European Communities ATEX Directive(s)

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

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 (

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
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Simple pressure vessels 87/404/EEC 01/07/1990 01/07/1992
90/488/EEC 01/07/1991  
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Toys 88/378/EEC 01/01/1990  
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Construction products 89/106/EEC 27/06/1991  
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Electromagnetic compatibility 89/336/EEC 01/01/1992 31/12/1995
92/31/EEC 28/10/1992  
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
98/13/EC 06/11/1992  
Machinery 98/37/EC 01/01/1993 31/12/1994
  01/01/1995 31/12/1996
  01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Personal protective equipment 89/686/EEC 01/07/1992 30/06/1995
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
93/95/EEC 29/01/1994  
96/58/EC 01/01/1997  
Non-automatic weighing instruments 90/384/EEC 01/01/1993 31/12/2002
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Gas appliances 90/396/EEC 01/01/1992 31/12/1995
93/68/EEC 01/01/1992 01/01/1997
Hot water boilers 92/42/EEC 01/01/1994 31/12/1997
93/68/EEC 01/01/1995 01/01/1997
Civil explosives 93/15/EEC 01/01/1995 31/12/2002
Potentially explosive atmospheres 94/9/EC 01/03/1996 30/06/2003
Lifts 95/16/EC 01/07/1997 30/06/1999
Refrigeration appliances 96/57/EC 03/09/1999  
Pressure equipment 97/23/EC 9/11/1999 29/05/2002

The European Commission Blue Guide is a useful reference document, which is found at the following url :-

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.