The degree of safety in explosion protection has risen constantly in the last 20 years–Initiated by the European Union at the beginning of the 1990s, the Atex guidelines shall now be transported to all regions of the world. With globally harmonised regulations, unified installation safety could be achieved worldwide.
In explosion protection, the advancing globalisation is assuming increasing importance for internationally active businesses. National regulations are a disadvantage, whether for the manufacturers of explosion-protected equipment or for the operators of installations with explosion risk, since they lead to different concepts of safety technology. Further, they hinder the creation of a unified catalogue of scientifically and technically sound measures in explosion protection. T unify standards, the memeber states of the European Union introduced a overriding set of rules as part of a “New Approach“ in the 1990s. Particularly important for explosion protection were the Atex production guideline 94/9/EG and the Atex operational guideline 1999/92/EG. These “Atmosphère Explosibles“ guidelines include the introduction of explosion-protected equipment as well as the protection of workers in hazardous areas.
Whereas explosion protection was treated holistically in Germany until the introduction of these guidelines, the new approach involved separate consideration of products and operations. The aim of the “New Approach“ was to enable a free flow of goods within the European internal market by means of a unified conformity assessment process.
Better Safe than Sorry: Achieving an Security Certification
Before introducing a product, a manufacturer must ensure that the product conforms with the fundamental requirements for health and safety in the relevant guideline. He confirms this conformity by issuing a declaration of EG conformity and by fixing a CE label on the device. For explosion-protected devices in categories 1 and 2, the involvement of a body (Atex Notified Body) named according to EU guideline 94/9/EG (after 2016: 2014/34/EU) is necessary for the issue of the certificate of conformity.
After a successful type check, the conformity of the product is confirmed by the issue of an EG type examination certificate, usually on the basis of requirements from harmonized CEN or CENELEC norms. The introduction of the Atex product guideline has led to a great number of innovative products by defining a general protection aim (“the device shall not have any potential ignition sources“).
Harmonised Worldwide: IECEx Shall Unite regional Safety Standards
Following the introduction of the international IECEx system, manufacturers can since 2003, have an “IECEx Certificate of Conformity“ issued for his product. The basis for this is conformity with the norm group IEC 60079-0 and following. On the basis of the IECEx test reports and mutual recognition, the test centres involved worldwide can issue national certificates, even if national divergences from the IEC norms make additional tests necessary. By eliminating a further test, it could be possible, with this first step, to lower trade barriers and to advance international trade in explosion-protected electrical devices.
Since the relevant product norms for explosion-protected devices are almost identical in both IEC and CENELEC, the European named bodies involved can issue both Atex and IECEx certificates at the same time.
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