Do you work in a high-risk industry that is at risk of fire or explosion? If so, you are probably aware of the ATEX Directive – a set of EU regulations that cover equipment and protective systems, including two-way radio, intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. This directive provides regulations to protect and safeguard employees in hazardous environments such as oil rigs, gas mains, mines, chemical plants, airports or factories.
If you work in such an environment you will need a radio for hazardous location. This blog will look at what actually makes a radio ATEX, or intrinsically safe, the hazardous industries that need this type of radio, and the clear health and safety benefits to your staff. We will also cover the ATEX zones and their definitions so you know type of cover you need for your business.
What are ATEX or Intrinsically Safe radios?
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC was introduced in 2003 to protect workers in potentially explosive atmospheres use the correct and safe equipment.
ATEX radios, also known as intrinsically safe devices are defined as “equipment and wiring which is incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy under normal or abnormal conditions to cause ignition of a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture in its most easily ignited concentration.” ATEX radios are manufactured to the highest industry standards. The devices are fully sealed and operate at a lower power output. ATEX radios are often coloured blue and marked with an ‘EX’ indicating its certification.
Below the ATEX level are a range of ‘Hazardous Location’ (Hazloc) standards laid out by the TIA-4950 directive (published by the Telecommunications Industry Association), each covering different levels of fire or explosion risk. The Hazloc standard gives two-way radio manufacturers a less stringent option of certifying hazardous location radios and accessories.
High-risk hazards. Which ATEX zone?
Is your workplace likely to be exposed to any of the following?
Acetylene and equivalent gas groups
Hydrogen and equivalent gas groups
Ethylene and equivalent gas groups
Methane and equivalent gas
Conductive dust (mechanical – factories, recyclers)
Combustible carbon dust (charcoal & coke dust) – above ground only
In high-risk locations, even the smallest spark caused by an imperfect connection between a two-way radio and its battery terminal can cause an explosion. The frequency and duration of risk present in hazardous areas can differ dramatically depending on the form of flammable gases or dust materials present.
ATEX approved radio equipment must comply with the correct ATEX zone:
ATEX zones for gases/vapour:
Zone 0 (gases/vapours): an area in which an explosive mixture is continuously present or present for long periods.
Zone 1 (gases/vapours): an area in which an explosive mixture is likely to occur in normal operation.
Zone 2 (gases/vapours): an area in which an explosive mixture is not likely to occur in normal operation and if it occurs it will exist only for a short time.
ATEX zones for dust:
Zone 20 (dusts): an area in which an explosive mixture is continuously present or present for long periods.
Zone 21 (dusts): an area in which an explosive mixture is likely to occur in normal operation.
Zone 22 (dusts): an area in which an explosive mixture is not likely to occur in normal operation and if it occurs it will exist only for a short time.
Reducing risk for your staff
ATEX radios are invaluable in high-risk environments: they keep your staff safe by enabling them to stay in touch and coordinate works, raise an alarm for help if needed, without exposing them unnecessarily to the risks of explosion.
Even if the risk of exposure under normal conditions is low, if you do experience an incident and your radios are shown not to meet the required ATEX or Hazloc standards, your insurance company paying out for damages will be the least of your concerns. Given that such an incident may have serious or fatal consequences, it’s important your two-way radios meet the correct standards, and continue to do so with regular maintenance and safety checks.
Don’t have two-way radios but keen to explore the benefits? Got a radio communication system but want to understand how it can work even harder for you? Not sure if you need an ATEX solution at your business premises? Please contact our team for an obligation-free chat.