Organisations in several different industries are not only worrying about their Covid-19 risk but how to ensure intrinsically safe inspection. Intrinsic safety is a term describing the protection technique to prevent ignition in hazardous areas by limiting the energy, electrical and thermal that something produces. In doing this, it allows instruments, technology and machinery to operate in environments classified as hazardous by regulatory directives such as ‘Appareils destinés à être utilisés en Atmosphères Explosives’ (ATEX) or the ‘International Electrotechnical Commission System’ (IECEx). Dating back several years, intrinsic safety has been vital in keeping workers shielded from unnecessary incidents in the workplace that demands extra caution. Today the modern workplace often requires making detailed recordings with electronic and digital systems, so how can managers ensure intrinsically safe inspection is being carried out? One of the premier ways that organisations are choosing is paperless inspections run on intrinsically safe mobile devices.
Part of the limiting factor in years gone by for inspection in certain industries was the nature that mobile devices obviously passed electrical currents through their circuits. As this was unavoidable many inspectors and businesses initially missed out on the benefits of paperless inspection, enjoyed by so many other sectors. Thanks to intuitive engineering from the electronics industry, there is now a wide variety of smartphone and tablet mobile devices that are certified intrinsically safe (for Zone 1 and Zone 2 areas). What does this mean? Organisations that previously were unable to use such devices and take advantage of all the various corporate and business-minded applications on the vast iOS and Android app stores, can now do so. This means that paperless inspections have finally reached the organisations that operate with hazardous petrochemicals or have strict safety requirements due to their machinery, facility or local area. Not only do inspectors not have to carry round a host of measuring devices, recording equipment and reporting logbooks, but a large majority of these can be combined into one safe device.
So, what are intrinsically safe mobile devices? In large part such devices are highly similar to the consumer versions that everyone experiences on a daily basis. Subtle differences however, mean that it is possible to take these mobile devices into a hazardous area without risking an incident or worker safety. A dedicated special battery design and a different chassis layout are the chief reasons that certain smartphones and tablets can be made intrinsically safe. By preventing the possibility of ignition or safety related concerns, it is possible to take mobile tech into areas where that previously has been unfeasible, such as Zone 1 or Zone 2, ATEX or IECEx-classified hazardous areas. In the past, limiting technology and manufacturing has meant that intrinsically safe mobile devices have suffered from poor camera performance, low call quality or frustrating video recording. Today however, many manufacturers of intrinsically safe devices are taking consumer versions and modifying them in a way to take advantage of the already solid build and top technology but keep them ignition safe. This means that providers of intrinsically safe devices are offering a close-to-consumer version, with all the leading features but in an ignition-safe body. Other manufacturers have decided to instead work towards offering specialised intrinsically safe cases, for regular consumer devices. Either way, one can comfortably establish that the intrinsically safe market for devices is today much closer to the tech that we use on a daily basis, than ever before.
As they are running on mobile devices highly similar to the consumer versions, intrinsically safe inspection involves the same paperless application that any other business can download and use. This means the breadth of features and functionalities that these apps provide is available for an inspection officer in a hazardous zone. This reduces both the number of tools that in inspector needs in the field and the time taken to make recordings. Users can take pictures using the camera and likewise scan barcodes or use RFID tags. Upon taking a picture of a defect, issue or simply a machinery item, the user can then annotate the image and attach it to the inspection checklist and report. Not only does this submit visual proof that other teams can use to determine the following steps, but it can be used in forthcoming inspections of that asset/facility for the next inspector to know what to inspect. Other features commonly reported include speech-to-text services or standardised response checklist layouts, offline recording or pre-configured corrective actions. With intrinsically safe inspection running on mobile devices, inspectors get a new toolbox to help them make good recordings and even better decisions. Using such checklists increases the efficiency of the inspection process; reducing the time needed for an inspection but also the time that an inspector needs to spend in the hazardous location.
For management level, there are also benefits aside from the wider toolbox that inspectors see. Assets, locations and facilities can be recorded in historical categories for easier analysis and tracking. Pre-configured corrective actions mentioned earlier give managers the opportunity to give advice without having to actually be on the phone with an inspector. Perhaps the best improvement for management however is the analysis and data sharing possibilities that digital provides. Instead of having to go through a lengthy double-entry data process with poor operational management proficiency, digital streamlines everything onto one Computerised Management Maintenance System (CMMS) or an ERP. The categorisation of assets and historical tracking can provide better comparative analysis against similar equipment, or even against expected performance for return on interest and depreciation of value. With inspection data also entering the system faster, the management and maintenance teams can both make better and more timely decisions for the organisation.
The only true way to discovering the power of intrinsically safe inspection and its possible integration with your organisation is to contact a provider for a demo. Intrinsically safe devices are available through specific providers who cater to different levels of need. These devices are commonly available on Android and sometimes iOS platforms, with external case solutions also starting to become more widely available. When choosing such a device, look for its ATEX or IECEx certification (country dependent). Combining intrinsically safe devices running Android or iOS with external IS case means that premium inspection, service, safety and compliance applications can be used on the intrinsically safe device. Understanding your setup needs and requirements is key to knowing how such systems can successfully contribute to your organisational operations, whilst helping to put you on the path to future success.
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