Directive 94/9/EC: ExNBG Clarification Sheets: Status and use
At the ATEX ADCO meetings held in June and November 2006, the status and use of the "ExNBG Clarification Sheets" issued by the European ATEX Notified Bodies Group (ExNBG) were discussed, with regard to specific cases related to the application of the provisions of the ATEX Directive 94/9/EC, the ATEX Guidelines, harmonised standards and the Notified Bodies involvement.
As already stated on the relevant webpage on EUROPA, "Clarification Sheets are not legally binding but are references agreed by the European ATEX Notified Bodies Group (ExNBG) [formerly HOTL] in order to minimise divergent interpretation by Notified Bodies of the technical requirements of the ATEX Directive 94/9/EC".
Moreover, the following could be added:
- The European ATEX Notified Bodies Group (ExNBG) is run by Notified Bodies in accordance with Section 6.6. of the "Blue Guide"in order to assist in achieving a uniform application of the Directive. While it is independent of the ATEX Standing Committee and Working Group, it nonetheless needs to work closely with those bodies and with the European Commission, all of which have a responsibility for the effective and uniform application of the Directive. ExNBG plays an important role as coordinator of Notified Bodies, as well as technical reference and feedback to the standardisers.
- ExNBG Clarification Sheets, agreed by Notified Bodies, are intended to be applied by Notified Bodies, as they are required to keep "the highest degree of technical competence", by following the technical progress or the "state of the art" and participating in coordination. For other interested parties, ExNBG Clarification Sheets should be considered as voluntary guidance to the practical application of the Directive, as an "expert opinion" related to the technical progress or the "state of the art", coming from qualified representatives of Notified Bodies. In other words, ExNBG Clarification Sheets could be regarded as useful practical recommendations, at the same level of "Recommendation for Use Sheets" issued by European Notified Bodies under other directives in industrial sectors such as Machinery, Lifts, Personal Protective Equipment, etc.
- In any case, the use of ExNBG Clarification Sheets can not be considered a proof concerning health and safety requirements of the ATEX Directive 94/9/EC. Harmonised standards give presumption of conformity with the essential requirements of the directive, but not ExNBG Clarification Sheets.
- ExNBG Clarification Sheets can be "noted" by the ATEX Standing Committee or Working Party, by recognising their importance and utility in order to provide expert interpretation guidance, not only to Notified Bodies, but also to manufacturers and other interested parties.
The "noting" process is carried out by the Standing Committee or Working Party though a "Written Procedure" via CIRCA or, at request of Committee Members (by introducing comments, remarks etc.), by using an "Oral Procedure" at the Standing Committee or Working Party meetings. "Noted" ExNBG Clarification Sheets are published on the relevant webpage on EUROPA.
In any case, "noting" by the Standing Committee or Working Party is not necessary for an ExNBG Clarification Sheet to be used by the Notified Bodies, according to its purpose and scope, and taking into due account points 2. and 3. above.
- The content of specific ExNBG Clarification Sheets could be proposed to draft a "Consideration Paper" by the ATEX Standing Committee, or even to be included in the ATEX Guidelines. In this case, the ExNBG withdraws the relevant Clarification Sheets.