Intrinsically Safe Devices Avoid Explosive Situations in Manufacturing

Ryan Spurr

As manufacturers advance smart manufacturing initiatives, add digital work instructions and traceability, or deliver actionable insight to more frontline workers, most think about form factor, security, and durability. However, some manufacturers have to go one step further—to prevent the risk of explosion or fire. This requirement stems from regulations, corporate policies, and procedures and is simply part of a safe work environment. To eliminate the risk of ignition associated with smart technologies such as end-user computing devices or tablets, the hardware must be certified to prevent heat and spark (that source of ignition) from being allowed into areas where there is the possibility or always present danger of combustion. 

The most common industries typically impacted include chemical, pharmaceutical, plastics, and oil and gas manufacturing. Still, we see it in food and beverage or textile manufacturing where at-risk chemicals or particulates may be present in the production processes.

Does your company have requirements for intrinsically safe devices? Are you struggling to find solutions for end-user devices that comply while helping your business adopt modern digital workforce platforms?

Safety in Hazardous Locations Must Come First

Safety is always number one in manufacturing, and in some sub-industries, the risk of fire or explosion is serious. Depending on the kind of manufacturing business, this risk can be limited to a few areas where chemicals, gases, or particulates may be present—or they could represent the majority of your operations. Whatever the use case, these spaces have traditionally banned commercial or digital technologies like computers, tablets, phones, and even IIoT sensors because of their dangers. 

Regulation of hazardous locations (HazLoc) varies by region of the world. While the United States is migrating to international standards (IECEx), it has historically leveraged the ANSI / National Electrical Code (NEC) to classify the type of hazardous environment correctly and what measures the device must comply with to be safely used and avoid combustion.  

According to ANSI / NEC, this is generally broken down into three classes primarily dictated by the types of explosive or ignitable substances: 

  • Class I: Environments with flammable vapors and gases may be present, such as acetylene, hydrogen, ethylene, propane, and methane
  • Class II: Environments with combustible dust may be present, such as metal, coal, or grain dust
  • Class III: Environments with combustible fibers, such as textile particulates

The other factor to consider is the presence or the likelihood of a specific hazardous material combusting. These are typically looked at as divisions:

  • Division 1: Implies regular presence or usage of ignitable substances under normal operational conditions or where frequent failure or maintenance may occur.
  • Division 2: Implies the use of ignitable substances in operations but handled in closed containers or closed systems which may only present a risk under the failure of the containment systems.

Whatever standards your business complies with, whether within the U.S. or globally, it’s essential to know that many products today offer one or multiple industry standard certifications associated with hazardous locations. These intrinsically safe devices are engineered with explosion protections down to the electrical components, wiring, and casings, to eliminate the typical risks associated with commercial electronics. Upgrading to intrinsically safe devices is also a great way to enable an evolving organization looking to digitize its operations and workforce.

We Can Do That Too

If your business is in an industry that has combustible substances, or your industry is regulated by specific safety measures for hazardous environments, know that Connection offers a wide range of intrinsically safe products—from tablets, computers, digital cameras, sensors, networking, and even accessories—to help your business keep manufacturing operational and safe.

Engage Connection’s Manufacturing Practice to learn more about this technology and the many use cases that may benefit your organization.

Ryan Spurr is the Director of Manufacturing Strategy at Connection with 20+ years of experience in manufacturing, information technology, and portfolio leadership. He leads the Connection Manufacturing Practice, go-to-market strategy, client engagement, and advisory services focusing on operational technology (OT) and information technology that make manufacturers more digitally excellent.