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UK: Brexit

What Impact Will Brexit Have on Standards and Compliance for Hazardous Area Industries?

| Editor: Alexander Stark

Atex conformity testing of Hazardous Area equipment by SGS Baseefa.
Atex conformity testing of Hazardous Area equipment by SGS Baseefa. (Source: Aemt)

Tim Marks represents the Aemt as a member of BSI, IEC, and IECEx standards committees for Explosive Atmospheres and Rotating Electrical Equipment. He looks at some of the issues facing the Hazardous Area industry now that the UK Parliament has agreed to Brexit.

Yorkshire/UK — There are currently a lot of blank faces, particularly in Whitehall when it comes to the subject of standards, directives, and compliance in the wake of Brexit.

What does it mean for the Hazardous Area industries and will it cause problems for companies doing business in the UK?

The main message here is a sense check; first one needs to understand the difference between standards and Directives: Technical standards embody the best practice put together by technical experts to create a uniform engineering or technical criteria. They are becoming more and more international, are not mandatory, and will not be affected by Brexit.

European directives, may have technical input, but emanate from the European Parliament. They must be embodied into the laws of each EU member and are mandatory. The two however are often interlinked and standards can be used to support and help meet European directive requirements.

The European Directives are designed to create a level playing field for trade within the EU. They may also form a technical barrier to goods emanating from outside the EU. They cover all angles of trade, from machinery and transport to eco-design, health, safety etc.

Hazardous Areas are covered by the Atex Directives for potentially explosive atmospheres (Atex emanates from the French: Atmosphères Explosibles). There are two Atex directives:

  • Atex 95, originally Atex 94/9/EC, but superseded by Atex 2014/34/EU on April 20, 2016.
  • Atex 137, workplace directive 99/92/EC covering Health and Safety on site.
  • There is then the legislation that embodies the Atex directives into the UK legal system.
  • Dsear (The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations).

To a large degree these directives create an invisible barrier to trade with Europe, and are items that will still need to be conformed to after Brexit. Every item manufactured in Europe or manufactured outside the EU for use in an EU zoned hazardous area has to have a valid certificate of compliance to the Atex directives.

The certificate gives information on the results of testing for compliance with the Atex directive and named standards, as well as safety issues, labelling details, etc. The certificate is only issued after three samples of each item have been extensively tested in an accredited laboratory by a Notified Body in the EU. This can be a very expensive hurdle for a company wishing to sell its product range into Europe, however, Atex is no different to the barriers that EU companies meet if they wish to export to the US where they have to meet UL or FM standards, or the Canadian CSA standards, Japan, China, Russia etc.

Will Brexit affect UK manufacturers and importers — who already ensure that their products have the required Atex certificates?

If the UK continues to ensure that products manufactured, or imported, into the UK, abide by the Atex Directives, discussions over ease of access to the EU countries by the Customs Union Committee should be more straightforward. The existing Atex certificates will ensure ease of access into the European market.

Will Brexit affect the users — from international oil and chemical companies to local flourmills?

There would be no advantage in the UK deciding not to comply with the Atex Directives and many advantages in keeping the status quo. Users of Hazardous area equipment will still specify, buy and conform to the Atex directives as long as Dsear in the UK continues to embody the Atex Directives.

Will the government alter Dsear if it no longer needs to comply with Europe?

Dsear ensures that everything manufactured or imported to the UK still complies with the European Directive. Atex works well and is well respected internationally. Its requirement in the UK protects our markets from a flood of non Atex compliant equipment, and should continue to facilitate the free movement of Hazardous Area Equipment from the UK to Europe, and vice versa.

Will UK companies still be able to manufacture to European standards and Directives?

Standards are becoming more and more international and most of the developed countries are signed into adopting the ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) or IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards. Both are now based in Switzerland and produce international standards for adoption by member countries. The majority of these are harmonised into the European Cen or Cenelec standards systems, and most EU members are also members of ISO and IEC. Occasionally Cen or Cenelec will produce a standard as a result of a new directive, and this can go the other way and stimulate the production of a corresponding ISO or IEC document. All standards are readily available for anyone or any manufacturer to purchase and comply with.

Will the UK be able to have input into the Atex Directives?

Fortunately Atex directives are quite mature now and after 20 years have just had some minor updates. The UK took part in the consultation process and provided technical and procedural input during the review to produce the updated Atex 2014/34/EU. We may not officially be able to attend future consultations, or have any MEP’s to comment on new directives, however the results of the process and every consultation is available on line. Technical alterations to Directives often encompass alterations to the International Standards, which the UK is well represented on. I am sure that the UK voice would also be heard through international federations and UK international companies with representation in the EU.

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