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Article   |   Kees van Wingerden   |   24.04.2023

Working together to resolve the challenges around explosive atmospheres

ATEX* – the name commonly given to the two European Directives for controlling explosive atmospheres – came into force in 2003.

Challenges and uncertainties around explosive atmospheres however remain, and the Norwegian authorities have recently published new guidelines for the User Regulations, which will be introduced during the forthcoming Standard Norge ATEX Conference on 11 & 12 May.

You may wonder why when the directives have been in place for over a decade and significant experience has been gained, these new guidelines are required.

In short, explosive atmospheres are by their nature, potentially volatile and dangerous. An explosive atmosphere is defined as a mixture of dangerous substances with air, under atmospheric conditions, in the form of gases, vapours, mist or dust in which – after ignition has occurred – combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture. Such environments can be found in many workplaces – from vehicle paint spraying workshops to factories handling fine organic dusts such as flour or wood.

While lessons learned continue to be shared across industry, where there are still challenges and ambiguities around such potentially dangerous atmospheres in practice, it is vital that regulations and requirements are reviewed and updated as often as is necessary.

During the ATEX Conference, the new guidelines will be shared as will the background as to why they were produced. In addition, the Norwegian Electrotechnical Committee in cooperation with Standard Norway, will share a guide for mapping and risk assessment of ignition sources by non-electrical equipment.

I am pleased to be one of the organisers and speakers of the conference, at which we will also share experiences built up over the past decade. Speakers will talk about the right choice of equipment, conducting risk analyses, writing the explosion protection document and experiences of explosion incidents.

My presentation will cover hazardous area classification: classification of areas surrounding and inside equipment containing flammable material depending on the frequency that these flammable materials are released and mix with air causing explosive atmospheres and their extent. A hazardous area classification is the basis for choice of equipment which shall be approved for use inside such an area.

We look forward to sharing more after the conference.

*ATEX 137 (Directive 1992/99/EC) regulates minimum requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres and ATEX 114 (Directive 2014/34/EU) focuses on the approximation of the laws of Member States concerning equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

The regulations are the responsibility of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway and the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning.

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