Best Practices for Intrinsic Safety in Multi-Designation Sites

Welcome to the third segment in our exclusive series examining the benefits of intrinsic safety technology. This time we’re looking at the complexities of hazardous location classification, including Division 1 and Division 2 sites. A single designation is rarely applicable in facilities that run multiple types of equipment, employ numerous types of industrial automation, and house various toxic substances. Some areas will carry a single hazard, whereas others may have multiple hazards, including fire and explosion risks. In these multi-designation sites, should you be running a range of safety protocols?

The holistic approach ensures your entire facility runs stringent safety measures that adhere to the requirements needed for the most hazardous on-site area. Many organizations may worry about the potential cost of such measures or consider them to be unnecessarily strict. In this article, ICA explores why these are often misconceptions and shows how intrinsic safety can efficiently and cost-effectively make facilities safer places to work.

Division 1 and Division 2 Sites: The Differences

Hazardous locations are differentiated into classes and divisions or, in some cases, zones. Each class covers a type of hazard: Class I covers flammable or explosive gases, vapors, and liquids. Class II covers combustible dust. Class III covers fibers and flyings: small pieces of material that can either ignite or conduct electricity or even produce static electricity, such as the lint from industrial dryers.

Zones only exist in Class I and are predominantly used outside North America. Zones refer to how often the gases, vapors, or liquids are present in each area. A Zone 0 classification means those hazardous gases or liquids are regularly present during a typical workday at the facility. Zone 1 indicates they are there for less time, and Zone 2 means they are rarely present. Intrinsic safety technology is the only solution fully approved for use in Zone 0 areas in the EU.

Rather than the zone system, most facilities in North America use Classes and Divisions. In each class, there is Division 1 and Division 2. Division 1 sites always carry a high possibility of hazardous materials being present, even under normal working conditions. Division 2 means there is a lower possibility of these materials being present. Areas also fall into groups indicating the type of hazardous material present. For example, Group A indicates acetylene in the atmosphere, while Group E lets employees know there’s the presence of combustible metal dust.

Multi-Designation Sites

Class I facilities could include petroleum refineries or chemical plants, among many others. In any facility like this, there will be areas with a low risk of contact with chemicals and vapors — Division 2 — and areas where contact is unavoidable — Division 1. These are categorized as multi-designation sites. It can be challenging to apply safety protocols effectively, particularly in organizations focused on cutting costs in the short term. 

If you have multiple designations at your site, making decisions based on Division 1 measures is the safest mindset. Compliance with intrinsic safety protocols sets out a much lower threshold for acceptable electrical charge in Division 1 sites. If an incident occurs and hazardous materials find their way into a Division 2 area, safety will be compromised if that area only runs Division 2 protocols.

ICA Engineering has worked with many facilities that didn’t realize they were putting team members at risk by not applying the proper safety measures for hazardous areas in both Division 1 and Division 2 sites. It’s important to recognize that Division 1 encompasses Division 2. By aiming for Division 1 safety levels, you automatically create the safest possible Division 2 sites and areas. Sadly, many facilities still reduce the safety protocols within their Division 2 areas, often with cost-saving in mind. 

At one facility, barriers had been constructed to indicate a safe zone, but the protocol required the safe zone to have positive pressure, which had not been considered. Incorrect air pressure within a hazardous area can cause combustible or toxic particles to move around a facility unchecked, increasing the risk of explosion or injury.

In another, air conditioning had been supplied for the workers’ safety. Alarmingly, the proximity to a hazardous area had not been considered, and the AC unit was pulling in air from a contaminated sector, putting them at risk of illness.

True industrial safety requires a holistic approach and a complete understanding of your entire facility. 

Benefits of Proactively Incorporating Division 1 Industrial Safety

Clearly, it’s safer to apply Division 1 safety measures across your whole site if you have even one area that falls under this classification. Apart from the safety benefits, if you can demonstrate during your insurance assessment that you’re taking risks seriously, you could receive a reduction in your insurance premiums. This reduction could save your organization more than the short-term cost-cuts of settling for lesser Division 2 site measures where applicable. 

Fire and explosion sometimes occur in Division 2 classified areas simply because the lower safety protocols were deemed sufficient, without adequately exploring how the Division 1 areas impact adjacent parts of the facility. Safety professionals need to consider how gas can expand, how pressure affects the movement of particles, and how electrical devices can cause a spark. These factors and  many more can cause unforeseen disasters if mitigations like intrinsic safety are not installed.

Role of Technology in Multi-Designation Sites

Much of the technology used within sites is mobile. Phones, tablets, monitoring devices, and even hands-free video conferencing devices all use electricity and pose a fire risk from sparks in hazardous areas. Intrinsic safety technology reduces the level of energy these devices can produce. 

It’s essential to recognize that some mobile or hands-free devices will be considered safe for use in Division 1 sites, and others will be considered safe for use in Division 2 sites. If a team member doesn’t have the proper training and moves into a Division 1 area with an unsuitable device, they put themselves and others, plus your assets, at risk. Investing in Division 1-rated technological solutions eliminates this issue. Educating your staff to avoid cutting corners and ensuring procedures are followed rigorously is vital.

ICA Engineering can look at your budget concerns and map out a long-term plan to get your facility to the safest place possible in the most efficient manner. Contact ICA Engineering for more information about developing an efficient and effective strategy for long-term safety in your facility. In our next article, we’ll be taking a deeper look at the importance of educating your team members and how proper education optimizes intrinsic safety measures for industrial systems

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