The use of electricity can generate hot surfaces or sparks which can ignite an explosive atmosphere.
If there is enough of the substance, mixed with air, then all it needs is a source of ignition to cause an explosion. Explosions can cause loss of life and serious injuries as well as significant damage.
An explosive atmosphere could be present in a variety of different places including paint spray booths, near fuel tanks, in sumps, or many places where aerosols, vapours, mists, gases, or dusts exist.
Also, in workplaces handling fine organic dusts such as grain flour or wood.
Areas where it is possible that an explosive atmosphere may exist must be treated differently from other areas. Care should be taken to prevent static discharges in potentially explosive atmospheres.
The ATEX Directive (2014/34/EU) came into power in April 2016, replacing 94/9/EC, which applies to equipment and protective systems for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.
There are many ways that companies can lower the risks and ensure safety using the ATEX Directive …
Electrical and non-electrical equipment and installations in potentially explosive atmospheres must be specially designed and constructed so that the risks of ignition are eliminatedor reduced, such as intrinsically safe equipment
Recently installed equipment should be marked with an ‘Ex’ to show it is suitable for use in potentially explosive atmospheres
Most new equipment in the UK for this use should have an ATEX certificate
Equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure it doesn’t pose an increased risk of causing a fire or explosion, but only by people who are competent to do so.
Different sites will have different levels of risk so ATEX is broken down into ‘zones. The higher the risks, the more stringent the regulations are.
Employees working in zoned areas are provided with adequate work clothing that does not create an electrostatic risk
Provide training to workers who work in places where explosive atmospheres may occur, and they will know the precautions and actions needed to safeguard themselves and others from explosions
For example, DBI Control recently worked on a chemical plant in Ellesmere Port and when it came to the end of the job and we had to take photos it was important that we used an intrinsically safe camera instead of a normal one.
Intrinsically safe cameras are specifically designed and engineering for hazardous area environments. They limit the energy (electrical and thermal) available for ignition and are ideal for taking images and video footage in dangerous environments.