Understanding ATEX and IECEx Labels
health and safety at work
Understanding ATEX and IECEx Labels
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC controls all manufacture and import of equipment for
use in explosive atmospheres, including non-electrical items. ATEX requires that
the equipment be safe, and bear a label indicating the conditions under which it is
approved for use. All ATEX equipment must bear the CE marking. Import, sale or
workplace use of equipment without ATEX approval is illegal.
ATEX covers equipment that satisfies three criteria:
1. It must be purposely-designed for use within an explosive atmosphere at
normal temperatures and pressures.
2. The atmosphere may contain gas, vapour, mist or dust as a fuel, but must be based on air as the oxidiser.
3. The equipment must have an ignition source in and of itself, such as a spark, hot surface, etc.
Because of these criteria, simple items such as hammers are not covered as they do not generate sparks in and of
themselves (only when struck against another item), and some mechanical devices such as hand-operated valves
are excluded under statements issued by the EEC, as they are not considered to move fast enough to generate any
frictional heat sufficient to cause ignition.
The IECEx scheme is controlled by the International Electrotechnical Commission, and covers electrical equipment for
use in explosive atmospheres. IECEx uses different codes and approvals systems, but also requires detailed information
on the product label. IECEx does not currently apply to non-electrical equipment.
Many modern devices will carry both ATEX and IECEx approval, and so the label will display codes and information
from both schemes. Some of that information is common, some is not. A typical ATEX and IECEx label is shown below.
Product name
Year and serial No.
Manufacturer’s address
IEC Power specs
IECEx Certificate No.
ATEX Certificate No.
Explosion classification
Operating temp range
ATEX Marking
CE marking
The minimum information on the label required by ATEX 94/9/EC is as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Name and address of the manufacturer(s) who hold the production quality assurance certificate. Where an item is
manufactured in several locations as part of an assembly chain, all addresses must be shown.
The CE marking - shall be at least 5mm in height wherever possible, and shall be followed by the serial number of
the Notified Body certifying the production assurance system or type examination.
Type or model reference, and serial number (if any).
Year of manufacture - this may be part of the serial number, to simplify printing of labels or castings.
The ATEX Marking - the “hexagon” symbol, immediately followed by the equipment group and category.
Additional marking “as required for safe use” - such as the explosion
classification, ambient temperature limit, supply voltage, etc. - the
Directive requires this information to be shown but does not define
exactly what it is, rather the various product standards (EN and IEC)
will each define certain fields and symbols to display.
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The ATEX groups
Group
Definition
Group I (mining) is divided into two categories: M1 (the equipment
will be in an energized state when the atmosphere is present) and
M2 (it will be de-energized when the atmosphere is present).
I
For example the marking E M2 indicates equipment which can
be used in mines susceptible to firedamp and flammable dust, but
when an explosive atmosphere is present it must be de-energized.
The underground parts of
mines, and to those parts of
surface installations of mines,
that are liable to be endangered
by firedamp (methane) and/or
combustible dust.
II
All other industries
Immediately to the right of the official “hexagon” symbol will be the
ATEX group code(s). There are two groups, I and II.
Group II is divided into three categories, 1, 2 and 3, based on how frequently the explosive atmosphere will be present.
Within the ATEX code, the permitted fuel types are shown by “G” for gases, mists and vapours, and/or “D” for flammable
dusts. In the IECEx scheme we also have group III, referring to dusts in non-mining applications.
IECEx and the ATEX “Workplace” Directive 1999/92/EC also use “zones”, and differentiate between gas- and dustbased fuels by prefixing the zone number with “2” if the fuel is a dust. It is important to remember that ATEX ‘94
category numbers are one higher than zone numbers, so “zone 0” = “category 1”.
IEC & ATEX ‘99 Zone
Gases & vapours
Dusts
ATEX ‘94
Category
0
20
1
Very high
Explosive atmospheres are present continually
or for long periods or frequently.
1
21
2
High
Explosive atmospheres are likely to occur under
normal operations, occasionally.
2
22
3
Normal
Explosive atmospheres are not expected to
occur under normal operations. Where they do
occur, it will be for a short period only.
Protection level
Description
Many products are approved for use in more than one group, or are designed for “boundary” installation (where they
span a bulkhead between two zones) or “contained” installation where they are placed in an area that is different to the
classification of the atmosphere they are handling—for example an extract fan may be carrying gases from a category
IIA enclosure, but itself is only designed to be installed in a category IIC area. In these cases the ATEX marking will
show both categories, divided by a forward slash. Where a device performs as an external safety device only
(such as the control panel for a series of zone-0 fire detectors) but is not in and of itself approved for use in
that category, the number will be shown in brackets. A hyphen indicates the equipment is not approved for Ex use.
