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What is a hazardous area with an explosive atmosphere?

The dangerous zones are defined in order to assess their risk, and to encourage the operator to take appropriate measures to prevent the ignition of flammable gases and dusts. The classifications of zones and divisions are defined in the ATEX directives.

The area classification may include the following:

  • diagram of the dangerous area
  • ventilation / air conditioning data that can be carried out en zone
  • data on the< /span> sources of release of gases and dusts
  • information on flammable substances stored or handled

The two directives applicable in France for the prevention of explosion risks

The French regulations concerning explosive atmospheres (ATEX), commonly known as "ATEX Regulations", refer to two separate European directives , which concerns:
  • the requirements aimed at improving the safety and health protection of workers likely to be exposed to the risk of explosive atmospheres ( Directive 1999/92/EC of December 16, 1999),
  • devices and protection systems intended for use in explosive atmospheres (Directive 2014/34/EU of February 26, 2014).

The first concerns the free movement of equipment. This is Directive 94/9/EC. It was transposed into French law by decree 96-1010. It defines the essential safety and health requirements which devices and protection systems intended for use in explosive atmospheres must meet and the means of demonstrating the conformity of these devices and protection systems with standards. This directive also provides for the introduction of a complementary directive concerning the dangers of explosion linked to the use and installation of devices.

The second, more recent, concerns the protection of workers . This is Directive 1999/92/EC. It sets the minimum requirements to be respected in terms of the safety and health of workers likely to be exposed to the risk of explosive atmospheres.
It falls under framework directive 89/931/EEC which concerns the implementation of measures aimed at promoting the improvement of the safety and health of workers in the workplace.

This new directive requires the employer to assess the risk of explosion and the probability of occurrence of explosive atmospheres, the probability of the appearance of ignition sources, the substances used, the processes and their possible interactions, the installation of the equipment as well as the extent of the foreseeable consequences.

What should the operator think about to maintain a safe environment?

What should the operator think about to ensure a safe environment?

In operation, it is the responsibility of the operator to ensure that conditions to cause an explosion do not arise. However, due to the fact that there is a risk of these events occurring measures must be taken with respect to electrical and non-electrical products to prevent their triggering.

Dangers and risks must be reduced to a minimum.

The risks of explosion must be assessed globally. If the risk exists, the employer must take technical and organizational measures to:

  • prevent the formation of explosive atmospheres, or if this is not possible
  • prevent their inflammation, or if this is not possible
  • reduce the effects of the explosion so that workers are not at risk

To do this, the employer is required:

  • to carry out an explosion risk assessment
  • to guarantee security
  • to classify locations at risk of explosion
  • install the appropriate equipment
  • to establish a document relating to explosion risks covering all these points and keep it up to date

When installed, electrical equipment should be installed, if possible, in non-hazardous areas. If this is not possible, the least dangerous area possible should be selected (see classification of  ATEX zones for more details).

All equipment and wiring of electrical connections must be designed, installed, operated and maintained so that they do not become a source of ignition.

Electrical equipment must meet 3 requirements:

  • Construction and installation must comply with the regulations and requirements for use in hazardous areas of the country concerned.
  • All electrical products must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, and follow all constraints/limitations that the certification requires. (For example, if the product is certified as a component then the equipment to which it is attached may need to be tested and certified with that component in situ).
  • At the end of the installation, the inspection must be carried out by a competent body.

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