Intrinsically Safe Devices - Keeping Workers Connected in Hazardous Environments


Worker using an intrinsically safe device in a hazardous environment.

Hazardous environments are made more dangerous by the devices and equipment used on a site. In the past many of these devices were banned from site because of the danger they posed. But by using intrinsically safe devices, organisations can make use of the productivity and safety benefits without adding to the hazards.    


What is a Hazardous Environment?

An environment considered hazardous is one that may have flammable liquids, vapours, gases or combustible dusts in quantities sufficient to cause a fire or explosion. An explosion or fire can occur when enough flammable substance mixes with an ignition source such as a spark. 

A hazardous environment is also known as a hazardous location, ex areas, explosive atmospheres and hazardous areas.  

Hazardous areas are classified (by ATEX and IECEx) into zones depending on the frequency and duration of an explosive gas atmosphere, including:

  • Zone 0: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is present continuously or for long periods;

  • Zone 1: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation;

  • Zone 2: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation and, if it occurs, will only exist for a short time.

The most common time limits placed on the zones are:

  • Zone 0: Explosive atmosphere for more than 1000h/year

  • Zone 1: Explosive atmosphere for more than 10, but less than 1000 h/year

  • Zone 2: Explosive atmosphere for less than 10h/year, but still sufficiently likely as to require controls over ignition sources.

Before selecting an IS device, an organisation must know the zone classification its work environment has. Devices may be suitable for zone 1 or 2 but not zone 0, for example.  


What is an Ignition Source? 

An ignition source is wide and varied including flames, a cigarette, match, cutting and welding, hot process vessels, hot surfaces, mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, lighting, friction heating, sparks, lightning, sparks from electrical equipment, stray currents from electrical equipment, electrostatic discharge sparks, electromagnetic sparks, and vehicles. 

Using only intrinsically safe equipment and devices reduces potential ignition sources on site.


Equipment for Hazardous Workplaces

For many years, hazardous workplaces relied on land mobile radios as a reliable, safe means of communication. But today, the humble radio isn’t enough. Workers need access to broadband data and software applications to be as productive as possible. Compared to a smartphone or tablet, the radio is of little use. Workers need intrinsically safe equipment and devices to communicate and do their job efficiently.

Intrinsically safe equipment is engineered to work in hazardous environments and meet global IS standards. Equipment designed for ex areas is commonly called ex equipment. 


What is an Intrinsically Safe Phone? 

An intrinsically safe phone is one that won’t cause a spark or reach a hot operating temperature that may ignite an explosive environment. 

An IS-certified smartphone or tablet doesn’t mean it uses old technology. You will find they have up to date core technology and offer high quality calls, videos and photos.  


What Makes a Device Intrinsically Safe? 

A device is deemed intrinsically safe and suitable for hazardous areas because the available energy is at a level that’s too low to cause ignition. 

Intrinsic safety includes a wide range of equipment and devices including smartphones, tablets, torches, cameras, radios, gas detectors, and instruments for pressure and weight measurement. IS barriers may include Zener Diodes to limit voltage and resistors to limit current and a fuse. 

Even when an IS device or equipment is damaged, the unit can’t be capable of producing heat or a spark that can ignite an explosive atmosphere.

 While the components needed to make a device IS compliant aren’t expensive, manufacturers of IS devices incur costs in getting and maintaining IS certification. After they design a product as intrinsically safe, full documentation of all components is required for the certification process.    

 A standard device can’t be made intrinsically safe by placing it in an intrinsically safe/waterproof case. In fact, putting a device into an airtight case can increase the chance of it overheating because of the lack of airflow. It’s the components inside the device that makes it intrinsically safe, not a case.   


 What is IECEx?

 The IECEx System facilitates international trade in equipment and services for explosive atmospheres. 

 The System is designed to:

  • reduce manufacturer testing and certification costs

  • reduce time to market

  • provide international confidence in the product assessment

  • provide one international database listing

  • maintain International Confidence in equipment and services covered by IECEx Certification

The Australian standard for certifying the design and the areas in which devices can be used is AS/NZS 60079.25. It’s denoted by the IECEx certification. All intrinsically safe products Roaming Technologies supplies are IECEx certified. 


Is ATEX Intrinsically Safe? 

