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Navigating Electrical Installations in Hazardous Areas: A Brief Guide on Safety in HA

    Australia’s electrical infrastructure plays a crucial role in powering industries, homes, and businesses. However, certain environments pose unique challenges due to the presence of hazardous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres.  We will have a look at the hazardous areas in electrical installations in Australia, highlighting crucial rules, safety measures, and the necessity of compliance.

    EEHA Refresher

    Understanding Electrical Installations in Hazardous Areas

    Hazardous zones are defined as regions where the atmosphere contains or has the potential to include flammable gases, vapours, liquids, combustible dust, or ignitable fibres. These places are divided into zones based on the likelihood and duration of hazardous substance presence.

    Australia adheres to the AS/NZS 60079 series of standards along with AS 3000, which has guidance for the installation as well as maintenance of electrical equipment in hazardous areas.

    EEHA Regulatory Framework

    To protect the safety of persons and assets in hazardous regions, compliance with Australian standards and laws is critical.

    The main regulatory document for electrical installations in hazardous areas is AS/NZS 60079.0:2019 – Explosive atmospheres – Equipment – General requirements. Additionally, state and territory regulatory bodies may have specific guidelines and requirements that need to be followed.

    Hazardous Areas Zoning Classification

    The AS/NZS 60079 series classifies hazardous areas into three zones:

    Zone 0: An area where there is a continuous or prolonged presence of an explosive gas atmosphere.

    Zone 1: An area where there is a high possibility of an explosive gas atmosphere formation.

    Zone 2:An area where the possibility of an explosive gas atmosphere occurring is low and if it does, it will only persist for a short time during normal operation and if it does, it will only persist for a short time during normal operation.

    Risk Assessment and Mitigation

    Before installing electrical equipment in hazardous areas, a thorough risk assessment must be conducted. This involves identifying potential sources of ignition, assessing the likelihood of explosive atmospheres, and implementing suitable control measures. Adequate ventilation, proper equipment selection, and regular maintenance are critical components of risk mitigation strategies.

    Hazardous Areas Training and Competency

    Personnel doing design, installation, and maintenance of hazardous-area electrical systems must have the requisite skills and knowledge.

    Training programs, certifications, and competency assessments ensure that individuals are well-equipped to work safely in these challenging environments.

    The regulatory framework for hazardous areas in electrical installations in Australia is primarily governed by standards and guidelines set forth by both national and state/territory authorities. 

    Let’s delve into the key aspects of the regulatory framework:

    AS/NZS 60079 Series:

    1. AS/NZS 60079.0:2019 – General Requirements:

    • It establishes the structure for categorisation of hazardous regions depending on the likelihood as well as the duration of explosive atmospheres’ presence in zones.

    2. AS/NZS 60079.10.1:2022(Gas) and AS/NZS 60079.10.2:2016 (Dust) – Explosive Atmospheres – Classification of Areas:

    • These standards elaborate on the criteria for classifying hazardous areas into zones based on the type and likelihood of explosive atmospheres.

    3. AS/NZS 60079.14:2017 and 60079.14:2022- Electrical Installations Design, Selection and Erection:

    • This standard focuses on the design, selection, and erection of electrical installations in hazardous areas.

    4. AS/NZS 60079.17:2017 – Inspection and Maintenance of Electrical Installations in Hazardous Areas:

    • It provides guidelines for the inspection and maintenance of electrical installations to ensure ongoing compliance and safety.
    State and Territory Regulations:

    In addition to the national standards, individual states and territories in Australia may have specific regulations or codes of practice that supplement the AS/NZS 60079 series. For example:

    • Queensland: The Queensland Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 provide specific requirements for electrical installations in hazardous areas.
    • Northern Territory: The Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (WHS Act) and the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations) provide guidelines for safe practices when using electricity, as well as technical and safety standards for electrical installations in major hazard facilities.
    • South Australia: Work Health Safety Act 2012(SA) Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) along with Mines and Works Inspection Act 1920 and Mines and Works Inspection Regulations 2013 provide specific requirements for electrical installations in hazardous areas.
    • Western Australia: The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) provides guidelines and regulations for electrical safety in hazardous areas.
    • New South Wales: The following legislations are applicable for electrical installations in hazardous areas – NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation, NSW Electricity Act and Regulation, NSW Mine Health And Safety Act And Regulation, NSW Coal Mine Health and Safety Act Regulation, Petroleum (Onshore) Act, Regulation and Schedule.
    • Victoria: The Electrical Safety Act 1998 and the Electricity Safety Regulations 2019 provide specific requirements for electrical installations in hazardous areas.
    • Tasmania: The Electrical Safety Act 2022 and Work Health Safety Act 2012 provide guidelines for safety in electrical installations located in hazardous areas.
    Compliance and Enforcement:

    Government bodies such as Safe Work Australia and state/territory workplace safety authorities are responsible for enforcing compliance with these standards. Compliance involves ensuring that electrical installations in hazardous areas meet the specified criteria, including equipment selection, installation practices, and ongoing maintenance.

