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© DEKRA CERTIFICATION B.V.
Every European company where (manufacturing) processes take place that pose a potential explosion risk, needs to comply with the ATEX 153 directive. However, companies where explosion risk is a factor vary immensely. In addition, ATEX 153 lets you define how you comply with its safety standards. A difficult task, for there is no one way to ensure safety.
Explosive atmospheres can arise when enough flammable gas, damp, mist or dust is present. Combined with oxygen (which is present in most cases) and an ignition source, these components can lead to an explosion that may cause great physical and/or material damage. To prevent explosions from happening in spaces where they otherwise might occur, site managers need to describe all the measures they take to limit risks in an Explosion Safety Document (ESD), in compliance with the ATEX 153.
Ideally, explosion risks are identified and prevented with suitable measures in the early stages of process design. Also, when changes are made to machinery or work processes, the ESD should be revised to make sure that safety practices on paper still match the actual situation.
In practice, DEKRA Explosion Safety experts see many situations where all is not as well as it seems. How do we help these companies to create a truly safe environment for their workers? The key is working together to ensure safety, as Explosion Safety expert Stephan Schaepman explains.
“Creating a safe environment starts with strong partnership”, Stephan explains. “Over the years I have worked with a large range of companies: manufacturers of breast implants, candy or car parts, large gas companies and even a company that selects and improves seeds. When I visit a site, I don’t have full knowledge of the production process that takes place there. But I do know what questions about safety need to be asked and answered. That’s why it is so important to work together intensively and exchange knowledge. As I spend more time on a site with management and employees, I get a feel for the vision a company has on safety and for the way rules are made and upheld. That’s when I can start to point out nonconformities and guide a company towards creating a safer environment by documenting safety measures in compliance with ATEX 153.”
As an example of good partnership, Stephan recalls an extended visit to the offshore gas production platforms of a large company. The board of directors took the issue of explosion safety very seriously, and asked him to come and verify whether their safety measures were up to par: “Whilst there, I spotted a number of risks that where not taken into account. To create more awareness about explosion safety amongst all workers, we conducted a couple of experiments to show what actually happens when an explosion takes place. After that we started the process of taking action on nonconformities, making sure that everything was documented in an ESD, updating maintenance systems and also training management and personnel, for they have to uphold measures and standards.”
Sometimes an expert opinion can help to clarify confusion about ATEX 153 directive. Stephan explains: “In the warehouse of a large supermarket chain, they worked with battery charging stations for forklift trucks. The site manager had consulted a number of independent specialists, that all had something else to say about ATEX safety requirements. That's when they decided to contact DEKRA. Together we sorted out what really needed to be done to comply with safety standards. Now they call us straight away when they need guidance, so we can think ahead and take steps before changes are made. A good example of how a long lasting partnership can ensure you keep on the right track to safety.
DEKRA is always happy to form new partnerships to ensure safety. Throughout the whole chain of designing, initialization, modification, maintenance, inspection and decommissioning, we add value with expert knowledge, decades of experience and dependable services. For more information, feel free to contact us.