ATEX Directive creates storm for the suppliers

Controversy surrounds the ATEX Directive, being developed in the EC and due to take effect in July 2003. Since March 1996, the ATEX (Atmosphere Explosive) Directive has been applicable in Europe for equipment for use in potentially hazardous areas, protective systems controlling the effects of incipient explosions and safety devices located outside the hazardous area […]

Controversy surrounds the ATEX Directive, being developed in the EC and due to take effect in July 2003.

Since March 1996, the ATEX (Atmosphere Explosive) Directive has been applicable in Europe for equipment for use in potentially hazardous areas, protective systems controlling the effects of incipient explosions and safety devices located outside the hazardous area but performing a safety function.

At a BEAMA conference in London last month, challenges to the ATEX concept were particularly strong with regard to compatibility with the IEC Ex (voluntary) scheme. The requirements in Article 14 of ATEX (legal) state that equipment currently certified to European harmonised standards will cease to be valid after 2003 – and any CE marking obtained to these standards will become void in six years time.

Andy Owler, from Expo Systems, said at the meeting that ATEX will not help his company serve customers, and is only of benefit to Brussells law-makers, not manufacturers.

He suggested that CENELEC standards, aligned to IEC, should be followed for the next two years and that ATEX should be ignored. Owler said that products in hazardous areas must be suitable for use outside the EC, and that IEC standards must take priority.

`The concept of cancelling parallel voting between CENELEC and the IEC is not democratic. This is putting up barriers preventing exports to IEC standards. Its a disgrace!’ he said.

Chris Towle, from MTL, was also critical. `The inevitable conclusion for any manufactuer attempting to work in this sphere is that one should “lay back and think of Europe” since you cannot influence any of the decisions’.

He said that this debacle is likely to result in quality control experts and consultants building an expensive “castle in the air”, confident that they will not have to earn the money to pay for it.

Ian St Claire, HSE, said: `We must keep in touch with the rest of the world and not allow ATEX to cut us off. The HSE will not withdraw approved products in 2003′.

Gordon Gaddes, conference chair and past-president of CENELEC, pointed out `the considerable benefis and positive trade balances with Europe and the need to link and harmonise with European national systems’.

He said that it will take a long time for the EU to work. Problems include the scope of application, which is difficult to define and an overlap between New Approach Directives, he said.