's "new approach" strategy, primarily to facilitate free trade in the EU by aligning the technical and legal requirements in the EC member states for products intended to be used in potentially explosive atmospheres.
This requires manufacturers to adhere strictly to the latest European Normatives (EN Standards) in respect of design, construction & certification, with the intention of removing national barriers and making a level playing field for trade.
This new approach supersedes the "Old Approach" Directive, the Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Directive, 76/117/EEC, along with 79/196/EEC and all of its amendments.
Examples of New Approach Directives (http://www.newapproach.org/)
|New Approach directives (directives providing application of for the CE mark) •|
|Directive||Number of Directive / Amendment||Date of Application||End of Transition Period|
|Low voltage equipment||73/23/EEC||19/08/1974||01/01/1997|
|Simple pressure vessels||87/404/EEC||01/07/1990||01/07/1992|
|Personal protective equipment||89/686/EEC||01/07/1992||30/06/1995|
|Non-automatic weighing instruments||90/384/EEC||01/01/1993||31/12/2002|
|Hot water boilers||92/42/EEC||01/01/1994||31/12/1997|
|Potentially explosive atmospheres||94/9/EC||01/03/1996||30/06/2003|
The European Commission Blue Guide is a useful reference document, which is found at the following url :- http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/single-market-goods/files/blue-guide/guidepublic_en.pdf
When did the ATEX Directive take effect ?
The ATEX 95 Directive took effect on a voluntary basis on March 1st, 1996, and following a period of transition, became effective on a compulsory basis from July 1st, 2003.
All products or equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres that were not yet placed on the market in the EU had to comply with the ATEX 95 Directive, and the latest technological know how, or state of the art.
"Placing on the market" is considered to take place when finished product or equipment enters into the supply chain within the EC. This is accepted as being placed in the stock of the end user, the distributor or indeed the manufacturer, provided that his premises where the products or equipment are being placed is within EC boundaries.
Products that were not ATEX compliant and which are already in the distribution chain prior to July 1st, 2003 were considered to be not affected.
Products Covered by the ATEX Directive
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC (ATEX 95) covers "Equipment" and "Protective Systems" which may be used in potentially explosive atmospheres created by the presence of flammable gases, vapours, mists or dust.
"Equipment" is any item, which can be either electrical or nonelectrical, and which contains or constitutes a potential ignition source and which requires special measures to be incorporated in its design and/or its installation in order to prevent the ignition source from initiating an explosion in the surrounding atmospheres.
"Protective Systems" are items which prevent an explosion that has been initiated from spreading or causing damage. They included flame arrestors, quenching systems, pressure relief panels and fastacting shut-off valves.
A wide range of products fall under the definition of equipment, including electric motors, compressors, diesel engines, lighting fittings, control and communication devices and monitoring and detection equipment.
Also included in the term "equipment" are safety or control devices installed outside of the hazardous area but having an explosion protection function. These must also comply with the ATEX Directive under the following conditions:
If the equipment is a safety device, controller or regulatory device; and if the equipment is required for the safe function of equipment or protective systems with respect to the risk of explosion.
Products Not Covered by the ATEX Directive
The directive excludes the following types of products:
- Medical devices,
- Products for use in the presence of explosives,
- Products for domestic use,
- Personal protective equipment,
- Sea-going vessels and mobile off-shore units,
- Means of transport, except vehicles for use in potentially explosive atmospheres,
- Military equipment.