The table below shows some typical examples of ATEX markings. Note how some of these examples refer to equipment
which cannot be used in an EX location! The presence and position of the hyphen is all-important.
ATEX Marking
E I M2
E II 1 GD
Mining equipment, category 2, for de-energized use.
Non-mining equipment, category 1 (zone 0), for gases and dusts
E II 2(1) G
Non-mining equipment, suitable for use in category 2 (zone 1) containing a safety
device for connection to equipment in caegory 1 (zone 0).
E II (1) GD
A non-mining safety device with intrinsically-safe circuits, for use with category 1
equipment, but which itself cannot be installed in an EX zone.
E II (2)G (1)G
E II 1/2 G
E II 3/- D
E II -/1 G
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Explanation
A non-mining safety device which protects both category 1 and category 2 equipment,
but which itself cannot be installed in an EX zone.
A device installed on the boundary of category 1 and 2 (zones 0 and 1).
A device handling dust from category 3 but which cannot be installed in an Ex zone.
A device handling non-explosive gas, but installed within category 1 (zone 0).
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health and safety at work
The Explosion Classification
Every product will have at least one Explosion Classification. This is a code indicating the protection concepts and
approved environments in which this item can be used. Where equipment is rated for use in more than one ATEX
Group, there will be an Explosion Classification for each. Where equipment has been certified under both ATEX and
IECEx, there may be additional Explosion Classifications from the IECEx scheme, which are not part of the ATEX
system (e.g. a classification for Group III).
The Classification begins with “Ex” or “EEx” — the latter denotes that the equipment has been certified against an EN
standard, and “Ex” denotes it has been certified against an international or IEC standard.
Next will be the “protection concept”, a case-sensitive code showing what measures the equipment uses to effect
safety. These codes are described on the next pages.
Next may be the Gas Group or Dust Group to which this Classification refers. See later for explanations of these.
Next is temperature class, either using a T-number for ATEX, or the temperature value in °C for IECEx (see below).
The equipment protection level (EPL) from IEC/EN 60079 is usually last in the sequence, but there may be an IP rating.
The example Explosion Classification on the right reads as follows:
•
•
•
•
•
EEx q IIA T5 Ga
EEx — This product complies with an EN standard.
q — The “protection concept” is “powder-filled”.
IIA — Suitable for use with Gas Group IIA (propane).
T5 — Maximum surface temperature 100°C.
Ga — Very high equipment protection level, will be safe even after two malfunctions. Suitable for zone 0.
Temperature classes
The maximum possible surface temperature of equipment is shown in the
ATEX Explosion Classification as a “T” value, ranging from T1 to T6 in order of
decreasing value (so T6 is “safer”). New in IEC 60079-0:2011 is the concept of
marking a range of certified temperatures with an ellipsis, such as “T4 ... T6”.
Under IECEx, the maximum possible surface temperature is printed as a
real value in °C, so the code may be “T200°C” rather than “T3”. For dustbased atmospheres, the IECEx sequence will also show the maximum surface
temperature in °C with a certain covering of dust. For example the code “T250
300°C” means that with a 250 millimetre covering of dust, the maximum
surface temperature of the equipment is 300°C.
Class
Max surface temp
T1
450 °C
T2
300 °C
T3
200 °C
T4
135 °C
T5
100 °C
T6
85 °C
When selecting equipment, it is crucial that the self-ignition temperature of the fuel is significantly-above the maximum
possible surface temperature. As the surface temperature and performance of equipment will depend on the external
(ambient) temperature, the permitted ambient temperature range is also usually shown on the ATEX product label.
Where it is not shown, the assumed range is -20°C to +40°C.
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Equipment Protection Level (EPL)
ATEX has an absolute approach to the selection of equipment, so a device approved for Category 2 (zone 1) is always
considered suitable for that application. Under IECEx, users should take a risk assessment approach, and while the
base classification of the equipment is important, there may be situations where a safer device is required (for example
when the consequences of an explosion are so severe they cannot be accepted, even rarely). It is also possible in
exceptional situations that a device with a lower safety classification may be appropriate.
IECEx defines three levels of equipment protection, a, b and c — the EPL code prefixes them with “M” for mines, “G”
for gases or “D” for dusts. Level “c” is for surface industries only - only “Ma” and “Mb” are permitted.
Some protection concept codes include the EPL — for example the Intrinsic Safety protection concept codes are “ia”,
“ib” and “ic”, referring to EPLs a, b and c respectively. In these cases there is no requirement to mark the EPL as a
separate part of the Explosion Classification, so “Ex ia IIA Ga T5” and “Ex ia IIA T5” are identical.
