The ATEX Directive requires equipment and protective systems intended for both explosive and potentially explosive atmospheres to be designed and manufactured to minimize the occurrence and limit the severity of accidental explosions.
It applies to:
1. New ‘equipment’ intended for use in ‘explosive atmospheres’, such as electrical components and apparatus and machinery.
2. Separately supplied protective systems for controlling unavoidable explosions in explosive atmospheres, such as explosion vents, suppression systems, etc.
An ‘explosive atmosphere’ is a mixture of flammable substances (gases, vapours, mists or dusts) with air, under atmospheric conditions capable of causing a hazardous explosion if ignited. ‘Equipment’ is equipment capable of igniting the explosive atmosphere under normal or fault conditions. It is divided into electrical and non-electrical equipment. The Essential Requirements define technical measures for the assessment and reduction of explosion risks. The articles and other annexes define the certification procedures that manufacturers have to apply. These procedures get stricter with more Notified Body involvement as the likelihood of an explosive atmosphere increases (that is, according to their category.) They also give requirements for governments to implement and enforce the directive. Equipment and protective systems that comply with the Directive can bear the CE and Ex markings; components do not bear the CE marking. Further markings form a code defining the category and suitability for different types of explosive atmospheres. A Declaration of Conformity is required. The ATEX equipment directive is linked to the ATEX Worker Directive 99/92/EC on employers' obligations to protect workers from explosive atmospheres in work places.
The new ATEX directive (2014/34/EU) has been published to bring it into line with the New Legislative Framework (NLF). It came into force on the 20th April 2016, immediately replacing the previous one 94/9/EC without a transition period. The effects on manufacturers have been minimal; see Future Developments below.
The Directive brings together the diverse rules of various EU member states that previously prevented the operation of a single market for equipment for explosive atmospheres. It implements article 95 of the EU treaty.
This Directive applies to ‘equipment’ and ‘protective systems’ intended to operate within an explosive atmosphere:
- electrical and non-electrical 'equipment' capable of igniting the explosive atmosphere under normal or fault conditions.
- Separately supplied protective systems for fitting to equipment to control unavoidable explosions such as explosion vents, suppression systems, etc.
- safety devices, controlling devices and regulating devices contributing to the safe functioning of equipment and protective systems such as gas detection systems that de-energise equipment.
- components (items essential to the safe functioning of equipment and protective systems, but with no autonomous function) such as electrical components.
Products designed and manufactured for "own use" are not excluded from the requirements of the ATEX Directive.
Equipment first used outside the European Union and imported after the 1st July 2003: The Directive applies to equipment at the moment that it is placed on the European market; products manufactured outside the European Union and successively imported (whether as new or as used equipment) must comply with the Directive. This duty is placed on the first importer into the Union market.
Some products are formally excluded from the scope of the ATEX Directive, because other directives and regulations apply:
- Medical Devices Directive
- Personal Protective Equipment Regulation- PPE
- Domestic Gas Appliances Directive
- Equipment used for transport by sea, air, rail or road
- Equipment using explosive products
- Seagoing vessels and mobile offshore units, together with equipment on board such vessels or units
For equipment that was first used in the EU during the transitional period (i.e. between 1st March 1996 to 30 June 2003) there was a choice to comply with the Directive, or with the preceding national regulations. In the UK this was The Electrical Equipment for Explosive Atmospheres (Certification) Regulations 1990. Refurbished or upgraded equipment is covered by the ATEX Worker Directive, unless it is substantially modified and placed on the market again.
Some more common exclusions that are not specifically listed are:
- Atmospheres without air e.g. oxygen
- Internal parts of equipment outside the ambient pressure and temperature range (0.8 - 1.1 bar and -20 to 80°C)
- Unstable chemicals and explosives.
- International Waters are not part of the EU, but the North Sea and continental shelf are European waters and are covered by CE marking.
- Equipment without its ‘own potential source of ignition’ where no protective measures are required, such as:
-Mechanisms with a friction speed <1m/s
-Mechanisms with low energy impacts between low spark materials.
-Static discharge not generated by the equipment itself.
-Hot surfaces where overheating is impossible.
