IS & Ex

What is potentially explosive ­atmosphere certification?

July 2014 IS & Ex

The Explosive Atmospheres Directive (ATEX 137) is a European Union Directive which requires employers to protect workers from the risk of explosive atmospheres. But, despite the fact that the ATEX Directive has been in force for many years, it is evident that there are still many organisations that do not fully understand the directive requirements.

ATEX is the name commonly given to the framework for controlling explosive atmospheres and the standards of equipment and protective systems used in them. It is based on the requirements of two European directives:

1. Directive 99/92/EC on minimum requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres.

2. Directive 94/9/EC on the approximation of the laws of Members States concerning equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

In summary, many manufacturing and processing industries generate potentially dangerous substances which are any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, dusts from machining and sanding operations and dusts from foodstuffs.

Previously there has been no mandatory obligation to use certified equipment (or indeed to classify an area as potentially explosive, however in the event of an accident companies were liable to prosecution), European Directive 137 (The protection of workers from potentially explosive atmospheres) makes it mandatory under European law to assess for an explosion risk and classify the area accordingly.

Once an area is classified as potentially explosive, a risk analysis will normally dictate that only electrical and mechanical equipment that is suitably certified can be installed. Directive 137 has increased the amount of ‘Classified or Zoned’ areas, and hence increased the demand for certified equipment. The ATEX Directive (94/9/EC) has forced manufacturers to gain certification of electrical and/or mechanical products that are intended for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere. Products without the appropriate certification are not legally allowed to be placed or offered on the European market.

As a result of the combination of these two directives many manufacturers and workplaces have been forced to deal with issues with which they are unfamiliar, some organisations still operating in ignorance of the law or who have been operating essentially illegally are now addressing their obligations all be it late in the day. This White Paper deals with the basic codes, concepts and methodology of explosion protection.

For more information contact Gary Friend, Extech Safety Systems, +27 (0)11 791 6000,,

To download the full paper visit


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