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Dust and the new ATEX regulations

Electrical Engineering

11/02/2014

Tags: Hazardous Area Equipment

Topics: Hazardous Area Equipment, Safety in Engineering

Maintenance operatives in all industry sectors now need to make sure that repairs and maintenance meet ATEX regulations. The recently defined ATEX zone 20 to 22 dust conditions present a new challenge and companies are advised to use suppliers and repairers who correctly certify machines, if they are to avoid liability.

Because all moving machinery is capable of causing a fire in hazardous environments, designers and engineers have invested a great deal of of time and energy in trying to minimise the problem. Because there is so much at stake, as a consequence of failure, a range of tools and practices have been developed to defend the workforce from such hazards. Routine maintenance procedures have also enabled engineers to minimise the development of faults. Indeed, components are continually being refined and upgraded to prevent, or offer greater resistance to, hazardous environments. 

To achieve consistent and efficient management of plant safety, a good awareness of ATEX-approved components is vital and, in many process and manufacturing applications, this plays a major part in enabling operators and maintenance engineers to ensure that plant is observing all current legislation.

Hazardous area motors

Take, for example, the requirements for motors that operate in hazardous areas. The ATEX labelling scheme provides an indication of the level of protection offered and the zones in which a motor is suitable for use. However, the judgement as to whether a repaired motor remains ATEX-compliant is more complex and may require help from a specialist. To maintain safety, operators must be sure that a repaired motor is as safe as a new one, so it is important to enlist the help of a partner that offers an accredited repair service. 

ERIKS was one of the first companies to have a motor repair workshop approved to undertake ATEX repairs. Because it is able to repair motors and also sells a range of new units designed and certified for use in hazardous locations, it is able to offer an unbiased service. 

Even in traditional ATEX industries, such as petrochemical processing facilities, there have been some challenges, such as providing sensors that are able to perform reliably in the presence of the high pressures found within applications such as wellhead automation, gas distribution and gas compressors. In these applications, safety is critical and component failure could result in a serious accident. These hazardous conditions present complications to engineers, not only in ensuring safety but also in carrying out installation and replacement of components, which can be extremely difficult. However, solutions have been found and engineers in these applications are now well used to conformity. It is important that maintenance operatives in a much wider section of industry are now also able to ensure that repairs and maintenance meet the latest ATEX dust regulations.

A new challenge

The recently defined ATEX zone 20 to 22 dust conditions present a new challenge and companies are advised to use suppliers and repairers who correctly certify machines, if they are to avoid liability. Everyone is already aware that devastating explosions and fires can be caused by explosive gases and vapours, but not so many, perhaps are aware that fires caused by dust can be equally as destructive, and this is reflected by the new legislation.

The regulations have been influenced by the fact that there have been several large explosions investigated in recent years – in areas such as crop storage, food processing, coal processing and plastics – that have been attributed to dust, either atmospheric or settled. So, with both these dust conditions covered by the regulations, and with the dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres regulations (DSEAR) 2002 also requiring employers to control the risks from fire and explosions, it is time for engineers to be sure that they understand what constitutes a risk to safety and consider carefully how to address it.

The good news is that although the issue affects a huge range of products, it is relatively simple to achieve compliance. Key to achieving conformity is to consult a leading supplier with expertise in a wide range of parts and components such as motors, belt drives and couplings – all of which are included in the regulations. Any party with responsibility for certification of supplied equipment, including product manufacturers, can be held legally responsible for accidents due to non-conformity with the new directives. The newly defined zones will affect many new operations, so if you are in any doubt about your responsibilities, conformity or the best way to achieve it, you should talk to a supplier who understands your industry, the legislation, and the machinery to which it applies.

Conclusion

For most industrial and manufacturing companies safety has become an established part of their business processes. It has moved beyond a simple assessment of risk to comply with and exceed the requirements of legislation and the welcome growth of this more responsible culture will make it easier for most firms to adjust. Indeed, many companies are already recognising that by getting in line with legislation as early as possible, they can comply with legislation and also improve their productivity and profitability, while at the same time presenting an impressive set of credentials to their customers.

ERIKS UK

www.eriks.co.uk

T: 0121 5086219

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