If you work in potentially explosive environments, then understanding and working within the strict requirements of the ATEX directive is likely a time-consuming, albeit necessary, part of your job. However, flaw detectors that conform to the requirements of the ATEX directive can not only help you save time and reduce cost, but most importantly, they can help keep you safe.
By Angelique Raude, Strategic Marketing Manager at Olympus
Fire and explosions are a major concern in many inspection applications and can happen as a result of explosive environments. For example, explosive atmospheres can be caused by flammable gases, mists, vapors, or combustible dust; and when enough of these dangerous substances mix with air, they can explode if there’s an ignition source, such as a spark.
Clearly, controlling explosive environments is of paramount concern, especially for the chemical, petrochemical, power generation, aviation, and mining industries. To this end, the ATEX directive was developed to cover equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.
Today, ATEX is the name commonly given to the two European Union directives for controlling explosive atmospheres.
- The first is Directive 99/92/EX (also known as ‘ATEX 137’ or the ‘ATEX Workplace Directive’), and it regulates the minimum requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres.
- Directive 94/9/EC (also known as ‘ATEX 9’ or ‘the ATEX Equipment Directive’) regulates the equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.
The regulations apply to all equipment intended for use in explosive atmospheres, whether electrical or mechanical. It should be noted that there is no direct US equivalent. The US has a separate classification system based on the National Electric Code. Naturally, this raises the question, what equipment do you need for ATEX compliance?
ATEX Compliant Flaw Detectors
Flaw detectors are commonly used instruments in many inspection applications and are used to identify and size sub-surface defects in materials. However, when working in potentially explosive atmospheres, flaw detectors must be ATEX compliant.
For instance, Olympus offers three instruments in versions that conform to the requirements of the ATEX directive, the EPOCH® 650 ultrasonic flaw detector, the BondMaster® 600 multimode bond tester, and the NORTEC® 600 eddy current flaw detector.
These instruments offer cutting-edge flaw detection capabilities and functionalities but most importantly, help keep you safe when working in certain hazardous environments. You may notice that the EX instruments are a little bigger and heavier than their non-EX counterparts. They also have an aluminum body instead of plastic, a damage-resistant screen protector, and their rubber bumpers are a different color.
Know Your Labels
The requirements of the ATEX directive are complex however, the label on the instrument clearly explains what parts of the ATEX directive the instrument conforms to. Knowing what the label means can help ensure you select the appropriate instrument for your needs and the type of explosive atmosphere potentially present (Figure 1). For instance, the EPOCH 650 Ex, BondMaster 600 Ex, and NORTEC 600 Ex instruments all conform to the requirements of the ATEX directive with the same restrictions. EX series instruments are approved for use in environments where flammable propane-type gases (gas group IIA) are abnormally present at temperatures ranging from -10 °C to 50 °C.
The Bottom Line
Intrinsically safe and explosion-proof are terms often used improperly to describe products designed for hazardous materials. However, the equipment can only be described as intrinsically safe and explosion-proof if properly operated within the environmental conditions specified on the ATEX label. So, making sure your equipment, including your flaw detectors, are correct for your specific environment is of paramount importance; especially considering explosions can cause significant damage, serious injuries, and potentially loss of life. Olympus is at the cutting-edge of flaw detection technology.
If you would like further information on our range of flaw detectors, or expert advice on what instrument is right for you, please visit Olympus or get in touch.