    Certification and Marking:

    Electrical equipment intended for use in hazardous areas must undergo rigorous testing and certification processes. The equipment is marked with relevant information, including its suitability for specific zones, gas groups, and temperature classes. Certification bodies recognized by Australia and New Zealand’s Joint Accreditation System (JAS-ANZ) play an important part in this process.

    The regulatory framework for hazardous areas in electrical installations in Australia is comprehensive and designed to prioritise the safety of personnel and assets. Adherence to the AS/NZS 60079 series, along with compliance with state and territory regulations, creates a robust foundation for mitigating the risks associated with explosive atmospheres in various industries. Staying abreast of updates to standards and regulations is essential to ensure ongoing compliance and the highest level of safety in hazardous environments.

    Australia is home to a broad range of sectors, each with its own set of electrical risk issues.

    Here, we will explore some key sectors where electrical hazards are particularly prevalent and suggest the specific considerations and safety measures applicable to each.

    Mining Industry:

    • Challenges: Mines often contain explosive gases and dust, making them high-risk areas for electrical installations.
    • Safety Measures: Regular monitoring of atmospheric conditions, and strict compliance with mining safety regulations.
    • Additionally, the use of intrinsically safe equipment in zone zero could provide a further reduction in the risk levels 

    Oil and Gas Industry:

    • Challenges: Offshore platforms and onshore facilities in the oil and gas sector can expose electrical systems to flammable gases and harsh environmental conditions.
    • Safety Measures: Stringent zoning classification, use of explosion-proof enclosures, and regular inspections and maintenance to ensure the integrity of electrical systems.
    • Additionally, the use of intrinsically safe equipment in zone zero could provide a further reduction in the risk levels 

    Chemical Processing Plants:

    • Challenges: Chemical plants deal with various hazardous substances, including flammable liquids and gases, posing a constant risk of fire and explosion.
    • Safety Measures: Proper grounding, and the use of corrosion-resistant materials to prevent chemical reactions with electrical components. Additionally, the use of intrinsically safe equipment in zone zero could provide a further reduction in the risk levels 

    Manufacturing and Processing Industries:

    • Challenges: Factories and processing plants may generate combustible dust, increasing the risk of explosions.
    • Safety Measures: Regular cleaning and maintenance to control dust accumulation, installation of dust-tight electrical enclosures, and adherence to safety standards for equipment in dust-prone areas.

    Marine and Shipping Industry:

    • Challenges: Electrical installations on ships and marine platforms face exposure to corrosive saltwater and potential fuel leaks.
    • Safety Measures: Use of marine-grade and corrosion-resistant materials, regular inspections, and compliance with international maritime safety standards.

    Power Generation Plants:

    • Challenges: Power plants, especially those using fossil fuels, can have flammable gases and combustible materials.
    • Safety Measures: Implementation of robust safety protocols, use of explosion-proof equipment, and adherence to industry-specific regulations.
    • Additionally, the use of intrinsically safe equipment in zone zero could provide a further reduction in the risk levels 

    Agricultural Sector:

    • Challenges: Agricultural facilities may involve the use of combustible materials, such as hay or grain dust, leading to fire hazards.
    • Safety Measures: Proper equipment selection, installation of dust-tight enclosures, and regular maintenance to minimise the risk of electrical fires.

    In all these industries, a holistic approach to electrical safety is crucial. This includes a combination of proper equipment selection, rigorous risk assessments, regular training for personnel, and adherence to industry-specific safety standards. The objective is to prioritise active participation and contribution towards a safe working environment in the face of electrical dangers.

    Hazardous areas in electrical installations in Australia require a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory framework, zoning classifications, and safety measures outlined in the AS/NZS 60079 series. By prioritising compliance, conducting thorough risk assessments, and fostering a culture of safety, stakeholders can contribute to the prevention of accidents and protect both human life and valuable assets in these critical environments. Electrical safety is a shared responsibility, and staying informed and vigilant is essential for a safer and more resilient electrical infrastructure in Australia.

    Please navigate to the Contact Us page, if you need up-to-date information or want to get in touch with AUSINET, for a career in Hazardous Areas Electrical.