Hazardous area zones
17 June 2009
Hazardous areas are defined in DSEAR as "any place in which an explosive atmosphere may occur in quantities such as to require special precautions to protect the safety of workers". In this context, 'special precautions' is best taken as relating to the construction, installation and use of apparatus, as given in BS EN 60079 –10.
Area classification is a method of analysing and classifying the environment where explosive gas atmospheres may occur. The main purpose is to facilitate the proper selection and installation of apparatus to be used safely in that environment, taking into account the properties of the flammable materials that will be present. DSEAR specifically extends the original scope of this analysis, to take into account non-electrical sources of ignition, and mobile equipment that creates an ignition risk.
Hazardous areas are classified into zones based on an assessment of the frequency of the occurrence and duration of an explosive gas atmosphere, as follows:
- Zone 0: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is present continuously or for long periods;
- Zone 1: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation;
- Zone 2: An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation and, if it occurs, will only exist for a short time.
Various sources have tried to place time limits on to these zones, but none have been officially adopted. The most common values used are:
- Zone 0: Explosive atmosphere for more than 1000h/yr
- Zone 1: Explosive atmosphere for more than 10, but less than 1000 h/yr
- Zone 2: Explosive atmosphere for less than 10h/yr, but still sufficiently likely as to require controls over ignition sources.
Where people wish to quantify the zone definitions, these values are the most appropriate, but for the majority of situations a purely qualitative approach is adequate.
When the hazardous areas of a plant have been classified, the remainder will be defined as non-hazardous, sometimes referred to as 'safe areas'.
The zone definitions take no account of the consequences of a release. If this aspect is important, it may be addressed by upgrading the specification of equipment or controls over activities allowed within the zone. The alternative of specifying the extent of zones more conservatively is not generally recommended, as it leads to more difficulties with equipment selection, and illogicalities in respect of control over health effects from vapours assumed to be present. Where occupiers choose to define extensive areas as Zone 1, the practical consequences could usefully be discussed during site inspection.
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