Sunday, February 20, 2011

Think before you click


You may not know it but the very Handheld 2way Radio, Pager, Flashlight, Cell phone, Walkman , you are carrying in the pockets of your turn out gear are potential bombs waiting to go off
If you enter into Hazardous location Areas were there is a potential to ignite flammable vapors such as Oil Change Facilities Pits, Certain Chemical Plants Utility company Enclosures and Sewer/ waste water treatment plants etc.
All of these areas present situations were by the simple keying up of a Radio could cause and explosion from the vapor in the atmosphere.
The NFPA National Electrical Code breaks these various dangerous areas into categories
as to the type of product encountered and its explosive nature , the code also sets forth the design of electrical Equipment permitted in these areas .
the 3 Classifications of Hazardous atmospheres are.

Class I - Division I and II Ignitable Gases and vapors plus Group Letters A-G

Example: Gasoline , Aviation Gas , Butane , Propane Etc.

Class II -Division I and II Ignitable Dusts

Example Corn and grain dust

Class III Division I and II Ignitable Fibers and flying’s

Example :Cotton ,Magnesium Turnings, etc.

Now if your wondering if the equipment you carry is considered Explosion Proof go out on your Rig and or look at what you are carrying Pager etc . and you should find a UL Label saying Approved for use in Hazardous Atmospheres or word's Explosion Proof and a bunch of letters and Numbers or you may see the word Intrinsically Safe .
what this label is telling you is that the unit on your rig or what you are carrying is safe to take into the Hazardous location it is listed for. IF YOU DO NOT SEE AN APPROVED UL OR MSHA OR OTHER LABEL AND THE HAZARDOUS LOCATION MARKS IT IS NOT TO BE USED OR CARRIED IN HAZARDOUS ATMOSPHERES!!!!
If you are not sure ask your local Hazardous Materials Team Leader or Fire Marshal who can get you the correct info or consult the NFPA Code's
OK so you checked and your unit is Approved but just what does the word Explosion Proof or Intrinsically Safe mean.

When you see the words Explosion proof on a piece of equipment it does not mean it can withstand an Explosion what it means is the Equipment has been designed so that when the piece of equipment creates a spark such as a Flashlight that the unit has been designed to contain the explosion and then safely release the vapors at a temperature that would not cause an explosion in the atmosphere that it is being used.
Look around any Gas Station and you will see very heavy duty looking electrical fittings around the pump area and with in the service bay any where the electrical equipment goes below 18" of the floor look at the name plates and you will see the word explosion proof
showing that it is similarly designed to prevent explosions
Also if you ever look at some tools used at Petroleum Plants or have ever looked at the Hand tools used by Coal Mine Rescue Teams you will find the explosion proof labels and you will also see words saying Non Sparking in many cases these tools are made of Bronze a material which will not produce a Spark .
Does your fire company do spill pick up and did you notice the shovels etc. are plastic same reason no sparks when you are cleaning up a gasoline spill that’s been contained with absorbent.
With the Advent of more and more Electronic units being used in Industry you will often see the words Intrinsically safe on a piece of electronic equipment this label means that the electronic device like a Co meter has been so designed to prevent any possibility
of the unit being able to produce enough energy to cause an explosion .
So worried has the Petroleum Industry become of the problem of Non Listed cell phones being used by People fueling there cars that many stations now post signs banning the use of Cell phones near the pumps.
Many people worry about open flames at hazard calls but what about your Equipment.
that you depend on.

In part 2 of this article we will look at how explosions can be set off many feet away at construction and other sites which utilize Blasting caps and other commercial Construction explosives

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