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Why C1D2/ATEX Certifications Should Spark More Interest within Explosive Environments (Part II)

As I mentioned last week, the C1D2 certification and/or ATEX framework should be mandatory criteria during your rugged mobile PC selection process. They are two of the most widely accepted intrinsic safety standards for products used in hazardous environments and are more prevalent in certain global regions.

CID2 is an ANSI/ ISA North American certification for hazardous locations. It covers three types of hazardous locations categorized by Class I (gases, vapors, and liquids), Class II (dusts), and Class III (fibers and flyings). Division 1 means normally explosive and hazardous, and Division 2 protects against elements not normally present in an explosive concentration but that may accidentally exist.

ATEX is based on the requirements of two European Directives – Directive 99/92/EC (also known as ATEX Workplace Directive) and Directive 94/9/EC (the ATEX Equipment Directive) – and actually derives its name from the  French title of the latter: Appareils destinés à être utilisés en  ATmosphères Explosives.

Both certifications are typically ubiquitous in regions such as Latin America. But here’s why you should care that we, or any mobile device manufacturer, can present either an ATEX Declaration of Conformity (DoC) or a C1D2 certification before you declare your commitment to any rugged mobile device – regardless of where you operate…

Hazardous Locations

Consider an off-shore oil rig. It’s typically a complex with housing, offices, operations control rooms, and a drilling platform – all of which are almost uncomfortably close to one another. The drilling platform often has an explosive atmosphere (for obvious reasons), and oil companies need to ensure that any electronic device brought near the drilling area be certified as safe for use around those common spark and high heat elements. Not only for the workers on the platform but the safety of all personnel and infrastructure confined to the rig.

One way to confidently ensure this level of safety is to equip all mobile users with electronic devices that are either C1D2 or ATEX certified. Oil rig operators are concerned that, despite policy and warning signs, workers may accidentally carry a non-compliant mobile computer from their office onto the platform. The risk of a “simple” mistake like this is too much of a risk to take. Other oil and gas operations have decided that their procedures are robust and simply limit access to secure explosive areas to approved workers with C1D2/ATEX-certified rugged tablets. Either approach is viable.

Mining operations and woodworking shops have similarly risky areas:

  • Fine combustible dust found airborne at many mining sites and chemicals commonly used to help extract minerals can create explosion hazards.
  • In some cases, the fine wood dust or the VOC finishes used in cabinet construction shops, for example, can create a hazardous atmosphere.

All of these industries are under stress to become more efficient, both due to competitive pressures and the fact that Oil, Gas and Mining companies are extracting resources that are more difficult to get out of the ground. Using older pen and paper methods isn’t practical. The only safe way to use rugged mobile computers is to make sure that they are safe for the environment. And the best way to be safely harness the advantages of these tough mobile computers is to select only C1D2/ATEX-certified devices.

There is a lot that has to be engineered into any industry-tough tablets to make them safe in the explosive atmosphere. For example, since we manufacture electronic equipment at Xplore, we have implemented “intrinsic safety” techniques applicable to both “live use” and tablet failure situations. Critically, we focus on preventing sufficient electrical and thermal energy so that combustion cannot occur regardless of surrounding hazards and rugged tablets can be operated safely. Some of our detailed design techniques include:

  • The use of zener diodes to limit voltage
  • A “fail safe” short to the ground, (Yes, we even consider how to keep the tablet intrinsically safe even in failure conditions, as rare as these failures may be.)
  • Confirmation of compliance through additional testing:
    - HERO (Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation for Ordinance), Mil-Std 464
    - Explosive Atmosphere testing, Mil-Std 810F, Method 511.5, Procedure I

But every manufacturer’s approach is different, and a discussion of mobile devices for hazardous work environments would not be complete without recognizing that devices – regardless of who makes them – must survive very harsh treatment. Working outdoors or in deep mines, with heavy machinery and other tools in extreme temperature and humidity conditions requires extremely rugged tablet PCs.

So, just as a mobile device should be designed to be intrinsically safe in explosive atmospheres, it should also be designed for ruggedness and versatility. Mining workers often have to carry their tools through runoff ponds on foot, and sometimes they slip and fall. Those workers are tough, so should be their tablets. But tough isn’t always enough.

When eliminating – not just minimizing – risk is non-negotiable in hazardous mobile work environments, make sure you invest in a tablet PC and a partner that can demonstrate the intrinsic safety of its technology.

See the CID2 Infographic