Safety standards help protect assets and also foster a safe workplace. In potentially hazardous environments, equipment must follow particularly strict standards to reduce the risk of an explosion. Here we explain the difference between equipment labeled as intrinsically safe vs. explosion-proof.
What Does it Mean to be Intrinsically Safe or Explosion Proof?
The terms intrinsically safe and explosion proof may sound similar, but they are very different. Intrinsically safe means that the piece of equipment itself can’t cause an explosion. Meanwhile, explosion-proof means that if an explosion did happen, the device would be protected by an explosion-proof enclosure that helps contain explosions and prevent them from spreading. Therefore intrinsically safe refers to explosion prevention, whereas explosion-proof refers to containment. Depending on your industry and working environment, you may need to use one over the other.
Intrinsically safe equipment cuts off thermal or electrical energy once the temperature gets too high in order to stop hazardous areas from catching on fire. These devices are engineered to limit heat generation and avoid causing an ignition due to elevated voltage and current levels.
For example, intrinsically safe devices will have simplified circuitry, controlled internal temperatures, and high dust resistance to make it impossible for the device to catch fire. These devices are built so they physically can’t trigger combustion when used in an a hazardous environment. As a result, intrinsically safe devices are often lighter weight and less bulky than explosion-proof devices. They can also be more easily maintained without shutting down production.
In contrast, explosion-proof devices don’t have to be innately incapable of igniting in a hazardous environment. Instead, explosion-proof devices are housed in an enclosure that can effectively contain an explosion. If the device inside the enclosure does explode, the flames and gases cannot escape and spread to other areas of the facility. These devices are heavier, bulkier, and more time-consuming to install, making them better suited to permanent installations.
How to Choose Intrinsically Safe vs. Explosion Proof Devices
When an electrical appliance is installed in a hazardous area, it’s more prone to damage by flammable or combustible gases. And there’s a high risk of fires spreading quickly after an initial ignition, which can lead to catastrophic consequences. To minimize these risks, organizations have to use equipment certified as intrinsically safe and/or explosion-proof to prevent combustion and quickly contain fires before they spread.
The type of device you choose (intrinsically safe vs. explosion-proof) will depend on your application’s unique requirements. You should work with a certified expert like those at Pruftechnik to determine the best solution for each scenario. However, many facilities find that explosion-proof equipment is best-suited for permanent installations that demand high voltage and power. Meanwhile, intrinsically safe devices might be used for both permanent installations and virtually all portable instrumentation.
What is the Difference Between Flameproof and Explosion Proof?
Flameproof is another protection technique that leverages enclosures for containment. Flameproof devices are placed into enclosures and sealed shut to keep high pressure from escaping the container and debris from spreading outside the conduits. So, any parts that did ignite would no longer trigger an explosive reaction in the surroundings.
Flameproof and explosion-proof techniques overlap on the scale of embedded safety, available tools, and underlying process. The key differences between them are found in the specification procedures and testing parameters. Each carries its own regulatory compliance specifications.
Fires and explosions are a risk in many industries, and proper mitigation is key to protecting worker safety, ensuring compliance with the relevant governing bodies, avoiding catastrophic failures, and preventing costly unplanned downtime and operational disruptions. Having the appropriate protective measures — including both intrinsically safe and explosion-proof equipment — allows engineers and technicians to implement safety controls before accidents can happen.
If you’re interested in learning more, speak with one of our specialists. For decades, we’ve offered a range of cutting-edge products certified for use in hazardous environments.