ATEX is the name given to the Directive, issued and applicable in the European Union, which describes what type of equipment and environment is permitted for work in a potentially explosive atmosphere. A potentially explosive atmosphere is defined as an atmosphere that can cause an explosion due to the accumulation of flammable gases, vapours, dusts or fibres it contains. These atmospheres can be generated at a certain moment or they can exist in a continuous way.
ATEX atmospheres are classified according to the risk of this explosion, which is why it is very common to see nomenclatures such as “ATEX Zone 1, 21” or “ATEX Zone 2, 22” in the regulations of engineers. But do we understand what you mean?
As with the IP and IK Protection grades, zones are usually marked with two digits, each corresponding to a different indicator.
The first digit refers to the probability of the presence of flammable gases or vapours. This first digit has three possibilities: Zone 0, Zone 1 and Zone 2, being Zone 0 the one in which for long periods of time or even there is always a risk of explosive atmospheres and Zone 2, the space in which the possibility of appearance of this type of atmospheres is very reduced, and in which, if they appear, they do so for short periods of time.
The second number refers to the probability of the presence of combustible dust in the atmosphere. It can be Zone 20, Zone 21 and Zone 22, being Zone 20 the one in which the presence of combustible dust is habitual during the normal development of the activity that takes place in that space. In addition, Zone 22 is characterized by little presence of combustible dust, and if it does occur, it should be for short periods of time.
The most common areas
If someone has observed the zoning of ATEX spaces, it often happens that the zones “rhyme”. What’s that supposed to mean? That, as a general rule, zones always go hand in hand and a space that is Zone 1, is also 21, a space Zone 2, is also 22 and Zones 0 are also Zones 20.
While it is true that there may be a Zone 1 space, there are few occasions in which these cases are seen. What is more common is the classification only for one zone, with only one digit, which is usually the classification that refers to the presence of gases, since classifying the protection for dust is very complex.
What is the ATEX regulation and who regulates it?
The ATEX markings do not only apply to the lighting sector, but also to installations and working machines. Engineers or architects with special training in explosion risk analysis must decide which ATEX marking should be applied in each space and pass it on to the property, which is ultimately responsible for complying with safety regulations and laws, so that it can request the luminaire model that meets the required requirements.
As can be seen, the process of installing an ATEX product is more complex than in other standards, since it implies that a specialized person with authority determines to the installer what type of atmosphere it is. It is very important to keep this in mind at all times, as in the event of an accident or failure to comply with regulations, the installation process is followed in reverse in search of responsibilities and in accordance with the regulations in force. Also, the installer should have specific training and special authorization, especially in the case of work in Zones classified as 0 or 1.
Where to find ATEX Zones
If someone thinks of ATEX atmosphere, it is normal to think of the petrochemical industry, spaces such as gas stations, refineries or mines. And that is correct, but in our day-to-day life we are constantly in contact with spaces that are also called ATEX, but which we do not know. Some examples of industry or spaces in which ATEX atmosphere exists and is not usually known are:
– Dry cleaners and laundries, where flammable liquids are handled,
– Food industry: Flour companies or sugar factories can generate explosive dusts. Animal fat treatment rooms or bread ovens can also be potentially explosive.
– Textile industry: some materials such as cotton or linen may contain flammable fibres
– Forestry industry: spaces where paper or cellulose is produced, as well as wood sawmills can have explosive atmospheres.
Airfal luminaires by zones
Airfal has an extensive catalogue of lighting for ATEX atmospheres which has been extended over the years due to the specialisation of the company and its team.
Luminaires for Zone 1, 21: