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Mechanical ATEX certification - not relevant, or vital for site safety?

06 January 2015

Red Dragon Ltd based in Treorchy, South Wales has for many years supplied solenoid valves for Zone 1, 2, 21 & 22 environments where the electrical components and housings are designed to prevent the valve operation contributing to the cause of an explosion. Electrical components are an evident safety risk in hazardous environments and both industrial users and valve manufacturers have accepted the value of this ATEX compliance to protect site safety

A selection of products supplied in the UK by Red Dragon
A selection of products supplied in the UK by Red Dragon

Achieving the same consistency of certification from manufacturers of non-electrical components is much more difficult as it can depend on how a manufacturer interprets the compliance criteria. Even with manufacturers of directly competitive products, the level of certification can vary from not available to a statement of exemption from the requirements of the ATEX regulations, up to a comprehensive conformity certificate in accordance with ATEX 94/9/CE.

The responsibility for safety is already in the hands of the end user as they have to determine and classify any potentially hazardous areas on their plant. In turn, they have to rely on the supply chain to provide goods that are fit for purpose for these areas, which in this case would mean the need for ATEX certification. This would appear to be a problem for plant managers and safety officers because there is still a question of whether mechanical valves are “safe” by design or not until evaluated and certified. Certainly it is currently possible to buy a product and install it in a designated hazardous area relying on a manufacturers claims of exemption but is this the best way of ensuring site safety and compliance with legislation?

Until the ATEX directive is revised to clarify this point further, there is nothing to force manufacturers to provide certification for mechanical products. It may be that when IECEX is revised to include non-electrical safety, the ATEX directive will be updated and we may be in a clearer position but that is as yet uncertain. At present the user could decide to use Brand A that doesn’t offer certification because they’re a global manufacturer and must know what they are doing. Surely it would be safer to select a supply partner or product manufacturer based on their ability to demonstrate compliance for their products?

At Red Dragon we have a wide variety of electrical and non-electrical valves and accessories that come with ATEX compliance as standard to add reassurance for end users that goods used on plant are safe. One of our partner manufacturers, Sitecna Srl of Italy has even gone as far as offering ATEX compliance on silencers and bug screens even though there are no moving parts. This is a key indicator that they have considered the market needs and decided to gain the certification for all their products irrespective of what competing manufacturers may offer. Again it adds reassurance for the client that an inspector won’t find a non-compliant item that risks a plant shutdown for replacement.

If there is any doubt regarding certification availability:
* Consider alternatives before accepting a non-certified or exempt product. If one manufacturer can’t offer certification for a particular type of product, another probably will.
* Speak to an ATEX specialist supplier such as Red Dragon Ltd or your notified body contact for a second opinion.

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