Intrinsic safety in electrical environments


Tuesday, 23 February, 2021

Intrinsic safety in electrical environments

Ensuring intrinsically safe inspection in hazardous environments can streamline operations and facilitate better decision-making through data analysis and sharing.

Intrinsic safety describes the protection technique used to prevent ignition in hazardous areas by limiting the energy, electrical and thermal production of instruments, technology and machinery. In doing so, it allows operation to continue in environments classified as hazardous.

Not a new concept, intrinsic safety has been vital in shielding workers from workplace accidents in settings that demand extra caution. Today’s working environments call for detailed information recording with electronic and digital systems, so how can safety and operations managers ensure that intrinsically safe inspections are being carried out?

Paperless inspection

Opting for paperless inspections recorded on intrinsically safe mobile devices is an obvious choice. The use of mobile devices was once ill advised in hazardous areas due to the presence of electrical current flowing through the devices’ circuits, which limited the ability to carry out paperless inspection.

Thanks to advances in engineering, a wide variety of smartphone and tablet devices are now certified intrinsically safe for Zone 1 and Zone 2.

What are the implications?

Where many organisations were previously unable to use these devices in hazardous areas, it’s now safe to do so, which means paperless inspections are possible in workplace environments that contain hazardous petrochemicals or have strict safety requirements due to their machinery, facility or local area.

Running on mobile devices similar to the consumer versions, intrinsically safe inspection involves the same paperless application that any other business can download and use. This means the full breadth of features and functionality that these apps provide is available for an inspection officer in a hazardous zone.

Users can take pictures using the built-in camera and scan barcodes or RFID tags. Images can be annotated and attached to the inspection checklist and report.

Not only does this submit visual proof that other teams can use to determine following actions, but it can also be used in future inspections of that asset or facility, providing clear guidance for the next inspector.

Other features in paperless systems include speech-to-text services or standardised response checklist layouts, offline recording or preconfigured corrective actions.

With intrinsically safe inspection running on mobile devices, inspectors can access a new toolbox to assist with recordings and facilitate better decisions.

Using checklists increases the efficiency of the inspection process, both reducing the time needed for an inspection and limiting exposure in a hazardous location.

From a management perspective, assets, locations and facilities can be recorded in historical categories for easier analysis and tracking. Preconfigured corrective actions give managers the opportunity to provide advice without direct phone contact with an inspector.

Digitising the process streamlines everything into one computerised management maintenance system (CMMS) or an ERP. The categorisation of assets and historical tracking can provide better comparative analysis against similar equipment, or even against expected performance for return on interest and depreciation of value. With inspection data also entering the system faster, the management and maintenance teams can both make better and timelier decisions.

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