In North America, hazardous locations have traditionally been defined by a combination of classes and divisions or zones as follows:
Class I – A location made hazardous by the presence of flammable gases or vapours that may be present in the air in quantities sufficient to produce an explosive or ignitable mixture
Class II – A location made hazardous by the presence of combustible or electrically conductive dust
Class III – A location made hazardous by the presence of easily ignitable fibers or flyings in the air, but not likely to be in suspension in quantities sufficient to produce ignitable mixtures
Division 1 – A location where a classified hazard exists or is likely to exist under normal conditions
Division 2 – A location where a classified hazard does not normally exist but is possible to appear under abnormal conditions
North American Transition to the Zone System
The U.S and Canada have recently revised installation codes to recognise an international 3 Zone area classification system for equipment used in hazardous locations. This 3 Zone system is almost directly aligned with the current European system for area classification. Products certified for use in this 3 Zone system need to be compliant with the same standards used for IECEx and ATEX certification (IEC/EN 60079) with some national deviations.
Zone 0 – An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere is continuously present for a long period of time
Zone 1 – An area in which an explosive atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation
Zone 2 – An area in which an explosive gas atmosphere does not normally exist
In Canada, all new installations must use the 3 Zone system. Existing installations may continue to use the 2 Division system or opt to re-classify using the 3 Zone system.
In the U.S, all installations (both new and existing) can either continue using the 2 Division system or re-classify using the 3 Zone system.