Valve services providers work with a range of clients in a variety of industries. Depending on the clients you serve, you may come across a client who requests you complete valve testing with intrinsically safe equipment. Given the prohibitive cost of intrinsically safe valve testing equipment, how can you provide the service your client needs? Is intrinsically safe equipment really necessary, or are there alternatives available that would allow you to complete testing safely, with the equipment you already have?

In this article, we will take a closer look at what intrinsically safe equipment is, when you are required to use it, and when it might be more profitable and efficient to work with your client to find an alternative solution. Let’s start with a clear definition of what intrinsically safe equipment is, and how you can recognize it. 

What is Intrinsically Safe Equipment?

Intrinsically safe is a term used to identify equipment that is certified not to cause a spark and is explosion-proof. Depending on your location, you may recognize specific intrinsically safe certifications like ATEX (ATmosphere EXplosible), used in the European Union, and IECEx, the international system for certification of equipment for use in explosive atmospheres. 

Intrinsically safe equipment, regardless of specific certification or application, is designed and manufactured for safe use in explosive atmospheres. This equipment meets rigorous standards and testing requirements to ensure the utmost safety in potentially dangerous environments. 

Identifying Intrinsically Safe Equipment

Any piece of equipment that is deemed intrinsically safe must display visual evidence of the system’s safety rating. The equipment must be assigned and labeled with a specific code that indicates the level of protection the device provides. There is a range of protection levels suited to different levels of explosive atmospheres. 

You can identify an intrinsically safe valve testing system by the label that is clearly affixed to the exterior of the system. If there is no intrinsically safe label present, the system is not technically intrinsically safe and does not meet the rigorous restrictions associated with an ATEX or IECEx certification. 

A Client Has Asked Me To Test Their Valves with ATEX Certified or Intrinsically Safe Equipment — What Do I Do?

If you test pressure relief valves or provide valve testing equipment for industries that manufacture, process, or use flammable materials, it’s possible that your client may request ATEX certified or intrinsically safe equipment. 

Most valve test and repair shops and valve technicians do not use intrinsically safe equipment on a regular basis. Intrinsically safe valve testing equipment is: 

  • Prohibitively expensive
  • Not user-friendly
  • Infrequently used
  • Expensive to maintain

For these reasons, most valve technicians and valve testing companies do not have intrinsically safe equipment on hand. For most, it’s very infrequently used, and it’s much more expensive than general-purpose systems. 

But, if a client is requesting intrinsically safe valve testing equipment, what do you do? Should you simply refer the client out, or is there a way you can provide safe, accurate valve testing without intrinsically safe equipment?

In many cases, there are alternative solutions you can provide that will meet your client’s safety standards, without requiring you to invest in intrinsically safe valve testing equipment. Here are a few ways to discover if your client can benefit from a more convenient testing service:

Consider the Client’s Industry

While many facilities may need intrinsically safe equipment for a portion of their facility, it’s rare that a facility can only use intrinsically safe equipment at any time. 

When your client asks for intrinsically safe valve testing equipment, first consider their industry. 

Industries that commonly require intrinsically safe equipment include:

  • Automotive refueling stations
  • Oil refineries, rigs, and processing plants
  • Chemical processing plants
  • Printing industries
  • Aircraft refueling stations and hangars
  • Gas pipelines and distribution centers
  • Sewage treatment plants
  • Surface-coating industries
  • Woodworking areas
  • Grain handling and storage operation
  • Metal surface-grinding operation

As you can see from this list, there is a considerable range of facilities that may require intrinsically safe equipment. Some of these facilities present a much more flammable atmosphere than others. 

While there are a few high-risk applications that may always require intrinsically safe equipment, many facilities in industries like printing, woodworking, grain handling, and surface-coating have areas of the facility and times of inoperation where intrinsically safe equipment isn’t necessary.

Ask your client what industry they work in, and if intrinsically safe equipment is required in every area of their facility, at all times. In many cases, facilities may not need intrinsically safe equipment if proper precautions are taken. 

Can the Facility Purge Testing Areas?

Many of your clients may not require intrinsically safe equipment when the testing area is purged. When operations stop and flammable materials are removed from the area, it is often safe to bring in inline valve testing equipment. Ask your client if you may perform required testing without intrinsically safe equipment when they purge testing areas. 

Can You Apply for a Hot Work Permit?

In facilities where it is inconvenient or impossible to purge testing areas, a hot work permit may meet your client’s requirements for safe valve testing. 

A hot work permit is required in areas where flammable atmospheres could exist. Though this permit is most commonly associated with work like welding, cutting, and soldering, it is extended to any activity that could produce flames, sparks, and or heat. If a hot work permit is permissible for your client’s facility, you are able to more quickly and efficiently complete their testing. By obtaining a hot work permit before you enter your client’s facility, you may safely complete your work with your existing valve testing equipment. 

It’s important to know when your clients really require intrinsically safe equipment, and when that certification may not actually apply to your work of valve testing. While intrinsically safe certifications are necessary safety measures for high-risk applications, they’re not required for every area and service request in most facilities. 

Considering that ATEX or IECEx certified valve testing equipment can be difficult to come by and is exceptionally expensive, it’s worth your time to dig a little deeper into your client’s request when they ask for intrinsically safe valve testing. 

By asking questions like:

  • What industry are you in?
  • What level of intrinsically safe certified equipment does your facility require?
  • Can you purge the testing area for safe testing without intrinsically safe equipment?
  • Could we complete your service request with a hot work permit?

You can determine whether you really need intrinsically safe valve testing equipment, or if there are safe alternative testing methods that will save both you and your client time and money. 

Intrinsically safe equipment is necessary for a range of applications, but it’s not the best solution for all facilities. If you’re looking for inline valve testing equipment that is efficient and accurate, there’s no better option than the AccuTEST system. Learn more about our system, request your live demo today.

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