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ATEX – The New European Directive

Author : Ron Sinclair

03 March 2014

In my last column for Hazardex, I trailed the new edition of the ATEX Directive.  The text of the directive was accepted on February 5 by the European Parliament, and we await publication in the Official Journal (OJEU).  Logically, the text should have been published before this appears, and at that time we will know the number that has been allocated.  It will have the format 2014/…/EU.

The version that was accepted by the Parliament has quite a number of detailed changes from the draft text that was last made available, but none of these should cause significant issues for manufacturers.  It is a relief all round that the document went through Parliament before the spring elections, and has therefore not been delayed.

So what are the main differences between ATEX 2014/…/EU and ATEX 94/9/EC?  The new directive is several pages longer than its predecessor.  This is partly because the preamble (the bit before the text of the actual directive) is far more extensive.  It sets out the rationale for much of the new material, and includes the bold statement: 
Experience has shown that the criteria set out in Directive 94/9/EC that conformity assessment bodies have to fulfil to be notified to the Commission are not sufficient to ensure a uniformly high level of performance of notified bodies throughout the Union.

There follows detailed argument as to why proper national accreditation should be the basic requirement, along with minimum requirements for the notifying authority in each country.  The existence of a number of notified bodies that were not technically competent was one – though not the only – reason that ATEX certificates have fallen out of favour in many parts of the world.

Further aspects dealt with in the preamble and in the main text include the identification of more than one type of “economic operator” involved in the production and sale of a product, and the definition of “manufacturer” as the economic operator who places the product on the market and issues the Declaration of Conformity. 

The responsibilities of authorised representatives, importers and distributors are now also more carefully outlined, including the need for the importer (if there is such an intermediary between manufacturer and final customer) having to be identified on the product and in the instructions. 

Although not using the terminology, the directive now makes explicit provision for “Trade Agents”, that is someone publicly assuming responsibility as manufacturer but not, in fact, taking any part in the manufacturing process.

It is now clear that any product should have only one Declaration of Conformity, referring to all applicable directives.  Separate declarations for each directive are now absolutely forbidden.  However, it is now accepted that batches of equipment sold to the same customer need only have a single declaration accompanying the batch, rather than one for each item of equipment.  The given format for the declaration differs in detail from the present version.

The new words about identifying the manufacturer on the product relax one aspect, but tighten another.  The use of a trademark, as opposed to the name of the manufacturer, is now accepted (aligning with the IEC version of 60079-0) but it is clarified that the postal address must be included.

So what has not changed?  Most importantly, there are no changes to the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSRs) in Annex II.  Thus the new directive has no direct influence on the development of standards. Although the words have changed, there are no significant changes affecting manufacturers in Annexes III to IX which describe the conformity assessment procedures.

The good news, therefore, is that any product compliant under 94/9/EC will be compliant under the new directive.  The only thing that must change is the Declaration of Conformity.  This is tacitly accepted in the transitional arrangement, which says that certificates issued under 94/9/EC are valid under the new directive.

The transitional arrangement also provides for a two-year overlap between the two directives, with the ability to issue documentation according to 94/9/EC until two years plus one day after the date of publication of the new directive in the OJEU.

About the author:

SGS Baseefa General Manager Ron Sinclair MBE is chairman of BSI Committee EXL/31, responsible for the UK input to both European and International standards for Electrical Equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. He is chairman of Cenelec TC31 and ExTAG, the Test and Assessment Group of the IECEx International Certification Scheme.

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