ATEX Mechanical Risk Assessment

A World of Colour - We take an ATEX mechanical risk assessment journey with Ciba pigments. 

ATEX is the name of an EU framework for controlling explosive atmospheres and the standards of equipment and protective systems used in them. This places the onus on companies that are potentially at risk to carry out site assessments of their equipment and working practices. When one of the world’s largest pigment manufacturing facilities, Ciba in Paisley, needed to carry out an ATEX mechanical risk assessment they turned to EPM Solutions. Ciba Paisley has more than 400 employees and is responsible for producing colour pigments for a global market place predominantly made up of the ink, paint and plastic industries. In addition it manufactures pigments for use in papermaking, textile printing and personal care products. The products are developed as powders, aqueous pastes or dry granule form. More than 80% of the plants annual production is exported with the European continent being the main distribution area.


Although Ciba Paisley has an excellent safety record over its 50-year history the new ATEX directive has created a need for companies like Ciba to carry out risk assessments on mechanical equipment as well as electrical. The assessment is designed to ensure there is no risk of fire or explosion between the plants equipment and its processes. For example there are certain conditions from the Ciba production process that could create an explosive atmosphere with mechanical equipment such as pumps and dust extractors providing a potential ignition source. For equipment already in place the responsibility falls on the user to carry out the assessment whereas new equipment falls under the remit of the manufacturer. Jim McFarlane, the Works Engineer responsible for site maintenance at the plant, says “the first step in this process was to identify risk zones across the entire 17-hectare site. Once these potentially explosive atmospheres were confirmed we gave the information to EPM who are now assessing the equipment within these locations. EPM have developed a risk assessment process to challenge the equipment's safety in conjunction with Ciba and the manufacturers. When you consider that a build up of fine dust can, under the right conditions, cause an explosion that could result in injury to personnel or significant damage to equipment you can’t underestimate the importance of this work.” This risk assessment team is made up of a dedicated project support engineer from EPM who regularly visits the site to assess equipment.

Thereafter EPM Engineers supported by Ciba Engineering representatives work as a team to carry out a detailed risk assessment. Recommendations are identified for consideration by Ciba. At the end of each month there is an update report where information on progress and recommended changes is fed back.

Ongoing commitment

Once the project is completed and Ciba are satisfied that the site is compliant with ATEX guidelines there needs to be an ongoing system of inspection and maintenance. As Jim McFarlane says, “this is a long term commitment to ensuring the continued safety of the site and that we are adhering to ever changing regulations.”