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Will OSHA Accept ATEX? Answering Common Questions About Vacuum Certification

November 28, 2017

CIID2_Food-15Last month, we interviewed several experts about OSHA and combustible dust regulations. We also asked them about some of the most common misconceptions and points of confusion they encounter when advising clients.

Dr. Ashok Ghose Dastidar, VP, Dust & Flammability Testing and Consulting Services, at process safety engineering firm Fauske & Associates, LLC, said that he runs into a lot questions about ATEX versus NRTL certification for vacuum cleaners and other equipment. Here are the answers to those questions.

What are ATEX and NRTL certifications?

ATEX and NRTL certification both apply to equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres. The difference is that ATEX certification is in the European Union, while NRTL certification is in the United States.

For a more complete discussion of ATEX vs NRTL, read our article What is ATEX Certification? Is It Applicable in North America?

Is ATEX equivalent to NRTL?

ATEX and NRTL are similar, but not equivalent. That’s because NTRL certifications are standardized, whereas not all ATEX certifications are the same. This inequality takes two main forms:

  • While NRTL certifications are always provided by a third party, ATEX certifications are not. For equipment designed for use in less hazardous explosive locations, manufacturers are allowed to self-certify.
  • Companies in different European countries may use different criteria for certification, which means that an ATEX certification issued in one country may not pass the requirements in another country.

Because of these differences, Dr. Dastidar notes that ATEX equipment might be “inherently safe,” but not “certified safe” as we know it in the United States.

How can you tell if your ATEX-certified equipment really is safe?

Dr. Dastidar advises that the best way to ensure your ATEX-certified equipment is providing the protection you need is to ask for the actual test report.

He notes that the standard reports aren’t nearly as elaborate or detailed as what we see in North America. Often, the labs will just say the equipment passed, but won’t provide data about the experimental setup, the results, and so on. But you can ask for the report, which will help you assess if the test was performed up to standard.

Will OSHA accept the ATEX mark?

As we noted in our previous article about OSHA and ATEX, this is where things get complicated.

In theory, the ATEX mark is not applicable in the United States. In practice, Dr. Dastidar says that whether or not it will be accepted depends on the OSHA office and the experience of the OSHA inspector. If the inspector is new and unfamiliar with ATEX, they’re likely to reject the certification outright. On the other hand, if the inspector understands ATEX, they may ask for more documentation or third-party verification before making a decision. In this case, you’ll be glad you asked for that detailed report.

However, the only way to 100% guarantee your equipment will pass OSHA inspection is to have it certified by an NRTL. Like Dr. Dastidar says, “With an ATEX certification, the customer may feel safe — and they probably are — but the key is what OSHA will think.”

If you have any further questions about ATEX certification as it relates to vacuum equipment, let us know. To receive expert content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter at the top of this page.

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