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Immerse yourself in the world of ATEX lighting thanks to this informative article which offers you all the keys to better understanding this essential technology. First discover a precise definition of ATEX lighting, including its main objectives and advantages. Then explore the essential criteria that will allow you to make the right choice of equipment adapted to your specific environment. Whether for an explosion risk zone or a potentially explosive atmosphere, these tips will help you select the appropriate lighting solutions.

ATEX lighting: definition, choice, regulations

In the industrial sector, lighting is not simply a question of visibility. It also has a crucial dimension in terms of security. When approaching potentially explosive areas, luminaires then become a major concern, requiring a strict regulatory approach to ensure worker protection and the prevention of serious incidents.

It is with this in mind that the ATEX (Explosive Atmospheres) standards take on their importance. The ATEX luminaire, in compliance with these rigorous regulations, aims to provide reliable and secure lighting in environments presenting a risk of explosion.

In this article, we will explore in detail the very notion of ATEX lighting, the determining criteria when choosing appropriate lighting equipment, as well as the strict regulations that govern this discipline.

What is ATEX?

ATEX, short for Atmosphere Explosible, refers to a place, space or environment where the presence of flammable materials significantly increases the risk of explosion. Their classification depends on their level of risk :

  • Zone 0 : This is an area where a gas, vapor or dust explosion can occur continuously, presenting an imminent and constant risk.

  • Zone 1 : This area is subject to occasional gas, steam or dust explosions, with a less frequent, but nonetheless existing, frequency.

  • Zone 2 : In this area, the probability of a gas, steam or dust explosion is unlikely, which means a lower level of danger.

The determination of ATEX zones takes into account several factors such as the quantity, nature and duration of presence of flammable substances in the environment. It is also essential to take into consideration external parameters such as ventilation, openings and heating, which can influence the extent of the defined zones. 

Note that it is mandatory to install ATEX lighting that complies with safety standards in all these areas to guarantee the safety of workers and equipment.

What is Atex lighting?

ATEX lighting is a type of lighting specifically designed for installation in potentially hazardous environments, where atmospheres containing flammable or explosive substances may be present. The term "ATEX" refers to the European Directive 2014/34/EU which governs equipment intended for use in such environments.

ATEX lamps are designed to be intrinsically safe, meaning they cannot trigger an explosion even in the event of a malfunction. They are manufactured with flame and explosion resistant materials, and comply with strict safety and performance standards.

What dangers are linked to an ATEX zone?

ATEX zones contain explosion hazards due to the presence of flammable or explosive substances. Understanding these hazards is essential to ensuring the safety of property and occupants. Here are some of the main hazards associated with ATEX zones:

  • The presence of flammable substances or explosive materials creates a risk of explosion. If an ignition source, such as a spark, is present in the environment, it can trigger an explosive reaction. This can cause significant property damage, serious injury, or even loss of life.
  • Flammable materials can easily ignite upon contact with a heat source. In an ATEX zone, where the atmosphere is potentially explosive, a fire can quickly spread and become uncontrollable. This endangers the safety of people working in the area as well as that of equipment and infrastructure.
  • ATEX zones may contain flammable, toxic or corrosive gases or liquids. A leak or spill of these substances can cause environmental damage and pose a health hazard to workers. Hazardous gases or liquids may also react with other substances present, increasing the risk of explosion or spread of fire.
  • In ATEX zones, electrical risks are also to be feared. Sparks generated by electrical equipment can easily trigger an explosion. The electrical systems used must be specifically designed to avoid any source of ignition and ensure safe use in potentially explosive environments.

Places requiring an ATEX lamp

Chemical and petrochemical industries

In these industries, where the handling of flammable chemicals is common, ATEX lamps are essential to safely illuminate production and storage areas.

Oil refineries

Crude oil processing can generate potentially explosive atmospheres. This requires ATEX lamps to safely illuminate installations and maintenance areas.

Offshore platforms

Exposed to the risk of explosion due to the presence of flammable gases and liquids, these platforms require ATEX lighting to provide reliable and secure lighting in these complex environments at sea.

Coal mines

Coal mines, where high concentrations of flammable dust can cause explosions, require ATEX street lights to safely illuminate tunnels and underground work areas.

