A worker uses an ATEX-certified Zebra rugged tablet to review equipment information in a Hazardous Location
By Bob Ashenbrenner | August 19, 2019

This is the Only Type of Mobile Device That’s Considered Safe to Use in Hazardous Locations

Even Some Rugged Tablets are Too Risky to Take into These Potentially Explosive Environments

If your workers are required to enter areas with gas fumes or fine dusts that are combustible, and there is a chance that they are going to bring any electronic devices into that area with them, then it is important that you take steps to do two things:

1. Prevent them from entering with any personal mobile device or computer.

2. Equip them with a HazLoc-certified rugged tablet, smartphone, scanner or other mobile device necessary for their job. HazLoc devices – those that have been verified by a third-party as safe to use in Hazardous Locations and assigned a Class 1, Division 2 (C1D2) or ATEX/IECEx rating – will not generate a spark or enough heat to cause an explosion.

That had to be said, clearly and upfront.

This is not a simple case of choosing between a rugged or non-rugged device either. (And consumer-grade devices are a double no: unsafe for Hazardous Locations and a too-limited set of capabilities. There are just too many security, I/O and overall durability limitations, which Tom Kost recently spoke to in this blog.)

Not every mobile worker has the exact same technology needs. Even across the most industrial sectors with challenging environments, there are inherently different levels of risk involved in each worker’s technology use.

The safety of many oil and gas, mining and even manufacturing workers goes beyond training and skill. It includes their equipment as well. Electronic devices – if not properly designed, tested and certified – could inadvertently cause an explosion from a simple spark or a high heat source.

Natural resource operations have locations susceptible to these daily risks, as do some workshops where fine dust particles are commonly present, like woodworking operations. But none of them need to forgo the benefits of mobile workflows over paper-based processes.

The same is true for transportation industry workers who could encounter hazardous materials, such as those who refuel airplanes or handle hazardous cargo for railroads, trucking companies and even maritime shippers. Even some first responders, firefighters in particular, might find it beneficial to have a few HazLoc-certified devices readily available when responding to certain types of incidents. That being said, not every worker in these industrial and field service sectors needs a HazLoc-certified device.

So, who needs a C1D2 or ATEX/IECEx-certified HazLoc tablet? Who encounters an explosive environment in which workers need to enter with a mobile computer?

If you do, you know who you are.

A few years before TSA Pre-Check was established, I was at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, which handles the most passengers of any airport in the world. They had a security line with a sign that read “Experienced Travelers Only.” I was waiting in that line with a number of businesspeople; we all had our tidy carry-on bags, laptops out, etc. Another passenger was strolling by the line with a rolling suitcase, a tote and a shopping bag. The passenger stopped, looked at the sign and said, “Who’s this line for”? All of us in line, in unison, said, “If you have to ask, it isn’t you.”

The same holds true for executives, IT professionals and other technology decision-makers who wonder if HazLoc-certified devices are a necessary investment for their workers. Those of you who need to manage production in a hazardous environment know who you are.

So, the two questions you should really be asking the sales rep sitting across from you are:

1.       How do I know if the mobile devices I am giving my workers are actually safe to use in Hazardous Locations?

2.       Do you have proof that your devices meet this safety criteria?

Rugged tablet manufacturers such as Zebra who understand the risks associated with using electronics of any sort in potentially explosive environments will apply considerable engineering and resources to design – and certify – their mobile computers for safe use in such Hazardous Locations. They will clearly disclose which devices are C1D2 or ATEX/IECEx compliant on their websites, spec sheets and during solution planning meetings with you and your team.  If they carelessly or incorrectly refer to their HazLoc devices as “intrinsically safe” (which is C1D1 and very different), think twice about their knowledge of the category and about buying from them.

For example, Zebra just completed the Zone 2 ATEX/IECEx certification process for select 10.1” XSLATE™ XPAD™ L10 rugged tablet models. The HazLoc-compliant configurations of these slate and top-handled rugged tablets have been confirmed by a third-party testing organization to be safe to use around potentially explosive elements. The 12.5” XSLATE R12 rugged tablet has been C1D2 certified for safe use in potentially Hazardous Locations as well.

So, before you go too far in your mobile device selection, make sure the manufacturer can present you with an ATEX/IECEx Declaration of Conformity or C1D2 ANSI/ISA North American certification for your preferred rugged mobile computing platform if you know you’re one of those organizations that operates in Hazardous Locations.


Fun Fact: ATEX/IECEx is based on the requirements of two European Directives – Directive 99/92/EC (also known as ATEX/IECEx Workplace Directive) and Directive 94/9/EC (the ATEX/IECEx Equipment Directive) – and actually derives its name from the French title of the latter: Appareils destinés à être utilisés en ATmosphères Explosives.


Editor’s Note: Visit our Resource Library to learn more about the risks and considerations of using certain mobile devices (and electronics in general) in Hazardous Locations. Then, contact our rugged mobility experts for help finding the right HazLoc-certified mobile device(s) for your workers.

Field Operations, Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, Warehouse and Distribution, Public Sector,
Bob Ashenbrenner
Bob Ashenbrenner

Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC, under the direction of Bob Ashenbrenner, works with Zebra Technologies to develop future-proof mobility solutions for customers across multiple field service and industrial sectors. As an industry consultant, Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC, is focused on optimizing rugged tablet-based solutions for mobile workers of all kinds, including utility and public safety professionals. Ashenbrenner is particularly committed to helping customers identify mobile devices that survive a tough work day, run all the software and tools needed today, and will remain flexible and scalable to adapt to evolving technology applications as business needs dictate.

Ashenbrenner has more than 25 years of computer engineering and engineering management experience, with 18 of those specific to mobility and the field requirements that enable real work to happen. He was previously a Solutions Architect with Xplore Technologies and Motion Computing for 13 years. In that role, Ashenbrenner led the development of a suite of rugged mobile tablet computer, services and software, with an emphasis on supporting the whole mobile work environment.