Achieving efficiency and compliance

Published:  15 August, 2017

Organisations operating hazardous areas – otherwise known as Ex-rated or Ex Environments - face a variety of challenges including compliance with the latest legislation, and advances in technology. Mark James, RS product manager, automation and control, for Northern Europe reports.

For instance, the emergence of Wi-Fi and mobile, both of which can be essential to operations but present a potential ignition source and, therefore, are an emerging significant contributory factor to more hazardous situations. Where lives are at stake, regulation is tight and legislation comprehensive, so it’s important to work with the right suppliers to get the necessary products to ensure optimum safety.

Worrying lack of knowledge around hazardous areas

Ex Environments are those that present a risk of potential explosion, due to the substances being handled or used in the manufacturing process. These environments can exist in many industries; obvious ones such as oil, gas, power generation, automotive and marine – but also in industries that might be less obvious in being potentially hazardous, such as cosmetics, printing and food & drink, where dust (from custard powder, barley/wheat milling or cosmetics dust), vapour or gases may be present in the atmosphere. We believe there is a real lack of knowledge in some areas of the manufacturing sector when it comes to hazardous areas and working within the regulations. Legislation and compliance is vital for all and customers must be diligent. Ignorance is no excuse in the event of an incident brought about by lack of proper precautions.

Navigating standards requirements

The end user is responsible for identifying and classifying Ex Environments with the appropriate zone, of which there are three that are regulated by ATEX - a European legislation. As the world shrinks, and of course with the potential complications that an exit from the European Union could bring, other standards such as Australian-based IECEx are gaining acceptance. Forward-thinking manufacturers are already planning for the event of a global industry standard, which would go a long way to making the regulation of hazardous areas easier to understand and navigate for those working within them. In the meantime, buyers of electrical products for use in these areas can continue to buy ATEX approved products. However, the complex ATEX markings can be difficult to navigate.


It’s essential for buyers to be able to source and access the right products at the right time. These products can range from intrinsically safe control components to digital cameras, thermal imaging and LED lighting – as many manufacturers are switching to LEDs now in their facilities to lower maintenance and running costs.

Personal protection equipment (PPE), non-sparking tools and equipment such as exposure monitors or portable communications are also often required. It’s therefore important that customers consider the whole picture when assessing a hazardous area to ascertain its ‘zone’ before making purchasing decisions.

In the event of a ‘near miss’, being able to access a particular product quickly to negate a future potential hazard will be vital. Working with specialist suppliers of hazardous area products is a route some buyers in manufacturing choose to take, but they should also take into account suppliers with a real breadth of product range and capability of speedy delivery when considering a purchase. This aids both fast fulfilment of the potentially urgent requirement, and efficiency in procurement of multiple products.

Buyers and engineers will need continued support with up-to-date information on legislation changes, advice and technical information on the right products for the job and an easy and efficient purchasing journey. To help address the worrying lack of knowledge of EX Environments, RS aims to offer this support and keep abreast of legislative changes to help customers operating in hazardous areas stay safe quicker. This is something suppliers of products in this tightly regulated market all have a duty to do.

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