A guide to safely using two-way radios in ATEX Zones
For many working environments radios are an essential form of communication but in areas where electrical sparks or heat can ignite an explosion it isn’t always safe to operate standard radio equipment. To operate two-way radio systems completely safely in potentially hazardous areas the equipment must comply to rigorous standards set out by the ATEX Directive. ATEX Stands for Atmospheres Explosibles.
Places that may need ATEX-approved two-way radios
There are many organisations and places in which radios are critical to effective operations but would need to be ATEX-approved to ensure they don’t become dangerous. These include:
- Oil rigs and refiners
- Emergency services who attend hazardous scenes including police, fire and ambulance
- Coal mines
- Gas mains
- Chemical plants
- Engine rooms
- Timber sawmills
What does ATEX approved mean?
The ATEX Directive 94/9/EC was introduced by the European Union in 2003 and it seeks to ensure that workers in potentially explosive atmospheres only use ATEX approved equipment and systems, including two-way radios, that are intrinsically safe. ‘Intrinsically safe’ is an expression that is often used when describing the use of electrical equipment in hazardous environments. When applied to two-way radios it means the device is safe to use somewhere where the presence of a spark, heat or flame could create a safety hazard.
If you need to use radio equipment in potentially hazardous environments it must be fully tested to meet the ATEX Directive standards and approved to be intrinsically safe. When radios are ATEX approved they are manufactured to very stringent requirements to reduce or eliminate the risk of generating sparks. The heat produced by the device must also be limited to ensure it won’t ignite in an explosive atmosphere. Everything is constructed with safety in mind from the batteries used to the radio-casing.
There are differing ATEX zones which denote the type and level of risk in an area. The frequency and duration of risk present in the form of flammable gases or dust materials can differ in hazardous places. ATEX approved radio equipment needs to comply with the ATEX zone in which it is intended for use. The different ATEX zones and their definitions are as follows:
Zone 0 (for gases/vapours) or Zone 20 (for dust)
In this area an explosive mixture is continuously present or present for long periods. ATEX approved two-way radio equipment designed to be used safely in this zone offers an extremely high level of protection.
Zone 1 (for gases/vapours) or Zone 21 (for dust)
In this area an explosive mixture is likely to occur in normal operation. ATEX approved two-way radio equipment used in this zone offers a high level of protection.
Zone 2 (for gases/vapours) or Zone 22 (for dust)
In this area an explosive mixture is not likely to occur in normal operation and if it does occur it will only exist for a short amount of time. ATEX approved two-way radio equipment approved for use in this zone offers a normal level of protection.
ATEX radios also have temperature classes, consisting of 6 categories – T1 to T6 – that denote the heat levels in which the product can be used.
NRC offer a range of ATEX approved radios which are intrinsically safe for use in hazardous environments. They all offer a range of enhanced features that you would expect from modern digital radios, so you don’t have to sacrifice performance for safety. If you are interested in purchasing or hiring ATEX approved radios contact us today and our team of experts will be happy to discuss the best options for you.