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Hazardous Areas Protection Techniques for North America

Dust-ignition proof, explosion proof, instrinsically safe and nonincendive protection of hazardous areas.

Various protection techniques and methods are required for electrical installations and equipment in hazardous (classified) locations to reduce and minimize potential risk of explosion or fire.

Hazardous locations or areas in North America are in general classified according the

Class/Division System - Protection Techniques

Protection techniques for equipment based on the Class/Division system can be summarized to

  • Dust Ignition-proof
  • Explosion-proof
  • Intrinsically Safe
  • Non-incendive

Dust-ignition proof

A dust ignition proof component prevents dust entering from outside. Arcs, sparks and heat generated inside of the enclosure will not be able to ignite the exterior surroundings near the component.

Explosion proof

An explosion proof component is capable to keep an internal explosion of a specific flammable air-vapor mixture within the component enclosure without releasing burning or hot gases to the external environment which may be potential explosive. The explosion proof equipment must also operate below safe temperatures.

The potentially sparking parts are encapsulated in a special house which is designed to prevent explosions by

  • preventing the entry of hazardous material in potentially hazardous concentrations
  • encapsulate potential hazardous materials in a encapsulation chamber capable to contain any explosion or fire, preventing to spread outside the chamber causing secondary explosions

Intrinsically Safe

An intrinsically safe component is incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy to cause ignition of a specific hazardous substance under normal or abnormal (fault) operating conditions. (ISA-RP12.6 - Wiring Practices for Hazardous Area Instrumentation)

Intrinsically Safe Barrier

In simple terms this means that intrinsically safe equipment and wiring will limit electrical and thermal energy to a level below what required to cause start an explosion.

Intrinsically safe equipment operates on low power levels. Safety barriers are grounded to be effective under fault conditions and intrinsic safety is provided through voltage and current limiters. Zener diodes and resistors limiting the energy are usually mounted away from the hazardous areas. Failure to replace enclosure covers or bolts will not imperil protection.

Intrinsically safe wiring must be separated from non-intrinsically safe wiring by at least 2 inches in order to prevent the transfer of unsafe levels of energy to the hazardous area and it is vital that planning and installation of intrinsically systems are done with care and attention.

Note! Intrinsically safety can be compromised after initial installation due to improper maintenance or repair. It is important to ensure that such works are carried out properly.

Non Incendive

Non incendive components are non-sparking and incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy to cause ignition of a hazardous substances under normal operating conditions.

Zone System - Protection Techniques

High level protection concepts with the Zone system are indicated below. The protection concepts are subdivided in several sub classes.


Protection applied by encasing the components in a resin type material.

The protection is referred to as "Ex m".

Sub divisions ma for Zone 0 and mb for Zone 1.


The enclosure can withstand the pressure developed during an internal explosion of an explosive mixture. The explosion is not transmitted to the explosive surrounding atmosphere and the enclosure operates with a temperature to low for the surrounding explosive gas or vapor to ignite.

This protection is referred to as "Ex d".

Intrinsically Safe

Electrical equipment is under normal or abnormal conditions incapable of releasing sufficient electrical or thermal energy to cause a ignition of the hazardous surrounding atmospheric mixture.

This protection is referred to as "Ex i".

Sub divisions ia  for Zone 0, ib for Zone 1 and ic for Zone 2.

Increased Safety

High quality and very robust components. Various measures are applied to reduce the probability of excessive temperatures and the occurrence of arcs or sparks in the interior and on the external parts of the equipment. Increased safety may be used with flame-proof type of protection.

The protection is referred to as "Ex e".

Oil Filled

Protection applied by submerging the components in oil.

The protection is referred to as "Ex o".


Protection applied by keeping a positive pressure in the enclosure relative to the surrounding atmosphere with air or an inert gas. With an overpressure monitored, maintained and controlled - the surrounding ignitable atmosphere can not come in contact with energized parts of the apparatus.

The protection is referred to as "Ex p".

Sub divisions px or py for Zone 1 and pz for Zone 2.

Sand/Powder/Quartz Filled

Protection applied by covering the components with sand, powder or quartz.

The protection is referred to as "Ex q".

Non Incendive

A protection applied to electrical equipment in such a way that normal operation is not capable of igniting surrounding explosive atmospheres.

The protection is referred to as "Ex n".

Special Protection

Any method which can be shown to have the required degree of safety.

The protection is referred to as "Ex s".

Temperature Codes

The temperature code of a product denotes the maximum surface temperature of the product. Surface temperature of equipment in hazardous areas must be below the self-ignition temperature of the surrounding atmosphere.

Hazardous Areas Protection - Temperature Codes Self-Ignition
Temperature CodeMaximum Surface Temperature
T1 842 450
T2 572 300
T2A 536 280
T2B 500 260
T2C 446 230
T2D 419 215
T3 392 200
T3A 356 180
T3B 329 165
T3C 320 160
T4 275 135
T4A 248 120
T5 212 100
T6 185 85

Example - Temperature Code

A product with temperature code T3 has a maximum surface temperature below 200oC - provided it is operated within the ambient temperature specified by the manufacturer.

EPL - Equipment Protection Level - Markings

The Equipment Protection Level - EPL - marking indicates the protection level for equipment in hazardous areas. The marking differentiates between explosive gas atmospheres, explosive dust atmospheres and the explosive
atmospheres in mines susceptible to firedamp.

Class/Division System

Approved equipment is marked according rated Class (I, II, or III), Division (1 or 2), Group (A, B, C, D, E, F, or G) and temperature code (T1 through T6). For intrinsically safe equipment the words “Intrinsically Safe” or “IS” precedes the actual approval marking.

Example - Class/Division System, EPL marking
  • Class I Division 1 Group B,C,D T3
  • CL I Div 2 GP ABCD T3
  • Intrinsically Safe Class I Division 1 Group B,C,D T3
  • IS CL I Div 2 GP ABCD T3

Zone System

Approved equipment is marked according to the designed protection concept (Ex i, Ex d, Ex n and etc.), the group (I, IIA, IIB, IIC, IIIA, IIIB or IIIC) and temperature code (T1 through T6). For the United States it will be preceded by approved Class and Zone.

Ex tag

Example - Zone System, EPL marking
  • Ex ia IIC T3
  • Class I Zone 2 AEx nC IIC T5

Approval Agencies

Electrical equipment for use in hazardous areas need to be certified by an approval agency.

In North America certification is provided by

  • Factory Mutual - An approval agency primarily concerned with insurance underwriting
  • Underwriters Laboratories - An independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization
  • Canadian Standards Association - A not-for-profit membership-based association serving business, industry, government and consumers in Canada developing standards addressing public safety and health

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