The concept of explosion prevention has its origins in places endangered by "firedamp". The expression firedamp is a miners' term. It refers to underground escapes of mine gas (methane), which once it mixes with air, can ignite.
The naturally occurring gas methane can ignite easily if mixed with air. After the disaster in a coal mine in Germany, in which 348 people lost their lives as a result of a firedamp explosion, further explosion prevention measures were taken.
Safety guidelines were laid down at national level, which were united and harmonised in the form of a Directive of the European Community in 1994. Under the term of ATEX (Atmosphère explosible), the Directive 94/9/EC on equipment and workplace Directive 99/92/EC were passed. These Directives govern the putting into circulation of products which can be used in potentially explosive areas with the intention of protecting people and the environment. During the production, storage, processing or transport of flammable substances, gases or vapours may be released. Besides the classical mining industry, this happens above all in the chemical or petrochemical industry. In the same manner, the same dangers arise in natural gas and oil production.