What Makes a Wireless Network Industrial Grade: Safety

Redline - industrial Grade Safety

In the forthcoming series of blogs, we will look at all of the components of Redline’s framing of “Industrial Grade,” especially how the notion relates to mission critical industries. Redline’s definition of Industrial Grade carries with it, perhaps first and foremost, the notion and importance of safety. It’s safety as a design characteristic — not just something the managers and employees of an organization should just wish for or should be mindful of. Safety is critical as a human factor but also from the perspective of the enterprise that is leveraging capital-intensive equipment deployed in mission-critical industries, specifically mining, oil & gas, government, transportation and utilities. 

Intrinsic Safety:

The hazards in industrial environments (mining accidents, oil industry leaks, etc.) introduce risks which must be mitigated to ensure workforce safety and reliable, cost-effective operation of industrial systems. When not intrinsically safe, electronic equipment becomes a source of ignition which can, for example, cause explosions in the presence of materials common to industrial environments, such as, petrochemicals, natural gas, coal dust, and even wheat dust. 

For that reason, communications equipment deployed in such environments must meet standards of industrial safety to protect against the risks of fire and explosion. Such challenges have typically been avoided by deploying intrinsically safe devices certified for use in harsh industrial environments. This optimal tactic extends to wireless communications, as well, since certain wireless networking equipment manufacturers have been successful in developing and manufacturing intrinsically safe products at an acceptable cost. 

The successful mission-critical enterprises have achieved this by combining thorough knowledge of the systems, processes and work environments to be protected, with the knowledge, say, in the mining industry, of relevant ignition and flame propagation phenomena, and principles and technologies available for ignition and explosion control. 

For wireless radio equipment to be considered industrial grade, it must be certified for use in hazardous locations. Note that different regions use different terms to demonstrate that the equipment is fit for hazardous environments. The International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) classification of HAZLOC (hazardous locations) by zones for Europe (e.g., ATEX zone 2) and National Electric Code’s (NEC) classification by classes and divisions in the United States (e.g., Class 1 Division 2), both are used by equipment manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are certified for use in specific categories of hazardous locations. 

The importance of adopting inherently safer process design, by building on firm knowledge in science and technology, and of systematic education/training of personnel, must also be emphasized here. 

Safety as a Culture Characteristic

This culture of safety must extend beyond the regular industrial “boots on the ground.” The vendor and contractor community that designs and builds wireless products and networks must make safety part of the ecosystem. “Safety” becomes a system design characteristic for industrial-grade wireless networks. 

Industrial-grade means enabling mission-critical safety applications which are highly sensitive to delays introduced by communications links. Industrial-grade means intrinsically safe, certified devices and networks, designed, built and operated by engineers for whom safety is also a characteristic of the culture of the workplace.

Mission-critical industrial environments must enhance safety by integrating safe work practices into every single task performed. Redline can help those industries get there.

Redline empowers its customers to become more effective, efficient and productive by enabling their business applications anywhere, through the use of a range of wireless technologies. Redline is committed to innovate and deliver products and solutions with the highest level of quality, reliability, and value — and above all, safety.