What Does “Intrinsic Safety” Mean for You?

For some of Cooper Instruments’ customers, operating our equipment in hazardous areas is necessary, so addressing the issue of intrinsic safety (IS) is a concern. According to Wikipedia, intrinsic safety “is a protection technique for safe operation of electrical equipment in hazardous areas by limiting the energy available for ignition.” The concept arose about 50 years ago, forcing engineers and designers to create ways of protecting against these dangerous situations.


There are several agencies and organizations worldwide, some governmental and some independent, which set standards and maintain compliance regarding intrinsic safety and which collaborate to ensure that the standards are comparable in different countries and that intrinsically safe equipment produced and certified in one country may be easily transferred to and used in another. In the United States, the most well-known is Underwriters Laboratories (UL), “a global independent safety science company… dedicated to promoting safe living and working environments…”


When discussing “intrinsic safety” in this context, a hazardous environment is one in which devices producing heat and/or current are exposed to substances which could be ignited when exposed to sufficient heat and/or current. In order to prevent this, it is necessary to identify the ignition point of the particular substances in the environment and then use equipment whose voltage and heat production do not cross that threshold. In North America, the hazardous environment has traditionally been defined according to a system of classes, divisions and groups, though there is some evidence of an emerging shift towards the zone system of classification used by the dominant European and international regulatory agencies. There are different ways to achieve intrinsic safety in a device, which may include use of multiple resistors or use of barriers.


There are two was to divide electronic equipment in this context: a “simple” device or apparatus is one that does not produce or store more than a certain amount of energy, while a “non-simple” device or apparatus is one that can store energy. Simple apparatus do not required third-party intrinsic safety certification, but should usually be used in conjunction with an intrinsic safety barrier and according to approved wiring. Many of Cooper Instruments’ load cells are considered simple apparatus and as such they may be used in hazardous environments without the necessity for third-party certification.


Please contact one of our knowledgeable sales staff if you’d like to know more about your particular Cooper-purchased instrument as it relates to intrinsic safety. You can reach them by calling (800) 344-3921 or emailing


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