ATEX is the name commonly given to the European directives for controlling explosive atmospheres and the standards of equipment and protective systems used in them. ATEX is now law in all European Union countries with companies that have potentially explosive atmospheres legally obliges to ensure all equipment in ATEX zones complies with the directive.
Explosive atmospheres do not just occur in chemical facilities. Explosive atmospheres are actually incredibly common in the food production industry. Many substances from flour, coffee, sugar and even custard can hold the potential to cause an explosion.
Dust is the primary reason for explosive atmospheres. If an area has a high constitution of say organic dust (such as custard or sugar) a small spark could be enough to set off a catastrophic explosion.
For this reason, industries that deal with such substances have to zone-off all their areas. Zone 0 is described in ATEX as having the highest and most dangerous levels of potential explosive risk whilst zone 2 are areas that have the potential, albeit remotely.
In zoning their areas many companies assume that all zones have to offer the same protection against explosions and they spend vast sums ensuring all electrical equipment satisfies Zone 0. However, this is not the case and many manufacturers in the food industry are literally wasting money in ensuring all equipment satisfies the ATEX directives.
In many areas labelled as Zone 2 for instance specialist intrinsically sealed industrial computers, printers and monitors are installed at great cost when in fact a simple and cheap conventional PC could be used as long as it is housed in a Zone 2 industrial computer enclosure.
Zone 2 industrial computer enclosures are available from many manufacturers and these intrinsically sealed cabinets are vastly cheaper, even including the housed PC than a bespoke sealed industrial computer.