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Explosion protection in the D-A-CH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) has the same structure in these three countries, and is based on the ATEX Directives: ATEX Equipment Directive 2014/34/EU (formerly 94/9/EC) and ATEX Workplace Directive 1999/92/EC of the European Union). The ATEX Directives have been implemented in the respective national laws as follows:
2014/34/EU (ATEX 95)
- Regulation on the explosion protection (11. ProdSV) – Germany
- Regulation on the explosion protection (ExSV 2015) – Austria
- Regulation on equipment and protection systems for the use in explosion hazardous areas (VGSEB 2013) – Switzerland
1999/92/EC (ATEX 137)
- Regulation on hazardous substances – Germany
- Regulation on the explosive atmospheres (VEXAT) – Austria
- Regulation on the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases (VUV 2016) – Switzerland
The ultimate goal of explosion protection is the protection of people from the effects of explosions. For this purpose an explosion protection concept has to be developed, which employs the following measures:
- Prevention of the formation and limiting the occurrence of explosive mixtures by intertisation, limiting their concentrations by increased air exchange etc. (primary explosion protection)
- Avoidance of effective ignition sources (secondary explosion protection).
- Mitigation of the detrimental effects of an explosions by constructional measures, if the above measures require too much effort or are not effective, (constructional explosion protection, which in Germany is also referred to as tertiary explosion protection).
The basis for the explosion protection concept is a risk assessment, which determines whether at normal operation, and during normal service disruptions, there may occur hazardous explosive mixtures. On this basis, the zoning is done, taking into account means of primary explosion protection and related monitoring and control measures in the field of control engineering.
At the same time, such zoning is based on the rules of engineering, in accordance with technical regulations and various standards and instructions. The requirements of the equipment in hazardous areas are derived from the zoning and the safety characteristics of the ignitable substances.
If, in spite of the primary and secondary explosion protection, an explosion cannot be safely prevented, constructional means are necessary. Then, with the risk assessment, the resulting zoning, and the measures taken, a comprehensive explosion protection concept is developed. This explosion protection concept is ultimately the basis for an explosion protection document, which should be drafted in accordance with the relevant national regulation implementing Directive 1999/92/EC.
Implementation of the explosion protection concept is inspected at the commissioning and periodically thereafter. The periodic inspections, e.g. in Germany, should be carried out as follows:
- Installations in explosion hazardous areas: at least every six years, unless some shorter intervals have been set under the safety assessment procedure.
- Equipment, protective systems, safety devices, controlling devices and regulating devices within the meaning of Directive 2014/34/EU (formerly 94/9/EC), with their associated connecting devices: at least every three years, unless some shorter intervals have been set under the safety assessment procedure.
- Ventilation systems, gas detectors and inertisation devices: every year (when zone reducing a zone or as an explosion protection measure).
The aforementioned checks should be carried out – depending on the monitored system’s type – either by an approved body, or by a person qualified in accordance with TRBS 1203 (technical regulations concerning occupational safety). Austria has similar regulations on the inspections to be carried out by a competent person. In Switzerland, the emphasis is on users’ own responsibility, although also at the construction of a new installation, or retrofitting of an existing one, the authorities demand relevant certificates.
Checks also include the formal suitability of electrical and non-electrical equipment used in hazardous areas. Often old non-electrical equipment commissioned before June 30th, 2003, has not passed the conformity assessment procedure in accordance with 2014/34/EU, and has not been certified for the suitability for use in explosion hazardous areas. In such a case, the employer has to document the equipment’s suitability on its/their own, or retain an expert to document the suitability.
In Austria, however, such certificates may be issued by third parties only. The basis for the ignition source analysis is EN 13463-1; however, depending on the equipment type, other standards may also need to be considered. In special cases, the ignition source analysis may also be based on scientific research results.
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