Businesses need to prioritize workplace safety for their employees. By putting safety systems and protocols in place, you protect the welfare of your human capital (i.e., the people who work for your) and ensure that your other resources are not compromised. 

Whether unwittingly or due to negligence, putting your labor force in danger will get you in trouble with the law. Failure to look after your business assets, such as equipment and production materials, will also prove detrimental to your business objectives. From whichever perspective you look at it, workplace safety is a worthy investment. 

The stakes become even higher if your work environment is considered hazardous. Think, for instance, workplaces that are at risk of explosions. Some industries that fit the bill include, but are not limited to, pharmaceutical, chemical, food processing, wood processing, and power generation.


Infographic guide to TEX Certification for safety in explosive atmospheres


What is ATEX Certification?

ATEX is an abbreviation for “explosive atmosphere.” This term governs directives established by the European Union for ensuring safety in places where there’s a risk of explosion. As outlined by the European Committee for Standardization, compliance protocols exist for ensuring employee and equipment safety amid an explosive atmosphere through ATEX certification.

The ATEX certification covers two directives:

  1. The safety and protection of workers in explosive atmospheres (Directive 99/92/EC or ATEX Workplace Directive
  2. The regulatory standards that EU member states need to comply with to produce and implement equipment and protective systems in explosive atmospheres (Directive 2014/34/EU, which replaced Directive 94/9/EC or ATEX Equipment Directive). 

What is an Explosive Atmosphere?

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) defines an explosive atmosphere as “a mixture of dangerous substances with air, under atmospheric conditions, in the form of gases, vapors, mist or dust in which, after ignition has occurred, combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture.” 

In the definition above, the term atmospheric conditions refers to ambient temperatures and pressures. This covers temperature and pressure spectrums between –20°C and 40°C and 0.8 to 1.1 bar, respectively.

Explosive atmospheres can exist in a variety of industries. So long as flammable substances are used, or certain business processes emit hazardous gases, vapor, or liquid, there’s the risk of an explosion. That possibility puts the workforce in danger, hence the creation of the ATEX certification for safety compliance.

Factors That Contribute to an Explosive Atmosphere

A variety of factors may trigger an explosion. Here are some of them.

  • Flammable dust, gas, mist, or vapor – Any flammable substance can easily combust as a reaction to environmental triggers. For instance, flammable liquid, gases, and vapors may explode due to high temperatures or an eclectic spark.
  • Size of potential releases – The level of safety risk is directly associated with the size of the place susceptible to an explosion and the number of dangerous substances within it. Thus, the emission of potentially explosive gases in a large area poses less alarming danger than the opposite scenario with the same level of released hazards. 
  • Pressure and temperature – There are potentially hazardous substances that won’t explode unless heated. Meanwhile, there are liquid substances that produce a mist that can explode upon mixing with vapor. That is why the safety level of temperature and pressure of utilized equipment and processes need to be thoroughly assessed.  
  • Ventilation – An enclosed area lacking any form of ventilation, whether mechanical or natural, poses a greater risk, especially if there are explosive substances within it. Proper ventilation should be carefully studied and planned before building a workplace.
  • Size of the hazardous area – Even if hazardous substances are used only in a particular room in a large building, it does not mean that if an explosion happens, it will be contained within that space. Explosive atmospheres may spread through ducts, for instance. 
  • Other potentially explosive material within the area – It’s best to cover all the bases, safety-wise. Move beyond the obvious threats and consider waste products, residues, cleaning materials, and other potential hazards that may contribute to an explosive atmosphere. 

Safety Measures 

To ensure the utmost safety, you may adopt the following strategies. 

  • Identify fire and explosion hazards in the work areas – Use the standards outlined by the DSEAR to classify danger zones. The classification will hinge on an area’s likelihood of an explosion due to the presence of hazardous substances. 
  • Use explosion-proof cameras for monitoring – Pay close attention to those danger zones. Keep them under strict observation by using explosion-proof cameras with a video monitoring system that can withstand fires and explosions. This will help you assess risks and respond to emergencies more promptly. It’s also wise to have safety staff present 24/7.
  • Reduce or eliminate risks if possible – If there are safer alternatives to a hazardous substance, use that instead. Streamline business processes so that the risk of fires or explosions is diminished if not eliminated. It’s crucial to find ways to reduce risk without compromising the reliability and practicality of daily operations.
  • Conduct special audits – Review recurring and detailed Electrical Safety Audits (ESA). The process will help you pinpoint electrical hazards and ways to mitigate their risk, among other benefits.
  • Carry out control measures – If possible, try to relocate equipment or devices that can trigger an explosion to a non-hazardous area. Moreover, look into explosion confinement via design and engineering safety plans.
  • Adopt mitigation measures – Should a fire or an explosion occur, the best way to minimize the damage is by implementing mitigation management. This can be done by exposing only a few of your labor force to hazardous areas and providing those whose jobs can’t be performed outside those areas with reliable PPE.
  • Conduct training and workplace safety education  Your employees should know what to do in case of a fire or an explosion. They must also be trained in first aid and disaster response. 
  • Have reliable communication systems in place – Do not skimp on warning signs, and make sure they are visible. Have appropriate and clear safety messages on high-risk equipment and chemical containers. Your PA and alarm systems should also be glitch-free.
  • Careful selection and marking of equipment – Choose ATEX-certified equipment. Follow ATEX-approved use of equipment. Do not compromise safety to expedite processes. Remember, safety has no shortcuts.

Safety Must Always Be a Priority

You cannot afford to neglect workplace safety. The cost of doing so is enormous. Anything that compromises the welfare of your employees will cause you to lose integrity as a business, and you’re also bound to lose considerable money if you fail to prevent perfectly avoidable accidents. 

So if you run a workplace environment that’s at risk of explosions, get a hold of an ATEX certification. That will give everyone on your team peace of mind. Plus, no third parties can accuse you of cutting corners. 

A safe workplace clearly says you take care of your own. It’ll be your loud and explosive announcement to the world that you also mean business. If your company is already ATEX certified and would want to make sure it stays that way, it would be prudent to invest in explosion-proof cameras. Reach out to IVC Co and inquire about our network cameras and workplace monitoring solutions to address your company’s safety needs.