- Equipment where an explosive atmosphere is reliably avoided, such as:
-Combustion equipment with flame monitoring that shuts off the gas supply.
-Adequately, reliably ventilated areas such as fume cupboards and solvent dryers covered by EN 1539
-Vessels and enclosures purged with gas to avoid an explosive atmosphere , although enclosures pressurized according to the Ex ‘p’ protection concept are covered by the directive.
The new ATEX directive (2014/34/EU) has been published to bring it into line with the New Legislative Framework. It came into force on the 20th April 20106, immediately replacing directive 94/9/EC without a transition period. This will have little effect for manufacturers other than:
- more explicit requirements for traceability of products and supply chains, as well as the roles of ‘economic operators’ i.e. manufacturers, authorized representatives, importers and distributors. This is to help market surveillance authorities.
- The titles of some of the documents have changed: EC Declaration of Conformity becomes EU Declaration of Conformity and EC Type Examination Certificate becomes EU Type Examination Certificate.
- A new list of formal administrative requirements relating to the CE mark, declarations and markings to improve traceability.
- More commonality of jargon across the CE marking directives
Changes that do not affect manufacturers are:
- Greater market surveillance
- New rules for the accreditation of notified bodies.
The previous Directive 94/9/EC came fully into force on 1 March 1996. During a transitional period which ended on 30 June 2003, manufacturers could continue to supply equipment according to the pre-existing national rules, but from 1 July 2003, all equipment within the scope of the Directive had to carry the CE and Ex marks and comply with the directive's requirements. The current ATEX directive (2014/34/EU) took effect from the 20th April 2016 without a transitional period.
Enforcement and Penalties
In the United Kingdom,the directive is implemented by Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 1996:192 (The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations, 1996 (as amended)). It is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.
In the UK, the maximum penalty for the supply of non-compliant equipment is three months imprisonment and/or a £5000 fine. More importantly, the regulations also give the authorities the power to force manufacturers to recall or replace faulty product—potentially a far more onerous penalty.
In addition, any incident which involves injury or damage will fall within the scope of other legislation, for example the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Consumer Protection Act 1987. These laws provide for greatly increased penalties than those available under the ATEX directive.
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC describes what a manufacturer has to do before placing the product on the market.
The Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) in Annex II of the Directive require:
- An explosion risk assessment listing the main hazards and protection measures to show that the protective measures adequately reduce the risk of explosion from the equipment. Harmonised standards provide detailed guidance on risk assessment methods and the protection methods recognized as providing an adequate reduction of risk.
- Markings: as well as the common requirements (manufacturer’s name and address, the product type, the CE mark and year of construction), the ATEX directive also requires, the Ex mark, the category and the restrictions on temperature and type of explosive atmosphere.
- A list of contents for the instruction manual can be found in Annex II § 1.0.6.
- The equipment must be designed to minimize explosion hazards.
- The design must also protect against all other hazards that are not regulated by other directives, especially electrical hazards (as the LVD does not apply when ATEX applies).
- Brief explosion protection requirements for the different categories of equipment and for protective systems.
The ATEX Articles describe:
- The scope, exclusions and definitions.
- The obligations of manufacturers and other suppliers.
- Prohibiting additional rules on placing on the market, whilst allowing additional rules on use of ATEX equipment as long as they are consistent with the directive.
- Provisions for exhibiting non-CE-marked equipment.
- The writing, use and harmonization of standards and dealing with objections to them.
- Market surveillance and non-compliant products.
- Which conformity assessment procedures must be applied to which categories.
- Appointment of Notified Bodies.
- Affixing the CE and ATEX logo and other markings.
The manufacturer must provide a Declaration of Conformity with the product, and compile and maintain a Technical File. The Directive sets different Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR's) and different levels of involvement of Notified Bodies.
Click here to download a flowchart showing the attestation procedures for different categories of equipment.
As with all CE marking directives, the actual requirements for any piece of equipment under the directive are complex and dependent not only on the design but also the type of user, the intended use and sometimes even what is claimed in the instructions or sales literature.
For further advice specific to your products, please contact us and we will be pleased to discuss your needs.