Intrinsically Safe Motorola Radios Crucial for Protecting Workers
Clear communications are imperative for maintaining safety on any work site, but especially while working in hazardous conditions that contain high concentrations of combustible materials. The communications equipment used on these sites must be reliable, and provide clarity of sound and sufficient range of operation. Sometimes environmental conditions on these sites, such as mining, drilling, and refining operations, include flammable substances that create an explosion hazard. Accordingly, all electronic devices – including communications devices – that are used under these conditions must be designed so as to not become an inadvertent ignition factor. Known as “intrinsically safe” (IS), these devices must safely provide the same consistent quality and reliability as non-IS equipment.
Intrinsically Safe Radios for Canada’s Booming Industries
With the expected rise in offshore drilling operations in Canada’s Arctic waters, rig operators will want to take every precaution to prevent the kind of disasters we’ve seen on oil rigs in the past. According to one safety expert, spark potential is the greatest fire risk on any offshore oil rig – even more so than “hot work” that involves open flames, because workers are more aware of the risks. It’s imperative that steps be taken to eliminate sparking hazards wherever possible, including in the radio equipment necessary for safe and efficient operations.
Intrinsically safe communications equipment is also crucial for Canada’s hard-working miners, emergency service and utility workers, manufacturers, and even employees on grain elevators. Any work environment where combustible materials are likely to be present under normal circumstances or will possibly be present if something goes wrong should investigate their options for IS equipment.
What Is Intrinsically Safe?
The IS concept and the techniques used to implement it are used around the world. Relevant international standards and practices give guidelines for the design and implementation of IS equipment and systems, thus ensuring consistency and reliability across borders. Adhering to IS standards often reduces costs and saves time because usually an entire IS system is implemented at once, and it is specifically designed to avoid additional, costly requirements such as extra certifications, instrumentation, etc. An IS site manager or team ensures that each site has all the IS equipment and systems necessary to complete the project safely. There are different levels of IS equipment, and those that are permissible for one type of site might not be appropriate on another, so careful selection and insight are necessary.
In general on hazardous sites, electronic devices present two ignition concerns: electrical sparking and excessive heat emission (thermal energy). Any work site deemed “hazardous” has on its premises flammable vapours, chemicals, gasses or liquids; combustible dusts, such as grain dust at a grain elevator; or ignitable fibres. Non-IS devices can create tiny electrical sparks as a normal by product of their operation. Depending on the nature of the hazardous conditions, these sparks may be sufficient to ignite those combustible materials.
Intrinsically safe radio systems are designed specifically to prevent ignition of combustibles when used in their proximity. Prevention of combustion is achieved by keeping the electrical and thermal energy of the device low enough to not spark combustible materials in the area. Materials used in the production of the device will not create sparks under normal operating conditions. The housing design ensures that the exterior temperature of the device remains low or normal at all times, even in the event of an internal short circuit. (Normally, an internal short circuit could cause a significant hike in temperature, sufficient to spark an explosion.)
Intrinsically safe two way radios prevent explosions by incorporating a variety of safety features:
- A fully encapsulated battery compartment to contain the heat and spark that are created during normal battery usage
- Spacing between components within the device to prevent short-circuiting
- Limited energy storage within the device
- Anti-static coverings and materials to prevent static electricity build-up within and around the device and its system
Depending on the location of use, all aspects of the radio device and the system within which it is deployed should be IS to avoid inadvertent exposure to ignition threats. If a device’s batteries have to be removed from the device to be changed, the batteries should be IS in their own design and usage, or there should be a system in place to require removal of the device from the hazardous location prior to the battery change.
Intrinsically safe Motorola radios can provide exceptional communications within any hazardous location in the world. New technologies and accessories such as rugged headsets and submersible speakers microphones, and batteries ensure that workers on site will be in contact with systems and management at all times. When prioritizing safety, a coordinated intrinsically safe radio system is the place to start. For help deciding which CSA intrinsically safe radios would be right for your work site, contact us.