Les installations de traitement des déchets

Waste treatment facilities, such as incinerators and sorting centers, contain flammable gases and materials, hence the need to use an ATEX lighting system.

Les industries pharmaceutiques

ATEX lamps provide safe lighting in laboratories, production areas and research facilities where flammable substances may be handled.

Explosives production and storage facilities:

Explosives production and storage sites, such as munitions manufacturing plants, require ATEX luminaires to safely illuminate areas during production, handling and storage processes.

Les installations de production d'énergie

Power plants, whether nuclear, thermal or hydroelectric, need ATEX street lights to illuminate machine rooms, fuel storage facilities and maintenance areas, ensuring safe operations.

Les installations de traitement du gaz naturel

Natural gas processing plants must also install ATEX lamps to safely illuminate areas during compression, dehydration and fractionation operations.

ATEX lighting: how to choose your lighting?

There is a wide range of ATEX lighting. When choosing lighting fixtures, it is essential to consider several key factors:

  • THE LIGHT FLOW: The luminous flux of ATEX luminaires is a crucial factor. It is important to choose lighting that provides an adequate level of brightness to ensure optimal visibility in work areas. It is important to take into account the specific needs of each environment and choose lighting fixtures that provide sufficient lighting without creating shadow areas.

  • THE PROTECTION INDEX: Protection indexoften noted IP followed by two figures, indicates the degree of protection of lighting against the penetration of solid and liquid bodies. In ATEX environments it is recommended to choose from the range of luminaires with a high protection rating, for example IP65 or higher, to ensure adequate protection against potentially flammable substances.

  • TECHNOLOGY: LED technology is widely recommended in ATEX lighting. LED lighting fixtures offer many benefits, including high energy efficiency and extended lifespan. LED lighting devices also has low heat emission, good luminous flux quality and a relatively affordable price. Additionally, Atex LED lamps are inherently reliable. They do not generate any risk of sparks or explosion, making them an ideal choice for ATEX environments.

  • RESISTANCE TO EXTREME TEMPERATURES: In some ATEX environments, temperatures can vary significantly. It is therefore important to choose luminaires that are capable of operating reliably and safely in extreme temperature conditions, whether high or low. Quality ATEX luminaires are designed to withstand these temperature variations and guarantee constant and stable lighting.

  • THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF POSES: ATEX luminaires are available in a variety of mounting configurations to meet the needs of each environment and use. There are ceiling lights, wall lights, projectors and portable lights.

  • Voltage and current necessary: It is important to check the voltage and current required to power ATEX LED luminaires. It is important to ensure that luminaires are compatible with the power supply available in the specific environment. Electrical specifications must comply with ATEX regulations and applicable standards.

A few words about ATEX regulations

  • Employer responsibilities and risk assessment (ATEX Directive 137)

The ATEX 137 directive requires the employer to take responsibility for worker safety. He must assess the explosion risks present in the workplace, classify risk areas and put in place appropriate signage.

In addition, the employer is obliged to document technical and organizational preventive measures against explosions. It must also respect the selection criteria for electrical appliances used in risk areas.

  • Responsibilities of equipment manufacturers (ATEX Directive 95)

The ATEX 95 directive concerns manufacturers of equipment intended for use in ATEX zones. It entrusts them with the responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of users. Thus, manufacturers must design and produce equipment that meets safety and explosion protection standards.

The directive establishes requirements for equipment, protection systems, safety and control devices. It also classifies equipment groups into categories and imposes essential standards for health and safety during the design and manufacture of equipment and systems.

  • Regulatory marking for ATEX LED lighting

The marking of ATEX LED lighting equipment is regulated by Article 137 of ATEX Directive 99/92/EC. This regulatory marking makes it possible to identify equipment that complies with the required safety standards.

The employer is responsible for ensuring that devices used in explosive atmospheres are properly marked and meet the appropriate standards. Regulatory marking is of paramount importance to guarantee the conformity of ATEX equipment and ensure their safe use in risk areas.

Compliance with regulatory marking and performance standards is of paramount importance to ensure the conformity of ATEX equipment used in these potentially dangerous environments.

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