Governed by the international standard IECEx 60079-11, intrinsic safety is one method for making Ex products safe to use in hazardous areas. It means the product is safe by its very nature. For example, the energy used by the product is so low that it cannot possibly ignite anything.
This is the key term used by companies who are looking for maximum safety when purchasing equipment. Following the IECEx 60079-11 standard, compliant products are marked with the letter “I” and a subscript letter “a,” “b,” or “c” as follows: ia (zone 1 and 2), ib (zone 1 only) or ic (zone 2 only).
IP Rating Short for Ingress Protection Rating. Defined by IEC 60529, we see the IP Rating topic come up frequently in consumer electronics like mobile devices and smartwatches. As the rating only deals with the penetration of dust or liquids into the product, it has its limitations in the Ex world where there is often the explosion risk from gas fumes. Naturally if you are working in Ex areas Zone 20 or 21, or you are otherwise working with liquids (like paints), IP Ratings matter.
With Ex products, we typically use IP56 and IP66 ratings. The first digit of the rating indicates dust protection level, and the second digit is the liquid protection level. So, an IP56 rating means the product has level 5 dust protection. It’s not completely impervious (not dust tight), but most dust and dirt cannot get inside. And with level 6 protection against liquids, the product can withstand a reasonable spray, but should not be completely submerged in water. IP66 bumps the dust protection up to maximum – no dust particles can get inside.