Welcome to the second article in our series exploring intrinsic safety technology for hazardous areas.
In our last article, we introduced the concept of intrinsic safety (IS) and how it lowers the thermal and electrical energy in devices. This reduces the risk of sparks that could cause fire or explosion in industrial settings. In this article, we’re going to explore the major benefits of intrinsic safety, and why many industries employ IS as a key factor in their safety considerations.
Industrial automation and the increase of electrical and connected devices means there are potentially more ignition sources than ever within industrial settings. Where the slightest spark could ignite gas, dust, or fibers, using intrinsic technology to remove the risk of sparks from electricals makes perfect sense. But what are the other benefits of utilizing intrinsic safety in hazardous areas?
1. Health and Well-being of the Workforce
Of course, the primary reason to employ IS is to protect the workforce within the industrial setting. Despite the increase in industrial automation, skilled workers are still a major component in most industrial settings — so much so that there is currently a national skilled workers gap. It goes without saying that the life and health of the workforce are of paramount importance. In a five-year period, the National Fire Prevention Association reported 37,910 fires in manufacturing and industrial settings. Industries included mining, utilities, and agriculture, showing the diverse range of applications for which safety protocols like IS are needed.
2. Continuous Production
Intrinsic safety design is all about prevention rather than reaction. When industries rely on other safety applications, such as explosion containment, they have already resigned themselves to dealing with an incident once it has occurred. IS works the other way, preventing fires and explosions from happening in the first place. That means that industries are more likely to enjoy continuous production with no interruptions. At a power plant, for example, reactive safety protocols may deal with fires and explosions and protect lives. However, once a fire has occurred, equipment may be damaged and power production may be impacted for some time, affecting the local or even national power supply. IS technology can prevent power plant fires caused by an electrical spark or heat build-up, helping to keep the lights on all over the country.
3. More Connected Devices
The ability to reduce the voltage and current running through electrical devices means companies can use more of them within their plants or manufacturing facilities. That means the potential implementation of more monitoring devices such as moisture meters, more analytics to keep data accurate, and even remote monitoring solutions. Previously, one way to ensure there were limited sources of ignition was to isolate equipment and have the minimum possible electrical devices present in the hazardous area. Today, intrinsic safety allows workers to use their phones or tablets within hazardous areas, staying connected and better able to report in real time. Of course, with more connections comes the risk of digital vulnerability, so it’s also vital to ensure that cybersecurity within the industrial setting is of a high standard.
4. Standardized Safety
Intrinsic safety is more than just an abstract concept. It’s a globally utilized technology with very specific requirements. That means that for a device to be classed as intrinsically safe, it must be tested and labeled, after approval, as an intrinsically safe apparatus. Utilizing IS in an industrial setting means using equipment created against a rigid code of practice, which is reassuring when safety is paramount. IS cabling, for example, will never reach temperatures that could cause nearby gases to ignite. In the oil and gas industry, gases such as hydrogen sulfide can be present. Not only is this gas toxic, but it’s highly flammable. Most oil and gas facilities have strict monitoring protocols in place to check for gas levels, but employing IS as a standard reduces the risk of fire or explosion due to undetected or sudden build-up of hydrogen sulfide.
5. Ease of Maintenance
Industrial equipment is often under huge amounts of strain as it is in use for long hours. Wear and tear is high, and regular maintenance is often required. Stripping a piece of equipment down to bare wires could be a huge risk in a dusty environment or one where a mix of gases is present. IS ensures that the wiring and electrical components of the equipment pose no risk of ignition, meaning work can be carried out fast, allowing production to resume quickly even when unscheduled maintenance is required. In the waste recycling industry, downtime doesn’t just affect the productivity and reputation of the company, but the environment as well. Mitigating this with IS and other safety protocols means waste is dealt with efficiently so there’s no backlog — a problem that can increase pollution.
Our expert team at ICA is happy to discuss any queries on intrinsic safety technology or other tools you can leverage in hazardous areas. Get in touch to find out more. In our next article, we’ll take a deeper look at the differences between intrinsic safety technologies and explosion-proof containment.