Special Topics in Safety Management

Q&A: Is a wristwatch safe to use in an isopropyl alcohol washroom?

Recently, we received a question from a subsciber about the potential hazards of a worker wearing a wristwatch in an isopropyl alcohol washroom used for washing parts. See what we had to say.

We have an Isopropyl Alcohol Washroom that we use for washing parts. Is a wrist watch considered intrinsically safe equipment to use in this hazardous location? We think it won’t create enough spark or heat to create a fire hazard.

There is useful information about the use of wristwatches and hearing aids in hazardous locations in the document “Evaluation of Intrinsic Safety for Emergency Responder Electronic Safety Equipment” produced by the Fire Protection Research Foundation and sponsored by NFPA. See page 29. That document may help you determine whether there is a potential hazard or risk associated with a watch, or a hearing aid for that matter, in a hazardous location:

http://www.nfpa.org/research/fire-protection-research-foundation/rss-feed-items/personal-protective-equipment/evaluation-of-intrinsic-safety-for-emergency-responder-electronic-safety-equipment

Though OSHA’s rule for electrical safety (29 CFR 1910.307(b)) does not apply to your situation from a compliance standpoint, it requires that all equipment used in hazardous locations must be approved intrinsically safe by a nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL), such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory). Use of NRTL-approved equipment for hazardous locations is the best guidance we could find to ensure it is intrinsically safe.