What are they and why should you care?
ATEX 137 is the more commonly used name for Directive 99/92/EC, which was published by the EU in 1999. It was designed to lay down the minimum requirements for ensuring the safety of of people working in environments where explosive atmospheres pose a risk. In the UK, these regulations are enacted through the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).
While it might be tempting to think ‘this doesn’t affect me’ and move on, you should carefully consider your business as a whole before dismissing what this legislation might mean for you.
What are my Obligations?
As an employer, you are legally obliged to carry out a fire risk assessment demonstrating that you have considered the potential for explosive atmospheres in your premises. If, having completed your risk assessment, you are completely satisfied that none of your core activities presents any kind of risk, then documenting the process that lead to this conclusion should be enough to cover you. However, it should be noted that while explosions in the workplace are fortunately rare, the likelihood of serious injury or death not occurring should one happen is extremely unlikely – and the penalties for failing to meet your obligations as an employer are severe. For this reason alone, if you are in any doubt about your ability to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment, this is one area where you should consider consulting a professional.
What do I Need to do to Comply?
There are multiple steps that you need to take to show that you have fully considered the risks of explosive atmospheres within your business:
- Provide evidence that you have considered all of the substances that you use, and what the risks of using them actually are.
- Demonstrate that you have controls in place which (preferably) remove the risk, or where it’s not possible to do so, reduce those risks.
- Ensure that if an incident does take place, you have planned sufficiently to minimise the effects of an explosion.
- Formulate appropriate plans and procedures to deal efficiently and safely with any incident that does occur.
- Provide adequate training, allowing your employees to minimise the risk of explosion, and also to be able to appropriately deal with any incident that does take place.
- Finally, highlight areas of your business which are at risk from explosive atmospheres and take steps to ensure that ignition sources are eliminated.
Situations which might result in an explosive atmosphere are not always immediately apparent, even to people who have many years experience in their own industry. It’s crucial that you are fully aware of the potential risks, and that you communicate this information to your staff so that they take every precaution possible to avoid creating an explosive atmosphere. Due to the enormous potential for severe damage and loss of life, even from a minor explosion, this is one area where it’s worth investing in professional advice – it’s not something that anyone should just take a chance on.
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