EPL
Definition
Recommended for
a
“Very high” protection - safe after two consecutive malfunctions
M1, M2, 1GD, 2GD, 3GD
b
“High” protection - safe after one malfunction
M2, 2GD, 3GD
c
“Normal” protection - safe under normal operating conditions
3GD (surface use only)
IP Protection rating
The “Ingress Protection” rating defined in IEC/EN 60529 is a measure of the resistance of an enclosure to penetration
by dust or liquid, and is not specifically an Ex concept. Several of the EN/IEC standards do require the IP rating to be
shown as part of the Explosion Classification, but having an IP rating in and of itself is not proof the equipment is
safe to use in an explosive atmosphere. Note that the IP rating system considers ingress which is “harmful”, so an
IPx8 product may still show some ingress of water when submersed, but not enough to cause any malfunction.
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Digit
First digit - against solid bodies
Second digit - against liquids
0
NO PROTECTION
NO PROTECTION
1
Objects > 50mm
Vertical (90°) dripping water (showerproof)
2
Objects > 12mm
70° to 90° dripping water (rainproof)
3
Objects > 2.5mm
Sprayed water up to 60° from vertical
4
Objects > 1mm
Splashed water from any direction
5
Dust-protected (minor ingress)
Jets of water from any angle, hose diameter 6.3mm
6
Dust-tight (no ingress)
Heavy jets from any angle, hose diameter 12.5mm
7
Immersion to a depth of 100cm
8
Submersion to a specified death over 100cm
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health and safety at work
IEC/ATEX protection concepts for electrical equipment
Where equipment contains electrical circuitry, there are a number of ways to prevent sparks, heat or short-circuits from
causing ignition of the explosive atmosphere. Broadly-speaking they take three approaches - sealing the enclosure
to prevent the fuel entering; filling the enclosure with a material which acts as a barrier (a powder, liquid, solid or
pressurized inert gas); or reducing the energy carried by the circuits to a point where sparks and arcs cannot transfer
enough energy to ignite the atmosphere (a method called “intrinsic safety”). Intrinsic safety is the only electrical
protection concept approved for use in zone 0.
These protection concepts are defined in the multipart IEC/EN 60079 standard, and each is suitable for certain zones
and fuel types. How they work are explained on the next page.
Protection code
Gas
Dust
Ex d
Concept
Flameproof
Suitable for IEC zones
Gas
1
Ex ta
Ex tb
20
Enclosed
21
Ex tc
Ex pxb
Ex pD
Ex pyb
Ex pzb
Dust
22
Pressurized
1
21 / 22
Ex pD
1
21 / 22
Ex pD
2
21 / 22
Ex q
Powder-filled
1
Ex o
Oil-filled
1
Ex e
Increased safety
1
Intrinsic safety
0
20
Ex ia
Ex ia
Ex ib
Ex ib
1
21
Ex ic
Ex ic
2
22
Ex nA
Non-sparking
2
Ex nR
Restricted breathing
2
Ex nL
Energy-limited
2
Ex nC
Enclosed break
2
Encapsulation
0
20
Ex ma
Ex ma
Ex mb
Ex mb
1
21
Ex mc
Ex mc
2
22
Ex s
Ex s
varies
varies
“Special” - now obsolete
ATEX protection concepts for mechanical equipment
Code
Concept
fr
Flow restriction
d
Flameproof
c
Constructional safety
b
Control of ignition sources
k
Liquid immersion
g
Inherent safety*
p
Pressurization*
ATEX covers nonelectrical equipment where it has the potential to
generate ignition, by heat or the creation of a nonelectrical spark (such as
in a flint cigarette lighter). The mechanical protection concept is based on
an assessment of risk, and the number of protection concepts varies, so
in a situation where the equipment must be safe both in normal operation
and in the event of a malfunction, at least two protection concepts must
be applied (as the “malfunction” could be the failure of the primary
protection concept!).
Mechanical protection concepts are defined in the multipart EN 13463
standard. They are not fuel-specific. There is no IECEx standard, as IEC
only covers electrical equipment.
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Protection concepts explained
Protection Concept
Gas / Dust
Method of protection
G
The enclosure can withstand an internal explosion without
rupturing, but internal explosions are still possible.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
Enclosed
D
The enclosure is sealed to prevent ingress of dust, and has a
surface temperature below the self-ignition value of the dust.
The enclosure is not necessarily gas-tight and so is not suitable
for dusts which emit flammable gases on heating.
Pressurized
GD
The enclosure is maintained at higher than atmospheric
pressure, using an inert gas.
The fuel is not able to enter the enclosure.
Powder-filled
G
The circuitry is fully-immersed in a non-conductive powder.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure
Oil-filled
G
The circuitry is fully-immersed in a non-conductive oil. The fuel is
able to enter the enclosure but does not mix with the oil.
