The current "Energy Crisis" has dramatically increased our potential need for coal, the worlds most abundant fossil fuel. This will probably lead to a greater use of automation and instrumentation in the coal mining industry. The presence of methane in coal mines and in the coal itself plus the presence of coal dust, both of which can form an explosive atmosphere in air, means that the possibility of a gas or coal dust ignition must be considered when designing, purchasing and installing new equipment in this industry. In addition, many metallurgical processes involve the use of potentially explosive substances against which similar safety precautions must be taken. This paper outlines the various methods of protection currently in use and proposed for electrical instruments in explosive atmospheres, with particular emphasis on the work of the International Electrotechnical Commission.