We've all seen an action movie or two where a lamp it tipped over, causing the bulb to break and ignite a flammable substance. The hero then rushes in and saves the day. This scenario is good for movies but really bad for workplaces that frequently deal with flammable or explosive material. An intrinsically safe light is designed in such a way that it cannot start an explosion. In this blog post, we'll talk about intrinsically safe lighting, and the similarly named explosion proof lighting. How are they different? How are they the same? How do they work? If you are dealing with hazardous materials, then the answer to these questions will be important to you.

Intrinsically Safe vs Explosion Proof Lighting

These two similar terms describe two different approaches to ensuring that your hazardous location lighting does not put you or your employees at risk. Intrinsically safe devices are designed to eliminate the chance of the device creating a spark. These devices will have components placed in such a way to eliminate the possibility of a short circuit. They will have monitors on the battery to prevent overcharging, and to monitor the battery and shut it off if any signs of failure are detected. You may have heard news reports about cell phone batteries, electronic cigarette batteries, or electronic scooter batteries venting in a violent way and causing fires. These instances are very rare. But if you are working with flammable substances, you need greater assurances that your battery-powered equipment will not cause a massive loss of life or property. These extra fail safes add to the cost of the devices but provide you with a priceless piece of mind.

Explosion proof fixtures take a slightly different approach. They concern themselves less with reducing the possibility that the light contained within can ever cause a spark and focus instead on making sure that any potential spark is safely contained. Like intrinsically safe devices, a variety of manufacturing steps above and beyond conventional consumer devices are employed to meet this goal. A conventional light fixture might not fully contain the lighting element at all. It will certainly provide little protection from heat or impact. Explosion proof light fixtures, on the other hand, ensure that the light fixture is safely sealed inside of an airtight compartment. This means that even in the event of an accident, you don't have to worry about your light fixture sparking a fire or explosion.

What Forms of Hazardous Area Lighting are Available?

Lighting requirements come in a variety of different forms, and there are intrinsically safe or explosion proof lighting options to meet all of your needs. A work area will certainly need fixed lighting to illuminate the area so that your workers can safely and effectively do their job. Explosion proof fluorescent lights or explosion proof LED fixtures provide excellent options for permanent light fixtures.

Explosion Proof Fixtures

Explosion proof lights come in various forms to suit your lighting needs. Explosion proof LED lights generally have long-lasting LED lights built into them. Explosion proof light fixtures might be designed to safely contain a halide light element, or they may come in the form of explosion proof fluorescent light fixtures.

Portable Explosion Proof Lighting

Not all areas that your workers go into are going to be suitable for fixed lighting. In many instances, you will need portable explosion proof lighting to keep your area safe. Thankfully you can also purchase explosion proof flashlights or intrinsically safe flashlights that will light your worker's way without putting them in any danger.

Intrinsically safe flashlights, like all intrinsically safe lighting, will have circuitry in the battery to prevent it from causing a spark that could ignite hazardous materials in your facility. explosion proof flashlights will instead focus on containing the battery and the bulb in such as a way that any spark that does form cannot get out of the device to cause any further explosion.

A variation of an intrinsically safe flashlight is an intrinsically safe headlamp, for those situations where your workers will need both of their hands to get the job done.

Other Hazardous Area Lighting

An explosion proof horn strobe will make sure that your fire alarm system doesn't become a fire hazard of its own. Pretty much any form of lighting you can think of is available in an explosion proof or intrinsically safe form.

What Are The Hazardous Area Classifications?

This is a very important question. When a manufacturer creates intrinsically safe or explosion proof devices, they need to know exactly which environments they are developing for. Different types of flammable and explosive materials have different properties that need to be prepared for. Thankfully, there is a classification system that will let you determine what lights you need based on the type of materials you will be working with and the frequency that your environment will be exposed to them. Let go over the most common rating systems.

There are three major ratings that you may see on intrinsically safe or explosion proof lighting equipment. AtexIECEx, or the North American System. All three of those systems separate the types of materials into two classifications, the first being vapor, gas, or mist based materials and the second being airborne dust based materials.

For the North American system, a Class 1 rating covers vapor, gas, and mist and the Class 2 rating covers the airborne dust. That system breaks each of the two classes into two divisions. Division 1 covers environments where there is likely to be exposure to the material on a regular basis. Division 2 is for areas where exposure is less frequent.

Atex and IECEx use a similar system to one another. Both of them break the ratings down into zones. There are two sets of zones for the two types of materials mentioned above. The zones are listed below.

  • Zone 0 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air of flammable substances in the form of gas, vapor or mist is present continuously or for long periods or frequently.
  • Zone 1 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air or flammable substances in the form of gas, vapor or mist is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally.
  • Zone 2 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air of flammable substances in the form of gas, vapor or mist is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period only.
  • Zone 20 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in the air is present continuously, or for long periods or frequently.
  • Zone 21 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in the air is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally.
  • Zone 22 - A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in the air is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period only.

Conclusion

Now that you know what hazardous area lighting is and what it can do for your business, you can see our full selection of explosion proof lighting and intrinsically safe lighting products on our website. Each of these products will have their rating displayed prominently. The full certification papers are available in PDF format. If you have any questions about this post or any other hazardous area topic, please feel free to contact our team of experts.

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