ATEX Inspections, Compliance & Risk Assessments

What is ATEX?

ATEX is an abbreviation for ” ATmosphere EXplosible” – a French term abbreviated to the term ATEX – a name of the European Directive 94/9/EC which is the rules for electrical and mechanical equipment, components, and protective systems placed into the marketplace in the UK and EU to confirm it cannot fail and introduce any ignition source to a combustible atmosphere.

The EC Directive came into force on 1 July 2003, revised from 1 July 2006 to the ATEX 94/9/EC.

What does an ATEX Inspector do?

ATEX inspections refer to the process of reviewing a workplace to ensure that it is in compliance with the ATEX regulations. These inspections may be conducted by regulatory agencies or by third-party inspection bodies.

We offer services that either review existing explosive atmospheres and inspects all electrical and mechanical equipment to make sure it is compliant for the zone, or alternatively, work with project teams for new build developments to determine the appropriate ATEX requirements as part of a design team. These are commonly referred to as ATEX Inspection or CompEx inspection (Short for Competent ATEX Inspection).

What makes us different is that we will look at all options for the client, as opposed to the easiest “replace this with ATEX kit” answer. What we mean by this is that because we are competent DSEAR Assessors as well as ATEX certification specialists, we understand all of the criteria to determine the compliance needed and can save a significant amount of cost and complexity by following one of these 3 processes:

1. Distance

We review the zone of the explosive atmosphere and determine if there are alternative locations for the electrical equipment. For example, we have proposed a longer shaft for a blender motor to over a 1-meter extension meaning the motor itself is not within the zone, but the blender blades are still doing their job.

2. Ventilation

We have proposed increased ventilation capacity for LEV extraction so that there is no possibility of any explosive atmosphere being present as we remove the air faster than the time it takes for the substances being extracted to reach its Lower Explosive Limit (LEL). We calculate the volume of air vs the evaporation rate and concentration at operating temperatures of liquids, so the LEV system does not need to be replaced by ATEX LEV systems.

3. ATEX Compliance

We look for the most appropriate of the 3 options and where needed we identify the most appropriate rating of electrical equipment for each zone.
So instead of a shopping list stating the replacement of the existing kit with ATEX equivalent alternatives, we can consider all options to find the most effective, and in some cases eliminate or reduce the zone first to follow the hierarchy of control.

How can we help?

Our ATEX inspections will assist you in the design, commissioning, or review stage of any project to demonstrate that all installed ATEX electrical and mechanical equipment is certified and has the appropriate level of protection for the explosive atmosphere is to be situated. ATEX certification requirements depend on the category of equipment and its intended use in a particular zone.

Grades of Inspection

The grade of inspection is based on 3 criteria – visual, close, or detailed. Each of these plus the frequency of inspection is determined by considerations including the manufacturer recommendations, Environmental and deterioration factors such as corrosion, close to the salt air, indoors or outdoors, plus the main factor – significance and frequency of use.

1. Visual Inspection

Visual inspections assess the visual condition and record anything that may compromise the device/equipment. This is usually done from close reach for a good visual check.
These are quick and the least intrusive type of inspections. It also has the least impact on the operation as it does not require isolation or tools.

2. Close Inspection

This inspection does not necessarily need the removal of power or isolation of the process as it is usually completed in live condition, however, will need additional time and effort to get very close with good light conditions to inspect and assess the device or equipment to determine its condition. tools and access equipment may be required.
The outcome of this inspection is typically the stage if the visual inspection identifies any concern, or the performance dictates the need to check. Also, manufacturers’ guidance should be considered.

3. Detailed inspections

These are undertaken after a period of time when the plant is operational – typically 18 months or sooner if required.
Detailed Inspections include all aspects of the other inspection grades, however, also include identification of defects such as worn or loose connections/terminations which can only be identified by accessing the device or equipment enclosure or alternatively reviewing the PLC control data and testing the equipment.

Because of the time and disruptive nature, these detailed inspections are typically completed on a sample basis and require isolation and plant shut down. Permit to work requirements for Access, Height, and Live working may also be required depending on the device.

Detailed inspections are required following any significant modification, adaptation, or repair of ATEX equipment or plant.

How Often Should ATEX Equipment Be Inspected?

With ATEX-rated equipment, it really is important to implement a planned preventative inspection and maintenance program (PPM). This is vital not only because of the important safety requirements and risk levels but also because the equipment is specialist and can cost significantly more than standard equipment.

The frequency depends on the importance and use but as a guide, pre-use and setup checks are expected, followed by a periodic inspection by a competent person ideally on a 12 monthly basis or 18 months after installation. Monthly visual inspections are also a good idea by any PPM team.

Is ATEX a legal requirement?

YES – The ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU is mandatory for manufacturers of equipment as stated in article 44 of the Directive.

What Does Labelling Mean?

What does the Labelling mean

On any ATEX device, there are very important criteria that are identified to make sure everything in the zone is considered.
Common things to look for include the Ex symbol, The Equipment category (dictated by the zone I.E. Zone 1), the Environment (G for gas, D for Dust), Gas group (type of Gas and explosive properties), and the T Class (Operating max temperature based on substance Minimum Ignition temperature – MIT).

How do I arrange ATEX Inspections?

We typically require 4-6 weeks lead time; however, we do have flexibility in our schedule to fit urgent inspections within 1-2 weeks in some cases.

All of our consultants are suitably qualified and registered as members of appropriate bodies. You will be allocated a Senior consultant with a minimum of Chartered status with IOSH (CMIOSH) to oversee and complete works.

How Much do ATEX Inspections Cost?

As a guide, a typical ATEX inspection costs between £1800 and £2600 depending on scale and complexity. The process involves a site visit for as many days as it would take to do the inspection, typically 1-3 days but sometimes more.
Reports are compiled and returned within 10 working days. We can sometimes return within 2-3 working days for urgent assignments.

To know more or discuss with a consultant, please email us at [email protected] or call us on – 01656 470044. We will be in touch within 1 hour.

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