 ATEX approved devices mean they are safe for use in explosive environments. 

 Some of the most hazardous workplaces have explosive atmospheres. Explosions can occur at petrol stations, gas plants, oil refineries and rigs, sewerage treatment facilities, underground coal mines, aircraft refuelling and hangars, paint and chemical factories, hospital operating theatres, printing facilities, even workplaces that handle fine organic dusts such as woodworking areas. Because of their high volatile natures, we keep these workplaces safe by using ATEX approved Intrinsically Safe electrical equipment and devices. 

 ATEX is the European certification of equipment that is intrinsically safe. When a device or piece of equipment is tested and approved to be intrinsically safe, it must display the yellow and black Ex logo. Without displaying the logo, devices mustn’t be taken on a hazardous site to protect the safety of everyone.

The two types or European Directives for explosive atmospheres are:

  • Directive 1999/92/EC (ATEX 153 or the ATEX Workplace Directive)

  • Directive 2014/34/EU (ATEX 114 or the ATEX Equipment Directive)

Classification of a hazardous area should take into account the following:

  • Types of flammable materials that may be present;

  • Properties and characteristics of each flammable material;

  • Source of potential releases and how they can form explosive atmospheres;

  • Operating temperatures and pressures;

  • Presence and availability of ventilation (artificial and natural);

  • Dispersion of released vapours to below flammable limits;

  • The probability of a release.


What are the Benefits of Intrinsically Safe Phones?

 There are several benefits of intrinsically safe phones over standard phones.


Both Rugged and Intrinsically Safe 

All IS certified smartphones and tablets are rugged and meet MIL-STD-810G standards. Hazardous environments are often harsh environments. The devices need to cope with dirt, dust, rain and extreme temperatures. Rugged features include liquid and drop resistance, shock and vibration resistance, use long-lasting and hot swap batteries, loud speakers and noise cancellation. 

Touch screens can be used with dirty or gloved hands without worrying about destroying the unit or removing gloves. Rugged units provide workers with peace of mind that their device will keep working, no matter what the conditions.


Improved Productivity

Being able to load the smart phone with necessary programs and apps means workers have access to the software they need whether they’re in the field or at their desk. They can log records, receive and send data, photos and information from anywhere in the field. An IS smartphone means staff work smarter and safer. 

If non-IS devices are used, production in an area may need to halt and the area ventilated to reduce the risk of an explosion. 


Reduction in Costs

While IS products are more expensive to purchase than non-certified options, an organisation may find they save money over the long-term. When sites only use IS devices, their insurance company may offer a reduced premium in line with the reduced risk.   

Limited Access to Site

If you try entering a site zoned hazardous with a non IS phone, it’s likely you won’t be allowed to take it with you. Equipment not certified safe either needs to go in an explosion proof enclosure or stay away from the hazardous zone. 


Roaming Technologies Intrinsically Safe Products 

Solve all your hazardous area needs with one of our latest IS devices: 

Ecom Tab-Ex 02 8-Inch Rugged Tablet - Intrinsically Safe ATEX Zone 2 – A slim line tablet suitable for work in Zone 2 Division 2 environments. Its an Android 8.1 tablet based on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2, capable of running Augmented Reality programs for maintenance workers. 

Ecom Tab-Ex 01 Zone 1 (ATEX / IECEx) Hazardous Area Tablet One of the few ultra-rugged tablets available that’s certified for the most hazardous Zone 1 environments. The tablet has ATEX, IECEX and CSA/NEC certification for use in explosive work environments. 

Getac F110-EX 11.6-inch Intrinsically Safe Fully Rugged Tablet (ATEX IECEx Zone 2)A light but large-screen that offers superior performance in Zone 2 hazardous areas. 

Getac T800-EX 8.1-inch Intrinsically Safe Rugged Tablet (ATEX IECEx Zone 2) – A smaller screen tablet but with the same LumiBond Display with Getac Sunlight Readable Technology. 

Not sure if you need a device certified for a Zone 1, Zone 2 or Zone 0? Ask a qualified hazardous area assessor if you aren’t sure of the hazardous risk of a site or plant before purchasing to ensure your device is suited for the job.

If you need help with information about intrinsically safe devices, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Roaming Technologies by calling 1300 131 933 or contact us online.

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