G
Safety measures are used so as to reduce the probability of an
internal source of ignition (spark, hot surface, etc.) in normal
operation, though they may occur during malfunctions.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
Intrinsic Safety
GD
During normal operation and specified fault conditions, the
circuitry cannot discharge sufficient energy into a spark or
thermal event to cause ignition of the fuel.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
Encapsulation
GD
The enclosure is filled with a solid resin or polymer.
The fuel is not able to enter the enclosure.
GD
The enclosure is protected by seals, though there is some
leakage through the seals as the internal temperature and
pressure vary in normal use.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
Constructional safety
GD
The mechanical parts of the equipment must be designed so
as to prevent any sparks or thermal ignition sources from being
created, by selection of materials and operating speeds. Only
applies to mechanical equipment with moving parts.
Control of ignition
sources
GD
Ignition sources are not present in normal operation, though may
occur during malfunctions. Systems are in place to detect any
such malfunction and prevent the ignition arising.
GD
The equipment within the enclosure is immersed in an inert
liquid, isolating any ignition sources and cooling the components
(e.g. a gearbox), though the enclosure may not be totally filled.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
GD
The mechanical components have sufficiently-low potential
energy as to prevent the formation of an ignition source.
The fuel is able to enter the enclosure.
Flameproof
Increased Safety
Flow restriction
Liquid immersion
Inherent safety
* Mechanical protection concepts “g” and “p” are recent introductions, and at the time of writing their associated EN
standards remain provisional.
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health and safety at work
Gas groups
ATEX defines four groups of gases, based on how
easily-ignitable they are (by a flame or spark; not via selfignition). In Group I (mining) there is only one gas group,
namely methane (aka “firedamp”). Group I equipment
has no concept of a temperature class.
For each non-mining gas group there is a “test gas”
used as the reference standard, though each contains
many gases, which will have a different self-ignition
temperature and a range of explosive concentrations.
Common gases are defined in EN 60079-20 and some
examples are shown in the table on the right.
Gas Group
Test gas
Common gases and
their temperature class
I (mining)
Methane
Methane (aka firedamp)
Propane
acetone - T1
petroleum fuel - T1
ammonia - T1
ethane - T1
methanol - T1
carbon monoxide - T1
propane - T1
n-butane - T2
ethanol - T2
diesel fuel- T3
kerosene - T3
avgas fuel - T3
ethyl nitrite - T6
IIB
Ethylene
coal gas - T1
ethylene - T2
ethyl oxide - T2
hydrogen sulphide - T3
IIIC
Hydrogen
hydrogen - T1
acetylene - T2
carbon disulphide - T6
IIA
Groups IIA, IIB and IIC are in increasing order of
sensitivity to ignition sources, so equipment designed
for use in gas group IIB is also safe to use in the lessignitable gas group IIA, and equipment designed for use
in gas group IIC can be used with gas groups IIA, IIB
and IIC.
Equipment designed for gas group IIB may, on occasion,
be certified for a specific gas from group IIC without
having full gas group IIC approval. In this case, the
chemical name or formula of the additional gas will be
shown, for example “ IIB + C2H2 ” means the equipment
is rated for gas group IIB, and is also rated for acetylene.
Gas groups are only of importance when the protection concept used by a piece of equipment is related to the
ignitability of the fuel — for example intrinsically-safe “Ex i” protection needs to know the minimum energy of a spark
that could lead to ignition. Encapsulated “Ex m” equipment cannot expose the fuel to any source of ignition, and so
does not need to refer to a gas group in the code sequence.
Dust groups
IEC 60079-0:2007 defines the new atmosphere group III for explosive dusts in surface industries (i.e. ATEX group II).
There are three “dust groups” in the standard, defined by the properties of the dust:
Dust Group
Type
Characteristics
IIIA
Combustible flyings
Flammable particles of 500µm or less which can be suspended
in air, can settle out under gravity, and can form an explosive
mixture with air. Examples include starch and cotton.
IIIB
Non-conductive dust
Flammable dust with a resistivity greater than 103 Ohm-metres
IIIC
Conductive dust
Flammable dust with a resistivity less than 103 Ohm-metres
The self-ignition temperature of a dust suspended in the air is usually higher than the same dust accumulated on a
surface. When selecting equipment for use in dusty environments, the surface temperature of the equipment should
not exceed 66% of the suspended self-ignition temperature, and should be at least 75°C below the self-ignition
temperature of a 5mm accumulated layer of the dust.
For example, cotton has self-ignition temperatures of 560°C (suspended) and 350°C (accumulated). Your equipment’s
maximum surface temperature must be less than 373°C (suspended) and 275°C (accumulated), so the limit is 275°C.
Equipment classified T3 (200°C) is acceptable, but T2 (300°C) is not.
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