Understanding Ex and ATEX environments


In many industries potentially explosive atmospheres can occur within workplaces. Achieving the required safety measures in these so-called Ex areas and zones requires specialized efforts. In the past, oil and gas and chemical industries were especially vulnerable to industrial accidents.

During the early 1990s, the Council of Europe rightly decided that the probability of an explosion should always be as small as possible. Provisions were then drawn up relating to the safe operation of supplied equipment in the workplace. These directives were then transferred into EU legislation, resulting in what was named ATEX.

The term “ATEX” is specifically used in connection with the ATEX directives (2014/34 / EU and 1999/92 / EG) and so always refers to the Europe / EU region. Outside the EU, we refer to Ex areas and zones worldwide.


ATEX is an abbreviation of the French words atmosphères explosibles, referring to areas and applications:

– Wherever flammable gases, mists and vapours or combustible dust come in contact with oxygen, any source of ignition could cause an explosion
– All sources that could generate an explosion, such as sparks, flames, rising temperature or static energy

Ex zones and ATEX categories

Once an area with explosive atmosphere has been identified, it is classified into Ex zones, based on the frequency and persistence of the potentially explosive atmosphere.

‘Zone’ refers to the level of risk in any given situation or environment, from occasional to intermittent to continuous. ‘Category’ refers to the type of explosive product or material, such as gas or dust:

Understanding ATEX can be complex but hopefully this simple introduction clarifies the essentials. Because when it comes to employee safety, there can be no compromise. Choosing the right solution to manage Ex zones is about more than financial savings or legal compliance. It is about being safe and reducing risk and protecting people and property from harm.