Hazardous Area Legislation – Introduction

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) is very much a cornerstone of the law governing installations in hazardous areas. Regulation 4(2) requires equipment to be maintained to prevent danger, and regular inspection is considered an essential part of that maintenance.

Regulation 6 of EAWR is concerned with hazardous environments, including any flammable or explosive substance, dusts, vapours and gases. The requirement is that the equipment shall be protected in such a way as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger arising from its location in that environment. Latterly the UK legislation has incorporated a number of European Directives. Most prominent of these are the ATEX (standing for “ATmosphere EXplosible”) Directives.

ATEX 2014/34/EU, also known as the “Equipment” Directive, deals with the manufacture of equipment and protective systems designed for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. It is implemented in the UK by the Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2016 (EPS).

ATEX 1999/92/EC is known as the “Worker Protection” Directive or “ATEX 137” Directive, and covers the “minimum requirements for improving the safety and health protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres”. It is implemented in the UK by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).

DSEAR also encompasses certain elements of the Chemical Agents Directive (CAD) 98/24/EC, those that deal with flammable risks.

EPS  is complementary to DSEAR, and as such regulates what equipment can be installed in a plant. Following a transition period the Regulations have applied in full since 1st July 2006, wherever work is being carried out by an employer (or self-employed person) when a Dangerous Substance is present or is liable to be present at the workplace. There are exemptions but largely just about every business in Great Britain is subject to the Regulations.

In DSEAR terms a “dangerous substance” is any substance or preparation (i.e. mixture) with the potential to create a risk to persons from energy-releasing events such as fires, explosions, thermal runaway or exothermic reactions etc. It does not address the toxic or health risks of those substances. Those are dealt with by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH), which have been amended to implement the health side of CAD. A good guide, but not exhaustive, to what constitutes a “dangerous substance” is the (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) Regulations (CLP).

In terms of policing, DSEAR is enforced in the main by the HSE at industrial premises, and by Local Authorities at retail premises. At petrol stations enforcement is by the Petroleum Licensing Authority.