Radio & Accessory solutions and their compliance to regulatory & intrinsically safe standards can be complex and confusing, Roadphone NRB’s Richard Russell explains some of the pitfalls and solutions.
In the event of an emergency incident Fire Fighting teams may attend various environments from oil & gas exploration, extraction, aircraft refuelling or emergency landings, refining and distribution facilities. During these situations FRS’s and COMAH emergency response teams can benefit from instant and effective communication using two-way radios.
However, significant dangers lurk due to these potentially hazardous environments and atmospheres, where normal radio equipment can cause catastrophic explosion, fire, loss of property and loss of life.
Chief Fire Officers and IT managers have a responsibility to provide safe and cost-effective solutions which meet their business needs; but is also easy to deploy and use, without compromising robust design or high-quality standards which ensure they will last many years of constant use without costly repairs and failures, a common problem with cheaper products.
ATEX Certified as “a system”
Hazardous atmospheres require communications comprising certified radio and accessory solutions, complying with the regulatory requirements which govern professional licensed radio communications. This includes regulations such as the Radio & Telecommunications Terminal Equipment directive 1999/5/EC (R&TTE), which has now transitioned to the new Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU (RED) in June 2017 across the EU and UK.
In addition to RED, intrinsically safe approval ratings are also required, such as ATEX and IECEx regulations. They aim to minimize the risk within these potentially explosive environments by defining rigid parameters the equipment should meet. It’s important to note this includes the “combination of” the radio, antenna, battery, any connected audio accessory and also includes the carry-case solution which must be approved as part of “a complete system” to these ATEX regulations.
Within the European Union, it is a legal requirement for equipment being operated within potentially explosive environments to meet the R&TTE(RED) and ATEX Directives, and other companies and countries are also adopting the same best practice safety standards to help protect their workers and physical assets.
The Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU Annex 6 requires the Declaration of Conformity (DoC) to detail the radio and all accessories which can be directly connected to it - only the radio manufacture can issue this, along with the ATEX type examination certificate for the radio and accessories which is separate to the DoC. The benefits are widespread but too detailed for this article...
ATEX + ATEX doesn’t = ATEX
It’s a common misconception that CE marking of products demonstrates compliance…but attaching a CE marked accessory to a CE marked radio does not make a CE compliant and safe solution, neither does an ATEX rated PTT accessory button connected to an ATEX rated radio make an ATEX rated radio & accessory solution – be aware!
Manufacturers of radios and accessories may not publish their accessory connection electrical interface specification to ensure compatibility, resulting in a closed interface and a complex, drawn-out ATEX approval program, that can take many months if not years to complete at huge cost when done correctly.
One solution you can rely upon, that is both R&TTE(RED) and ATEX/ IECEx compliant, is the DP4001 Ex series radios and Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM) from Motorola Solutions. It is designed and certified to operate together, all powered by Motorola’s unique intelligent SMART ATEX approved battery solution called IMPRES™ Energy. Designed to last extended shifts (19 hours in digital mode), it outperforms standard battery technology, IMPRES™ Energy can extend the life by >40% representing a significant cost saving over the life of the radio and offers additional safety too, by identifying when the battery requires replacement.
ATEX / IECEx Rating
The Motorola Solutions DP4001 Ex Radios and Accessory solution are ATEX and IECEx rated to include Gas, Dust and Mining ratings.
The large ANC RSM designed for high noise environments eliminates a significant amount of background noise, combined with exaggerated controls and is easy to use with gloved hands. The ANC RSM utilises two large PTT buttons and has a smart Nexus socket with openly published electrical characteristics enabling SCBA manufactures such as Dräger who also openly publish their Nexus connector electrical specification which, when matched, are safe to connect and retain ATEX safety rating as “a system” - refer to product spec sheets for the details.
These are some important performance, quality and safety considerations to be mindful of when choosing your next replacement ATEX radio communication solution.
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