What Is ATEX Certification? (With Requirements and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many work environments contain hazardous substances or feature processes that can cause explosions to occur, either from gas or dust sources. As such, there are a variety of certifications that can help an organisation to protect the safety of its employees and premises while improving their operations. Whether you're interested in working within this field or trying to determine if your current workplace could benefit from receiving this certification, learning more about ATEX certification can be beneficial for you.

In this article, we define ATEX certification, explain what the ATEX directives are, list the types of entities that might consider attaining this certification, discuss the benefits of earning this credential and review the requirements for candidates.

What is ATEX certification?

ATEX certification is a credential that verifies equipment for use in environments that might be prone to explosions. It can also certify workplaces as being compliant with regulations and ready to handle any emergencies regarding explosions that may occur. The abbreviation derives from the term atmosphere explosibles. Typically, equipment and workplaces receive ATEX certification only after passing rigorous testing in compliance with the directives issued by the European Union.

Related: What Does a Safety Inspector Do? (With Tips and Skills)

What is the difference between the ATEX and IECEx certifications?

The International Electrotechnical Commission for Explosive Atmospheres issues a certification called IECEx. This accreditation is similar to ATEX in that both verify the safety of equipment used in potentially explosive premises. Being IECEx certified helps organisations transport equipment across countries for various purposes without requiring testing each time, due to the different regulations of each country. The main difference between these two accreditations is that IECEx certification is internationally accepted, while ATEX certification only applies for countries in the European Union.

Another difference between the two credentials is that the manufacturer of the equipment is accountable for the whole duration of the ATEX certification process. Conversely, an external party is responsible for making sure that equipment receive IECEx certification.

Related: 5 Tips to Managing Electrical Hazards in the Workplace

What are the ATEX directives?

ATEX legislation contains two main directives, which are available in the form of documents. These directives address both the manufacturers or suppliers and users of explosion-proof equipment. Here are the two ATEX directives:

ATEX 214 Directive 2014/34/EU

Instituted in 2014, this directive concerns the manufacturing of equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. This is an in-depth document that discusses the obligations of manufacturers, importers and distributors. The document also details the requirements for the conformity assessment that products must meet to receive approval for use in potentially explosive environments.

ATEX 137 Directive 1999/92/EC

This directive is for industries where operations occur within potentially explosive environments, such as a chemical company or a car spray paint shop. It's necessary for these companies to actively manage their operations to mitigate explosion risks. In addition to performing risk assessments and checking for objects that may be prone to ignition, these organisations also mark potentially explosive areas with signs at the entry point and create explosion protection documents.

Who can apply for ATEX certification?

Here are some examples of manufacturers, organisations and operations that may require and benefit from applying for and earning ATEX certification:

  • oil and gas component manufacturers

  • chemical and pharmaceutical component manufacturers

  • oil and gas rig component manufacturers

  • warehouses that contain many dangerous and flammable substances

  • gas or petrol stations

  • food processing plants

  • chemical plants

  • flour and saw mills

  • offshore rigs

Related: Chemical Engineer Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are the requirements to attain ATEX certification?

The requirements for receiving ATEX certification vary according to the categorisation of the equipment and the type of zone in which the equipment appears. ATEX directives specify a total of six zones, split into two categories with three zones each ranked in order of explosion risk, known as ATEX zones. Zones zero, one and two refer to risk of gas explosions, with zone zero having the most and zone two having the least risk. Zones 20, 21 and 22 have the risk of having a dust explosion, with zone 20 having the most and zone 22 the least risk.

For example, consider a gas or petrol station. Since gas is highly flammable, the immediate circumference surrounding the gas pumps in the station might be zone zero. As the distance from the gas pumps increases, the zone categorisation lowers to zone one. Finally, at an even greater distance, the zone categorisation changes to the lowest risk number of zone two. With regards to equipment, there are three categories. Professionals use category one equipment in zones zero and 20 and category two equipment in zones one and 21. Finally, professionals may use category three equipment only in zone two and 22.

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The benefits of having an ATEX certificate

ATEX certification can benefit an organisation's operations, property, employees and finances. Here are some of the key benefits of attaining this accreditation:

Prevents accidents and additional expenses

The ATEX directives ensure that employers take approriate measures to prevent the formation and ignition of explosive atmospheres. This can greatly reduce the number of workplace accidents that can happen in an ATEX zone, as the certification process requires employers to create and maintain documentation that can aid them in this endeavour. In addition to maximising safety by reducing workplace accidents, ATEX certification can also minimise damage to property and equipment, which can help an organisation lower its expenses and liabilities.

Increases knowledge of explosion risks

ATEX certification equips recipients with the knowledge of how to conduct assessments for explosion risks. This includes determining the likelihood of ignition sources being present and causing an explosion and the interactions of installations, substances and their processes. Additionally, recipients of this accreditation can learn more about the scale of anticipated effects from such explosions, which can help them in preparing emergency plans for a variety of case scenarios.

Creates job opportunities

Attaining ATEX certification can create more job and business opportunities in industries that feature explosive atmospheres. As many industries, from the food and beverage to wood processing industries, contain or have processes that produce hazardous environments, suppliers or manufacturers with this certification may be able to expand their connections and generate more revenue. Conversely, workplaces that receive ATEX certification may be able to create more job opportunities and hire quality employees, since they're complying with regulations and holding a recognised certification.

Improves sustainability

A sustainable business, also commonly known as a green business, is an enterprise that has a minimal negative impact and even a potentially positive impact on the environment, be it locally or globally. Often, green practices involve reducing energy expenditure and waste, and this can include toxic or hazardous substances. Thus, reducing the risk of explosions and dangerous substances can also contribute to such initiatives.

Related: What Does an Environmental Manager Do? (With Salary Info)

Protects employees and civilians

In addition to damaging property and equipment, explosions can cause grievous harm or even be fatal to employees, who may be in the immediate vicinity when the explosion occurs. Similarly, as explosions typically impact a large radius, civilians who happen to be around the facility when the explosion occurs may also get hurt. Earning an ATEX certification can help an organisation to safeguard the health and safety of its employees, while also showing that it's considerate of the well-being of non-employees in the general public.

Enhances an organisation's reputation

Becoming ATEX certified can improve an organisation's reputation and identity among both customers and shareholders. This can lead to an expansion of the organisation's customer base too, as more people might be willing to trust them for services or goods. This might be especially true if the organisation's offerings are highly flammable, such as in chemical plants.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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