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ATEX vs IECEx Difference Explained

  • ATEX and IECEx are a set of standards for safety in potentially explosive environments.
  • ATEX is a requirement in the European Union, but it’s not necessarily recognized internationally.
  • IECEx is widely accepted across the globe and many products with IECEx certification also offer ATEX certification as well.

When flammable gas, vapor, or combustible dust are mixed with air in the correct quantities, an explosive atmosphere is created. With the introduction of an ignition source, an explosion can take place. Explosions can result in fatalities or serious injuries together with significant collateral damage. There is also the wider reaching financial and environmental impacts of such events. Both ATEX and IECEx standards cover safety for these types of environments.

Therefore, it is vital that the necessary precautions are taken to mitigate and contain explosive atmospheres. Additionally, operators need to prevent potential sources of ignition from being present. In order to increase the awareness and protect against explosions, a selection of directives and standards exist. In turn, these directives ensure that manufacturers and operators follow standard guidelines to achieve the highest level of safety.
The ATEX directive and the IECEx scheme are two such routes to demonstrate the level of safety requirement for various operations and circumstances.

What is the Difference Between ATEX and IECEx Certification

Although both systems rely on the international standards from IEC 60079 series, there are a few differences. ATEX is primarily for use within the European Union. Furthermore, it becomes law when any member state adopts these standards. IECEx, on the other hand, targets jurisdictions of all countries worldwide. A full summary of the difference can be found in the IECEx Informative Guide (

What is the ATEX Directive?

Deriving the term from French: ATmosphères EXplosibles”, ATEX describes the equipment and use of a product in an explosive atmosphere. ATEX certification is mandatory across Europe and involves all stages from manufacturing through the installation and use of equipment.


There are Two Parts to ATEX Directives

Directive 1999/92/EC – User Directive

First, Directive 1999/92/EC, is the ATEX “user” Directive. This directive sets out the minimum requirements for ensuring the health and safety of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres. Measures specified in the first directive include:

  • full assessment of explosion risks and characteristics
  • classification of the areas with an explosive atmosphere into “Zones” with marking of entry points
  • ensuring safe working conditions
  • duty of coordination for visitors and subcontractors
  • selection of appropriate equipment and protection methods
Directive 2014/34/EU – Equipment Directive

Second, Directive 2014/34/EU, is the ATEX “equipment” Directive. This directive aims at manufacturers. It sets out the requirements for equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. This includes electrical equipment on the surface, below ground, and on offshore installations. This directive encompasses:

  • all equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, and which are capable of causing an explosion through their own potential sources of ignition
  • protective systems for use in potentially explosive atmospheres

Manufacturers must ensure that their products meet essential health and safety requirements. Furthermore, they must undergo appropriate conformity processes. This typically includes testing and certification by a notified body.

The “EX” symbol, together with additional marking, detail the protection method and temperature classification and mark the certification of the equipment. You can learn more about selecting equipment for explosive atmospheres here:

What is IECEx?


Whilst ATEX certification is a general requirement within the EU, there is not universal recognition internationally. However, the International Electrotechnical Commission for Explosive Atmospheres system has wide acceptance in many countries globally. IECEx is an international certification scheme where full compliance with IEC international standards is a requirement.

Qualified testing laboratories assess products for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. In turn, these certification bodies issue an “IECEx Certificate of Conformity” if the product meets the safety requirements of the standards. A Certificate of Conformity allows for direct market access in many countries. Additionally, it demonstrates that a product complies with international standards in support of any local certification requirements.

Both the technical requirements and the standards used to demonstrate conformity are almost identical for ATEX and IECEx.

As such, it has become a common industry practice for products to contain both ATEX and IECEx certificates. Find out more about our range of ATEX and IECEx devices here.

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