Since 2003, ATEX certification has been required throughout Europe for all electrical equipment that will be used in a hazardous environment. Originating from the French ‘Atmospheres Explosives’, the ATEX directive is a compulsory regulation in areas where there is the potential for explosive mixtures of air, dust and flammable gases to occur. These EU regulations are similar to that of regulations in North America under the IECEX certification system. However, the approach taken in each continent is quite different with all North American products having to be listed by UL and be compliant with their regulations to be suitable for use in hazardous environments.

The ATEX directive specifically applies to all manufacturers of products which have the potential to be used in explosive or hazardous atmospheres. If they are to be placed on the market, they must have explosion proof electrical and mechanical components, equipment and protective systems. As such, it is the sole responsibility of manufacturers to ensure that all of their products comply with the directive.

Any devices pertaining to safety, control or regulation that are intended to be used outside the hazardous environment but will contribute to the safety of any functioning equipment and systems will also be covered. The equipment and systems which fall under ATEX, also referred to as Directive 2014/34/EC can only be placed onto the market if they bear the CE mark. The CE mark entitles the product to free movement throughout the European market whilst demonstrating it conforms with all health, safety and environmental protection standards. The EC certification will also often be present as another clear indication of health and safety standards of the product being met as well as the Ex symbol to demonstrate the product is explosion proof in accordance with the ATEX directive. In addition to these attestations, each product must be accompanied by a set of operating instructions.

ATEX Zones

As different sites have varying levels of risk, ATEX certification is broken down into zones. For sites which have a higher risk the regulations are much stricter. For instance, the zone will be different and have different regulations when you compare a highly flammable Oil & Gas based installation to the regulations of a site for manufacturing.

Type of atmosphere Gas Dust
Frequent, long exposure 0 20
Occasionally 1 21
Rarely, short exposure 2 22

ATEX Categories

The ATEX directive separates different equipment into different categories to ensure they are safe in each zone. Category one equipment for example can be used in the most dangerous zones.

Gas ATEX Zone Equipment Category Dust ATEX Zone Equipment Category
0 1G 20 1D
1 2G 21 2D
2 3G 22 3D

ATEX Certification

Each product is required to be certified before being labelled as ATEX compliant and there are two different routes in which to receive this certification. The first route means that less hazardous ATEX zones can self-certify products and the manufacturer is able to decide if the product conforms to the necessary ATEX standards. Alternatively, the more highly dangerous ATEX zones are required to have the product inspected and approved by a third-party organisation known as the notified body. It is only once receiving this approval that products can be marked with the ATEX logo.