18 November 2019

Safety should be top priority in any workplace, but some settings are more hazardous than others. Many industries include manufacturing or processing practices that create potentially explosive conditions, such as the gas supply sector, and the pharmaceutical and varnishing industries. 

Workers who operate in environments like these still need the backup of digital support but, unless rugged industrial mobile devices have the proper certification, it’s not safe or legal for them to be used anywhere that could be hazardous.

This certification is ATEX – a legal standard based on two European Directives that govern the management of explosive atmospheres.

What is ATEX certification?

ATEX certification covers the minimum requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers, as well as the equipment and protective systems used in potentially explosive environments. It exists to minimise the risks posed by working in these settings, making it an essential safety measure and a legal compliance standard for employers.

The definition of what makes an atmosphere explosive under ATEX is outlined as part of the wider Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). Under DSEAR, an explosive atmosphere is defined as “a mixture of dangerous substances with air, under atmospheric conditions, in the form of gases, vapours, mist or dust in which, after ignition has occurred, combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture” (hse.gov.uk).

Under ATEX, potentially explosive atmospheres must be classified with a specific level of risk via a zone classification (e.g. Zone 0, Zone 1, Zone 2 etc), based on the how likely an accident could be, how often the explosive atmosphere is present and how long any reaction would last if it was to occur.

What devices can be ATEX certified?

By law, only ATEX certified devices can be used in a potentially explosive working environment. Thankfully though, there is an extensive range of fit-for-purpose ATEX certified mobile devices, from tablets to vehicle mounted devices and handhelds.

Not only are these devices built to rugged specifications – shock and drop resistant, water and dust proof, with ultra-touch and responsive touchscreens – they are also designed to meet and exceed ATEX standards. A device that is ATEX certified has been fully and independently tested by an official ATEX certification body.

ATEX certification and Brexit

At the time of writing, the outcome of Brexit is yet to be determined. However, as ATEX is a European Directive, there are questions about what Brexit could mean for the continued legality of ATEX certification in the UK.

While nothing is known with upmost certainty  at this stage, the Office for Product Safety & Standards has published a revised copy of the regulation: Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres, which currently puts ATEX into effect in the UK. This revised regulation will come into force if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal.

If, on the other hand, a Brexit deal is done, any changes to ATEX will depend on the exact details of the specific agreement. However, it seems that any deal in which the UK ceases to be part of the single market, EU employment law would no longer apply – including ATEX - and the UK government would have to enact its own legislation to govern the management of working in explosive atmospheres. Of course, it remains to be seen how exactly Brexit and its impact on ATEX will play out.

Rugged ATEX certified mobile devices from the experts

At Touchstar, we have decades of experience advising and supplying our customers with the right rugged mobile hardware to meet their operational needs, including rugged devices certified for ATEX Zone 2 conditions. We can help your business protect its employees, ensure legal health and safety compliance, and benefit from the improved efficiency and streamlined processes rugged mobile computers provide. To find out more, please get in touch with our friendly team.      



Peter joined TouchStar (formally Belgravium) in a sales manager role in 2001.  Prior to joining the company, Peter held Partner and National Sales Manager roles within the parcel and logistics industries.   In 2011 Peter was promoted to Sales Director and is now actively involved in promoting the value of TouchStar’s Rugged Mobile Computing solutions to the warehouse, logistics, manufacturing and field service industries. When not involved in the business, Peter is a keen and enthusiastic football and cricket fan.

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