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EX area stands for an area or space where an explosive atmosphere may be present. An explosive atmosphere is a mixture of flammable substances and air. Substances such as (flammable) gases and liquids or dust under specific atmospheric conditions. The combination of the presence of an explosive atmosphere and an ignition source can lead to an explosion.
“An Explosive atmosphere is a mixture with air, under atmospheric conditions, of flammable substances in the form of gases, vapours, mists or dusts in which, after ignition has occurred, combustion spreads to the entire unburned mixture” – Directive 1999/92/EC Article 2More about Directive 1999/92/EC Article 2
To prevent and protect against explosions, most countries have laws and regulations in place, such as European Directive 1999/92/EC (ATEX 153, formerly known as ATEX 137). ATEX is an abbreviation for ATmosphere EXplosible, a hazardous atmosphere.
EX areas occur in the storage of flammable chemicals, gas cylinder storage and in processes where emissions can be released. Examples are vents, valves and flanges in piping systems. Locations where fine solids are processed, shipped and stored can be an EX area due to the risk of a dust explosion. Entire installations, tank pits and pipeline routes can also be classified as hazardous areas. Entering an EX area is permitted only with compliance with various safety measures.
Area marking is an important part of safety signage and is required by law. It clarifies and gives people a good idea where EX areas are located.
“Where necessary, places where explosive atmospheres may occur in such quantities as to endanger the health and safety of workers shall be marked with signs at their points of entry” – Directive 1999/92/EC Article 7, 3eMore about Directive 1999/92/EC Article 7, 3e
The European Commission has issued a non-binding guide to good practice for the implementation of the 1999/92/EEC as an aid, see this link. It states among other things that it is not useful to mark an entire protected part of an installation and that if not an entire room but only part of it is a hazardous area, it can be marked with a yellow-black shading.
Further explanations can also be added to the general EX warning sign with information on the nature and frequency of the presence of an explosive atmosphere. Other additions include safety symbols such as smoking and open flame prohibition. When gases are present, there may also be a suffocation hazard from an emission. The display of other risks, prohibitions and measures should be considered when setting up EX area signage, in accordance with the principle of setting up a safety signage system according to ISO/TS 20559. To inform employees, visitors and suppliers where EX areas are located on a site, Blomsma Signs & Safety implements safety signage in the form of composite signs, EX area impression boards, lineation and delineation.
When designating EX areas we mainly apply composite signs. Wherever an EX area is entered, in most cases other risks, prohibitions and commandments apply that need to be indicated. Examples include safety symbols that prohibit or require the use of specific equipment such as radio equipment, cell phones or the use of explosion meters. In addition, lines and demarcations can be applied to clearly mark the boundary of the zone and avoid unwanted traffic flows in those areas.
3D impression signs for EX zone signalling
For optimal information transfer, we develop practical information boards with graphic elements that show the existing hazardous area(s). Using an understandable and simple design, the message is optimally communicated to the target group. These signs clarify situations on site by means of drawings, photographs and illustrations. 2D and 3D drawings, top views of situations or simple graphic illustrations make it clear where the various hazardous areas are located. Three-dimensional drawings and photographs are easier to “understand” and clearer than two-dimensional drawings. These EX area impression signs are provided with the legally required safety symbols according to 1999/92/EEC and ISO 7010.
The strength of hazardous area signage is the combination of cleverly placed signs with clear use of safety symbols, combined with lines and boundaries. A plan for signalling can be used to implement this in a structured way in the preparatory phase.
Blomsma Signs & Safety carries out complete EX area signalling projects, starting with an inventory followed by a design and signalling plan and production and assembly on site.