Food Industry Workers Guide to Safe Atmospheres

The European Union (EU) and United States (US) have put a ban on some dangerous household and industrial substances, including certain pesticides, additives, lubricants, drugs and flammable liquids. The ban was put into place as a way of protecting human health and the environment. The European directive on ATEX equipment carries out these restrictions by banning or restricting the manufacture and sale of some dangerous products. Many countries, including the US, are expected to follow suit in the near future.

The European Union (EU) directive on ATEX equipment was created by the European Food Safety Authority (FSA). This is one of the biggest regulatory bodies in Europe and oversees safety in many aspects of food production, handling, distribution, marketing and consumption. The directive states that ATEX should be used with great care to avoid any unnecessary dangers arising from the use or application of its components. It makes provisions for the labelling and packaging of ATEX items so that consumers are protected against dangerous substances.

The FSA has produced a number of guidelines and clear procedures which it regards as a model of good practice for all businesses and organizations that deal with or produce ATEX. This includes the requirements of the ATEX equipment directive and a Great Britain safety guide. The Great Britain safety guide provides guidelines for the organization in the management of dangerous materials and the identification of explosive atmospheres. The two documents provide a very good example of how the necessary precautions can be taken. The two documents are able to be downloaded free of charge from the FSA’s website. The guidelines clearly state that the use of ATEX in the preparation or storage of dangerous substances is restricted, as is the use of aerosols.

The UK safety guidelines suggest that the storage of dangerous or potentially explosive atmospheres should only take place in areas which are fully protected with physical barriers. This includes doors, windows and any surrounding structures. The storage of gases and vapors outside such areas is also strictly regulated. All personnel working in areas where there are dangerous or explosive atmospheres are required to wear an approved safety uniform, which stipulates the type of protective clothing that would be worn in the event of an emergency.

The ATEX equipment and hazardous dust environments guide identifies two specific conditions that are more likely to cause fires in food industry workplaces. The first is the proximity of flammable objects such as oil, gas or electric sparks to combustible gasses or vapors. The second is in the direct proximity of sources of ignition for these flammable objects, which include lightening, sparking or combustible gas logs, overhangs, chimneys and vents. The guideline also identifies other situations, which it regards as high risk. Such places include automatic systems, which contain controlled access or multiple levels; electrical facilities; chemical plants; and processing plants. High risk equipment includes all machinery involved in these areas.

According to the ATEX Equipment Guide, all employees should know the dangers of ATEX zones. However, it is not recommended that all employees be trained to work in these zones. Only designated employees should be permitted entry into the zones to avoid misunderstanding or any accidents as a result of their ignorance. The ATEX zones are intended to provide workers with protection against extreme work conditions, but not all circumstances can be deemed safe. For more information visit here

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