What are the ATEX directive and UKEX regulation? (A Beginner's Guide to Industrial Safety for Explosive Atmospheres / Hazardous Locations)

Understand what the ATEX directive and UKEX regulation are, and the key differences between them, and stay current on the changing landscape of ATEX, UKEX, CE and UKCA certification against the backdrop of Brexit.
Get expert advice on balancing ATEX requirements and UKEX policies in the post-Brexit era and prepare to ensure compliance of your product.

Equipment and protective systems intended for use in explosive atmospheres / hazardous locations

Companies operating in potentially explosive atmospheres / hazardous locations are required to follow strict guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety of their employees and the environment. It is essential to ensure compliance and adherence to the relevant directives, such as the ATEX Directive in the EU, UKEX in the UK, the IECEx System internationally, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations in the U.S., which sets safety standards. These regulations apply to and provide detailed requirements for the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres / hazardous locations. 

For companies that operate in sites with potentially explosive environments, compliance extends to essential health and safety requirements. These include providing the staff with the appropriate training and implementing safety measures to prevent, detect and mitigate the risks of explosion. This can be achieved by only using the necessary certified explosion-proof (i.e. Ex marked) products in potentially explosive areas (i.e. zones) of their site(s). Non-compliance carries severe consequences, ranging from hefty fines and penalties to the revocation of operating licenses. In extreme circumstances, it can lead to criminal charges should an explosion occur causing harm or loss of life. Beyond the legal ramifications, non-compliance can severely damage a company's reputation, creating a negative impact on its business operations. Hence, adherence to these requirements is not only a legal obligation but also a business necessity.

Products intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres are strictly regulated under several directives and regulations, such as the ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU, with the purpose of ensuring safety and preventing accidents. Key requirements and obligations for these products include: designs that prevent the formation of sparks, flames, or heat that could ignite an ­explosive atmosphere; materials that can resist the harsh conditions found in these environments; and they must pass a series of rigorous tests defined by the standards. Manufacturers are obligated to provide comprehensive information about the safe use of their products, potential risks and necessary preventive measures. Additionally, these products must carry an Ex marking, indicating their compliance and fitness for use in explosive atmospheres. In case of non-compliance with these directives, consequences can be severe. Manufacturers may face penalties, product recall, and reputational damage and may even be held liable for any damage or injury caused by the non-compliant product. It is essential for manufacturers to understand and follow these directives to maintain product safety and avoid any potential legal repercussions.  

The ATEX directive and UKEX regulation for explosive atmospheres

ATEX directive and UKEX regulation are introduced by the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) respectively for regulating equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres. ATEX, short for "Atmosphères Explosibles", aims to ensure employee safety across the EU with a unified standard for machinery and equipment that can cause explosions. Following the same lines, the UKEX directive applies to the UK, ensuring machinery and equipment safety in potentially explosive atmospheres. The scope of these directives is wide, targeting various sectors such as mining, oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, pharmaceutical, food production, and manufacturing where explosive atmospheres might exist due to the presence of gases, vapours, mists, or dusts. The main objective is to minimize the risk of ignition and ensure the safety of equipment and protective systems intended for such hazardous environments. Compliance with these directives is mandatory, requiring manufacturers to test and certify their products before placing them on the market in these regions. 

What is the difference between the EU ATEX directive and the UKEX scheme?

The EU ATEX directive and the UKEX certification scheme are two sets of regulations specifically designed for equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres. The former, an EU directive, was implemented by the Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996 and has been the leading standard in EU countries for such equipment. However, post-Brexit, the UK needed to establish its own regulations to replace ATEX. Thus, the UKEX scheme was introduced in 2021 as part of the potentially explosive atmospheres regulations in 2016, becoming the new UK regulations relevant to equipment for explosive atmospheres. Both the ATEX directive and UKEX scheme seek to ensure the conformity of the equipment with safety standards. However, the ATEX directive is no longer recognized in the UK, and the UKEX scheme now replaces ATEX in managing and regulating such equipment. Consequently, the ATEX markings will no longer be valid in the UK after the transition period, reinforcing the importance of UKEX certification for such equipment on the UK market. 

Categories and zones defined under the ATEX directive and UKEX regulation

 The ATEX directive and UKEX regulation are critical regulations in the EU and UK that define equipment categories and classification of zones for hazardous areas with potential explosion hazards. The ATEX directive, short for 'Atmospheres Explosibles', enforces safety standards for ATEX products such as ATEX equipment that operate in explosive atmospheres. Similarly, the UKEX regulation is established as a national regulatory framework that follows the same principles and guidelines of ATEX post-Brexit. These standards are organized into different categories and zones depending on the frequency and duration of an explosive atmosphere. The DSEAR, or Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations, is the United Kingdom's implementation of the European Union-wide ATEX directive, now replaced by UKEX post-Brexit. This regulation identifies and controls risks associated with flammable, explosive, and chemically reactive substances that have the potential to cause harm to individuals and environments. By categorising areas into zones, these regulations maintain safety by ensuring the compliance of equipment and protective systems.

Simplified ATEX Zones Diagram.png

The diagram above is a simplified illustration for informational and illustrative purposes only. For further details and proper classification of hazardous zones, please refer to the following standards: EN 60079-10-1 and EN 60079-10-2.

What is the difference between ATEX / UKEX and CE / UKCA marking?

The ATEX (for the EU) and UKEX (for the UK) markings primarily deal with safety standards in potentially hazardous areas such as industries handling flammable gases or dust. These markings signify that the products meet the necessary safety requirements to prevent explosions. On the other hand, the CE mark (for the EU) and the UKCA mark (for the UK) are broader product certification marks, signifying that the products meet EU or UK legislation requirements, not limited to safety standards. The CE and UKCA marks involve a conformity assessment process where the manufacturer makes a declaration of conformity and meets designated standards, issuing a technical file for the product. It could involve a third-party certification body for certain product categories. The marked product, whether with the CE or UKCA marks, can then be placed on the market. The key difference lies in their focal points, with ATEX/UKEX focused on hazardous environments and CE/UKCA having a broader scope covering various legislation points, not only those related to safety. 

Since Brexit, should a product intended for the GB market comply with ATEX or UK EX requirements?

Since Brexit, the UK government has introduced changes to the UK legislation that dictate how products intended for the GB market should comply with safety and regulatory standards. A new certification, UKEX, has been introduced to replace ATEX as part of the changes brought about by Brexit, becoming effective from 2022. A product intended to be placed on the GB market will now need to comply with UKEX requirements, according to the UK list of approved standards. It is essential for manufacturers and distributors to understand that they now need to seek approvals from UK approved bodies rather than EU ones for their products to be legally sold in the UK. In addition, a UK Declaration of Conformity is now required, attesting that the product meets all the necessary requirements. Ultimately, UKCA certification has become a new cornerstone of the UK market's regulatory framework, reinforcing the shift from EU standards following Brexit. 

How can Crover Testing Services help?

Whether you are aiming to obtain an approved test report via a notified body or are aiming to issue a statement of conformity yourself, or are still developing your product for explosive atmospheres, we can probably help accelerate and de-risk the process by performing the relevant standardised tests and providing expert advice.

Reach out with your enquiry via the 'Submit a request' button below.


Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. We make no representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or reliability of the information contained herein. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this article or for any consequences arising from the use or misuse of the information. You should consult a qualified professional before taking any action based on the information in this article.