Hazardous areas or locations (sometimes referred to as hazlocs) are physical areas susceptible to fire or explosion that require specific precautions to protect both equipment and workers. This blog takes a closer look at what type of operational areas may fall under this category, and at the special characteristics and certifications cameras should have for safe surveillance of these zones.

What constitutes a high risk of fire or explosion?

A fire can occur almost anywhere, but hazardous areas are particularly at risk because they feature explosive atmospheres caused by the presence (or potential presence) of ignitable gases, dust, or fibres.

Oil and gas plants and chemical processing facilities are obvious examples of settings where hazardous areas are likely, but almost any sector can be affected.

For instance, flour or sugar are highly flammable meaning many food processing facilities are likely to feature hazardous areas. Grain (dust build-up), biofuel (gas build-up) and cotton (fibre build-up) processing and storage facilities are also often classified as hazardous areas.

What is a hazardous-area camera?

As the name suggests, a hazardous-area camera is one specifically designed for these environments. They are also referred to as ‘explosion-proof’ cameras. However, this can be misleading.

While certainly built to withstand harsh temperatures, operating conditions, and explosions – often made from durable materials like stainless steel and tempered, pressure-resistant glass – a key differentiator between hazardous and safe area cameras is that the former is also designed to avoid being the cause of an explosion.

Developed with parts that mitigate the risk of sparks from electrical components and featuring camera housings that prevent the ingress of gas and particles that could ignite, they provide a much safer way to monitor assets and processes in dangerous conditions.

Are there specific certifications hazardous areas should have?

If your business features hazardous areas, you will need to ensure that the surveillance cameras you use have all been tested and certified to the safety and performance standards specific to your geography. However, the main standards recognised internationally are IECEx, ATEX, CSA and CSAus.

These standards represent minimum requirements for compliance, so it is also important to look at specific operating condition requirements to make the best choice. For instance, in desert and arid locations, it is worth looking at using cameras fully operational in +70°C heat.

What other features are essential for hazardous-area cameras?

It may sound like a frivolous detail but having a robust wiper on your hazardous area camera can be the difference between having a clear view of crucial processes or a blurry image (due to potential vapour or particle buildup). Integral heaters and demisters can also be hugely beneficial for hazardous environments as they eliminate the risk of fogging and condensation.

What if I want a high-resolution image?

Hazardous area cameras are closely associated with process monitoring, where the priority is often low/no light performance or thermal imaging. But this doesn’t mean they can’t deliver high-resolution image capture. 

In fact, there are many HD and 4K hazardous area camera options for when detail is a definite need – our own 4K range of COEX hazardous-area cameras even includes the market’s first 4K TriMode camera station for all light/thermal conditions. 

It’s also worth remembering that while high-resolution safe-area cameras are often cheaper (because they are not designed to withstand the same conditions), they will not meet regulatory requirements for zones designated as hazardous areas.