Importance of approvals for hazardous locations

Though we have mentioned the importance of approvals for hazardous location equipment in a previous post, it is certainly worth an entire article to itself given the gravity of the issue and the amount of confusion in the marketplace. After 60 years in this business, we still field questions about this all the time, and quite often we'll discover unapproved or inaccurately approved devices being used in the field. This practice is of course dangerous and can get people into trouble with the law, insurance companies, etc etc. But its no wonder this happens - the approval process is a bit of a maze. Let's see if we can't clear some of this up.

Why do we need approvals for hazardous location equipment?
As we described in our last article, hazardous location equipment is used in areas where there is enough flammable gas, grains or dust in the air to fuel a serious explosion and/or fire. Have you ever received a static spark off a door knob before? That simple spark, which doesn't hurt you in most circumstances, can have enough energy to ignite the gas, grain or dust in a hazardous location. So any spark, from static electricity to current electricity, must be avoided or controlled in a hazardous location. While we'll talk more about static electricity bonding and grounding (the process of avoiding a static spark) in a later article, you can start to get the idea of why electrical equipment needs to be specially designed for use in hazardous locations. There is an inherent risk of electrical sparks whenever you are using live current, and this needs to be controlled. There are many tried and tested ways of achieving this control, which has led to develop of standards against which all electrical equipment for hazardous locations needs to be measured. Approvals by accredited standards bodies recognize that the device has passed these standards and is safe to use. Without these standards and approvals, how would you really know that you are safe when using electrical equipment in a hazardous location?

What does a proper hazardous location approval look like?
In North America, all electrical equipment used in hazardous locations must prominently display the areas for which it is approved. In the case of our explosion-proof lights, for instance, they all have a metal plate firmly attached to the light indicating their approval status. The picture shown here is from our XP162 explosion-proof incandescent hand lamp. Note that the UL stamp in the upper-middle part of the label has the "c" and "us" designations on either side of it. This indicates that for the Class and Divisions noted (Class I, Division 1, Groups C&D), UL has approved this light to BOTH Canadian and US standards. Also note that the stamp explicitly states that this is certified for "portable lighting for hazardous locations." All hazardous location equipment will have a similar stamp.

What does the "Class", "Division" and "Group" mean?
These are the specific types of hazardous locations in which the item is certified to be used. There are strict standards around operating temperature, thickness of material, etc. that are used to determine which types of gases and dusts the item can operate in and still keep the operator safe.  You can see our primer on this here. Do not use the item in areas for which it isn't approved!

Is there a difference between Canadian and American approvals?
In short, YES. Hazardous location equipment needs to be approved FOR Canada or FOR the US, depending of course on where it will be used. In Canada, you cannot legally sell a piece of electrical equipment unless it is approved specifically FOR Canada. Of course, from an insurance point of view, you should also not use a device that isn't approved for use in your country. While many of the standards are the same or similar between Canada and the US, there ARE differences and they must be respected. Typically, accredited standards bodies such as UL, CSA and ETL will denote a Canadian approval by adding a small "c" before their logo. Common examples are shown to the right. Note that a dual approval can be shown by placing a small "c" and a small "us" on either side of the logo, as is indicated in the far right example from UL.

Look for these marks. If there is any confusion, call the standards body or the manufacturer and ask. Better safe than sorry!

Who can approve hazardous location equipment? In Canada and the US, there are a host of "accredited standards bodies" that are able to provide approvals for hazardous location equipment. Canada keeps a good list of them here, segmenting them by what kind of approvals they are allowed to give. For our purposes, you want to look for someone who is able to give approvals on hazardous location luminaires and portable luminaires for hazardous locations. The most common accredited standards bodies for explosion proof and hazardous location lighting are CSA and UL.

What are the most common usage mistakes?
Asking around our organization, we've compiled the most common mistakes that customers make when trying to purchase explosion proof or hazardous location lighting:

1. Light not approved for Canada.
This is the most common issue we encounter. Someone has found a light that has UL (or equivalent) approval for the US and so the customer assumes that it can be used in Canada as well. There are many explosion proof lights that receive approval in the US but not in Canada due to the temperature level of the bulb used. Using such a light in Canada can be illegal and void insurance policies. Make sure it has Canadian approval. All of our lights have Canadian approvals and we are happy to assist you if you aren't sure about a light that you are thinking of buying.

2. Light approved ONLY as a fixture, NOT as a portable light.
There IS a difference between a light (or luminaire in the approvals-speak) approved as a fixture or for portable usage. A fixture is a light that is permanently mounted to the wall or ceiling. A portable light is just that - portable. There are different approvals for each kind of light, and using an approved fixture as a portable light is not allowed. Many companies will modify approved fixtures to make them portable, which will void the approval in Canada. Make sure the portable light you buy indicates that it is APPROVED for portable use, or else you are using an unapproved light.

3. Light approved for the wrong Class, Division or Group.
Often people will think that they are getting a deal by buying a Class I, Division 2 light and will then proceed to use it in their Division 1 areas. Again, this is an unapproved use and could get you into trouble. There are reasons why a light will be only approved as Division 2 and for those same reasons it should not be used in a Division 1 area. Similarly, people will use lights approved for the wrong Group for their usage.

4. Light is not approved at all!
We often see people use a "vapour-proof" light thinking that it is explosion-proof. Or they will look at some of our industrial lights and assume that they are also explosion-proof or approved for hazardous locations. Easy answer is that if it doesn't specifically claim to be approved for hazardous locations (with a mention of Class, Division and Group), then it probably isn't approved. Even better - look at the product itself. Does it have a stamp indicating the approvals? If not, it's not approved, period.

We hope this is helpful to giving you an understanding of why we are so diligent with approvals here at Lind Equipment. Hazardous location equipment, whether it be lighting or static bonding and grounding products, are used in very tough locations and should be treated with respect. We've taken the time to educate you on this to keep you save and to allow you to Work Confidently, knowing that Lind Equipment is on your side. As always, we love to hear your questions and feedback, so don't hesitate to reach out.