Sometimes, one flicker of energy from an unprotected device is all it takes to ignite and cause a countless number of disasters. But by understanding the tools and technology available to protect ourselves, we can properly equip our workforce with the protection necessary to reduce the possibility of a catastrophe occurring in hazardous environments. However, when the time comes to determine what kind of safety equipment is needed, we’re often asked about the difference between Explosion-Proof (Ex) and Intrinsically Safe (IS). To understand the difference, we must first define what Explosion-Proof and Intrinsically safe are to articulate the difference.

Defining Intrinsically Safe and Explosion-Proof

What is Explosion-Proof?

Explosion-Proof equipment is certified for use in hazardous areas. Bulkier material such as stainless steel or cast aluminum typically encloses Explosion-Proof equipment. Additionally, the material used in Explosion-Proof equipment is strong enough to both contain an explosion and survive an explosion. Explosion-proof equipment often operates at normal energy levels with its construction that prevents temperatures from reaching hazardous temperatures (according to the respective group rating) that could cause an explosion.

Read more about what Ex-Proof is here.

What is Intrinsically Safe?

Intrinsically Safe equipment is certified and rated by directives like ATEXIECEx, and more. Moreover, Intrinsically Safe equipment is a protection technique used to limit the energy transfer between circuits through using intrinsic barriers. Intrinsic barriers are certified to make the device incapable of producing a spark that can ignite hazardous environments. For example, our tablet, the Tab Ex-02 DZ2, allows users to utilize mobile devices without worrying about sparking an issue within Zone 2 environments.

The purpose of Intrinsically Safe protection is to reduce the likelihood of the worst possible outcome through its design. The purpose of intrinsic barriers is why these preventative devices will work at a lower energy level than Explosion-Proof protected devices. Because by reducing the thermal and electrical energy released, Intrinsically Safe equipment prevents explosions from happening in the first place.

Contrasting the Two

So, is Ex-Proof IS? Or is IS Ex-Proof?

At last, we reach the climax of Intrinsically Safe vs. Explosion-Proof. 

Both terms, Intrinsically Safe and Explosion-Proof are often used interchangeably because of one significant similarity–both protect our workforce from casualties. The difference is, Explosion-Proof equipment focuses on constructs that are both durable to explosions and prevent explosions from spreading outside of themselves; whereas, Intrinsically Safe designs prevent combustions from ever occurring by limiting the device’s energy capabilities.

Additionally, Intrinsically Safe costs less to both install and maintain equipment in comparison to Explosion-Proof equipment. Devices utilizing the Intrinsically-Safe method are also lighter in weight and offer more flexibility in usage.

Putting it Together

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“No one knows what you need better than yourself.”

Something that is “Ex” may not be “IS,” and vice versa. The difference between Ex and IS is why it’s imperative to find the correct balance of protective equipment. As the famous saying goes, “dot your i’s and cross your t’s,” which is especially necessary when the safety of your business and the lives of your colleagues are at risk.

Our recommendation is to check with your hazardous area engineers to find out what product best fits your worksite. Here at the Intrinsically Safe Store, we have everything that is Intrinsically Safe or Explosion-Proof. Check out our catalog here for Ex housing and more, and here for more IS equipment.

If you have additional questions concerning the difference between Ex and IS, reach out to the Intrinsically Safe Store team. You can reach us by commenting below or starting a chat with us today.

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