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Comprehensive details and a full explanation of the ATEX Equipment Directive are included in the book Electrical Apparatus and Hazardous Areas written by Robin Garside. Click here for details.

Key Facts – ATEX Equipment Directive

Directive Number


Directive Title

The approximation of the laws of Member States concerning equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres

Transition period ended

30 June 2003

UK Government Department handling UK regulations:

Department of Trade and Industry



What the Directive Covers

With certain exceptions (see below) this Directive covers all equipment and protective systems for hazardous areas. It is not restricted to electrical equipment. (Previous Directives concerning hazardous area equipment only covered electrical equipment.)

The Directive is a 'New Approach' Directive - essentially a mandatory trading directive - that is to say it is concerned with giving a level playing field within the European market place.  It does, however, also have some implications for the users of hazardous area equipment in terms of spares and possibly repairs (see below) but it does not affect equipment which is already installed and in use. The end user is also concerned with this Directive if equipment is made on-site for their own use.

The main impact of this Directive is that equipment which is marketed as intended for hazardous area use and which "is capable of causing an explosion through its own potential sources of ignition" must comply with the requirements of the Directive in order to be placed on the market (sold) or put into service within the EC.

Equipment which does not present a potential source of ignition is outside the scope of the Directive.  In practice, such equipment would not normally be sold as specifically intended for hazardous area use.  For example, we don't expect (or want) to buy hazardous area pens - we can use an ordinary pen in a hazardous area!

Equipment which is already installed on site does not need to be changed to be 'ATEX Compliant'.  Providing it is safe, for example equipment certified to European Standards prior to ATEX and which is still in good condition may continue to be used.  Refer to the ATEX Safety Directive (or, in the UK, the DSEAR guidelines for more details.


The Directive applies to equipment (and protective systems) which are being put on the market or put into service.

Put on the market means first making available, against payment or free of charge, of products in the EU market, for the purposes of distribution and/or use in the EU.

Put into service means first use of products referred to in directive 94/9/EC in the EU territory, by its end user.


Equipment Groups and Categories

The Directive specifies the following Equipment Categories and Groups for surface industry


Equipment Group


Suitable for use in…

II (Surface Industry)



ZONE 0 (+ 1 + 2)

ZONE 20 (+ 21 + 22)

II (Surface Industry)



ZONE 1 (+ 2)

ZONE 21 (+ 22)

II (Surface Industry)





(Mining applications are covered by Equipment Group I which has two Equipment Categories: M1 and M2.)

For information on Zones, use the Site Navigation to go to the Hazardous Area Basics page on this web site.



Complying with the Directive

In general, compliance with the requirements for each category and group will necessitate compliance with the essential safety requirements and the appropriate standards for the different types of protection. (See information on Basics Page). For electrical equipment in Categories 1 and 2 (and non-electrical equipment of Category 1) this will involve a Conformity Assessment Procedure and full certification of the equipment by an EC Notified Body.

Electrical equipment of Category 3 (zone 2 / zone 22 use only) and non-electrical equipment of Categories 2 and 3 is marked with the equipment category as compliant on the basis of the manufacturer's declaration. (No third party certification.) Users and purchasers of Category 3 equipment should check with the supplier to ascertain if the product has been certified. (See below)



Exceptions to the Directive

The Directive does not cover:

Medical devices intended for use in a medical environment

Equipment and protective systems where the explosion hazard results exclusively from the presence of explosive substances or unstable chemical substances

Equipment intended for use in domestic and non-commercial environments where potentially explosive atmospheres may only rarely be created, solely as a result of the accidental leakage of fuel gas.

Personal protective equipment covered by Directive 89/686/EEC

Seagoing vessels and mobile offshore units together with equipment on board such vessels or units

Means of transport, i.e. vehicles and their trailers intended solely for transporting passengers by air, road, rail or water networks, as well as means of transport in so far as such means are designed for transporting goods by air, by public road or rail networks or by water.

Vehicles intended for use in a potentially explosive atmosphere shall not be excluded.