A May 2019 explosion at a silicon chemical products manufacturer in Illinois left four workers dead, resulted in more than $1.5 million in fines from federal regulators and underscored the importance of using intrinsically safe electronic devices on hazardous worksites.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the company hadn’t ensured that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with electrical standards and were approved for hazardous locations. The OSHA citation notes a variety of electrical equipment that wasn’t intrinsically safe — from a control panel and associated parts to a motor and more.
For the workplace, a deadly explosion might be among the worst-case scenarios. But not using intrinsically safe devices can lead to other less calamitous and deadly situations that still cause injuries, damage property and bring about costly fines and work delays.
What is intrinsic safety, and why does it matter?
In hazardous environments where flammable vapors, gasses or particles are in the air, intrinsically safe electronic equipment is vital. That’s because electronic devices without this additional safety component can create a spark or heat. And when combined with those combustible gasses or particles in the air, that heat or spark can trigger an explosion.
Intrinsically safe devices are built specifically to stop that ignition from ever happening even when hazardous elements are in the air. Generally, the equipment, which must meet rigorous safety standards, is designed to not heat up beyond a certain temperature and limit the power that’s available to them.
Not every workplace requires intrinsically safe devices, but they are especially critical in spaces where workers are handling hazardous or combustible materials. That includes oil refineries, mining, paint manufacturing, distilling, chemical plants and spray booths. Food processing factories, grain handling facilities, recycling operations and flour mills are other worksites where the use of intrinsically safe equipment could prevent a devastating accident.
In the past, industries have relied on explosion-proof enclosures in hazardous locations to keep facilities safe. But unlike intrinsically safe devices that prevent explosions because of how they are designed, these large, often heavy enclosures simply contain them. Intrinsically safe equipment is usually less expensive and easier to install and maintain when compared to an explosion-proof enclosure.
Safeguarding workers, spaces
That’s why Triax recently introduced intrinsically safe versions of Spot-r and Proximity Trace, its Internet of Things-enabled technologies that already bolster safety and efficiency for a variety of industries.
Spot-r, a compact wearable device that’s powered through a proprietary network, gives users real-time, data-driven visibility about the movement of workers and equipment in a facility. The insights drive better productivity and safety.
Proximity Trace, another worker wearable, encourages safe social distancing with an audible and visual alarm that alerts workers when they get too close to each other. The device also records close interactions, which can streamline contact tracing after a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19. A list of all their close contacts on the job is available with a quick search through the solution.
Now these tools are available for safe use on any jobsite, including locations where stringent controls are required to keep workers safe. Intrinsically safe versions of both Spot-r and Proximity Trace hardware come with a Class 1, Division 2 rating so they can be used in hazardous work environments and confined spaces.
The devices are just as effective as equipment without the added certification. And, most importantly, they provide important safeguards for the workers on the job and the spaces where they operate.
Ready to learn more about how you can make your hazardous worksite safer? Contact us.