ATEX is an acronym of the French Atmospheriques Explosives. This European Directive amends and adds safety requirements for hazardous areas in the relevant national legislation in the member states of the European Union, bringing in a common standard. The purpose is to enable the sale of equipment across the European Union, without manufacturers having to satisfy different requirements for each national market.

Where equipment is to be used in potentially explosive atmospheres containing gas or combustible dust, it must comply with the ATEX directive.
Compliance with the ATEX Directive means reinforced safety aspects – safer design, more demanding testing procedures, and specific quality assurance measures for the design as well as the manufacturing process. It requires employers to protect both staff and local communities from the risk of an explosive atmosphere.

ATEX consists of two parts: ATEX 95, which concentrates on the duties of the manufacturers; and ATEX 137, which focuses on the end users’ obligations.
The ATEX 95 Directive is implemented into UK Law by the The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996 (EPS Regulations) making compliance with the ATEX directive mandatory from July 1st 2003.

The ATEX system depends on three key elements: Harmonised technical standards;Audits of the manufacturing facilities; and notification by the European Commission to recognise bodies and test laboratories known as Notified Bodies.