What is ATEX?
ATEX consists of two European directives:
Directive 1999/92/EC, also known as the 'ATEX Workplace Directive', deals with the safety and health of workers potentially at risk from exposure to explosive atmosphere. The directive has been in force from 30th of June 2003 but the deadline for enforcement is 30th of June 2006.
Directive 94/9/EC, or the 'ATEX Equipment Directive' deals with equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmosphere. The Directive has also been in force since 30th of June 2003.
What is the purpose of the ATEX directive?
The main purpose of the ATEX directive is to minimise, or completely eliminate, the risk of ignition in explosive areas and to limit the harmful effects in case of an explosion.
ATEX was introduced to harmonise the national regulations within the EU and to introduce a new common directive for materials in explosive atmospheres.
The present ATEX directive 94/9/EC replaces all previous ATEX directives. The new directive deals with both electrical and mechanical equipment, whereas the previous directives only dealt with electrical equipment. Hence, it is an enforcement of safety regulations. The present ATEX directive, 94/9/EC, replaces previous ATEX directives about electrical equipment.
What does “ATEX” stand for?
ATEX is named after the French 'ATmosphère EXplosif', which mean explosive atmosphere.
In which countries is ATEX in force?
All the 24 member countries of the European Union (plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are subject to the directives. Manufacturers, who comply with its provisions and affix the CE and EX marking, are able to sell their equipment anywhere in the European Union.
In which areas is ATEX in force?
ATEX is in force in all areas where explosive atmosphere is present. An explosive atmosphere for the purposes of directive 94/9/EC is defined as a mixture
- of flammable substances in the form of gases, vapors, mists or dusts;
- under atmospheric conditions;
- in which, after ignition, the combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture (it has to be noted that in the presence of dust not always the whole quantity of dust is consumed by the combustion).
What does ATEX mean for the oil tank cleaning industry?
The new ATEX directive means that both service providers, offering tank cleaning services, as well as tank owners must prepare and carry out procedures for performing safe work in areas where a potentially explosive atmosphere can occur. This is done by identifying these areas (zones) and consequently prepare ‘workplace assessments’ for the affected zones.
Before estimating the probability of an explosion, all potential sources of ignition must be identified. Possible sources of ignition can be:
- Electrical generated sparks, i.e. from headlights
- Electrostatic discharge sparks, i.e. from personnel not wearing anti-static clothing or materials such as plastic hoses etc.
- Flames from smoking
- Hot surfaces, i.e. from malfunctioning pumps
- Mechanically generated sparks, i.e. a metal object hitting a hard surface with high impact
Which equipment must comply with ATEX?
In very broad terms, there are three pre-conditions for the Directive to apply:
- the equipment must have its own source of ignition;
- be intended for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere (air mixtures); and
- be under normal atmospheric conditions.