Some work environments are far more dangerous than others, and to protect workers, the type of equipment, machinery and tools they use and are around them mustn’t create a hazard that could leave them injured or worse.
That’s why the European Union came up with two pieces of legislation designed to protect employees who work in hazardous situations, like oil and gas, mining, chemical, construction and many other sectors.
Collectively the laws are known as ATEX, an acronym from the last two words of the French appareils destinés à être utilisés en atmosphères explosives (equipment destined for use in explosive atmospheres), and they make it mandatory for companies operating in the EU to use ATEX products.
There’s an extensive range of ATEX products now available. They essentially ensure that their operation won’t lead to a spark or something else that might cause a catastrophic event to happen, like an explosive blast. Such an accident could be damaging to a company’s infrastructure but, more importantly, could injure or even kill workers.
How Are ATEX-certified Products Different From Others?
The hazardous environments of many industrial settings mean there’s always the potential for an explosion because of flammable gases, dust, chemicals, and other materials that may be part of the production process and are handled by employees. A common item like an air conditioner may overheat due to prolonged use in hot environments and could trigger a blast, so everyday types are not fit for use in hazardous workplaces.
ATEX-rated air conditioners, for example, differ from standard units in that they’re hermetically sealed, and even if they do heat up and something goes wrong, nothing can escape that could mix with volatile materials like gases and dust and cause an explosion. And they’re typically designed to be more robust and reliable, so they keep on running for long stretches without breaking down. As a result, they help protect workers’ health and safety while keeping them cool and comfortable on the job.
Common Types of ATEX Products
Along with specially designed and certified air conditioners and heating units and systems, ATEX products usually found in hazardous work environments include portable lighting, torches and isolators, and safety switches that cut power from various devices. Infrared thermometers, multimeters — to measure electrical currents and their properties — and even ATEX-rated mobile phones are also typically found in work settings where there’s potential for explosions to occur.
Manufacturers wishing to sell ATEX products must go through a rigorous certification process to ensure their items are safe for use in risky workplaces and will not cause harm. They must create a risk analysis scenario for each product along with technical drawings, documentation and calculations, and demonstrate that they comply with the terms of the ATEX legislation and particular standards for each product.
When it’s proven that products will work properly in potentially explosive work settings and won’t lead to an accident — as long as they’re used following the manufacturer’s instructions — they will be certified for sale and use. Companies can be confident that the ATEX certification mark (EX) on the products they need for their hazardous environments guarantees they will work while keeping their workforce safe from harm.
These days, companies can order ATEX products via the internet, from leading vendors like UK-based ATEXOnline that ship a range of ATEX products to customers worldwide — saving time, money and hassle in getting the kind of extra-safety products they require to operate safely.