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Guidelines Compiled for Expanding the Scope of Use of Electronic Equipment and Other Devices on the Premises of Petroleum or Chemical Plants

April 24, 2019

Companies operating petroleum or chemical plants are required under laws and regulations to set hazardous areas on the premises of plants and they are not allowed to use common electronic equipment, sensors and other devices in the areas. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) took advantage of the latest international standards in this field and compiled meticulous approaches to setting hazardous areas into guidelines. The guidelines will help such companies to expand the scope of use of electronic equipment and other devices on the premises of their plants without lowering the level of plant safety stipulated in laws and regulations and this is expected to further improve such companies’ ability to secure the safety of plants, e.g., ability to forecast and ascertain potential accidents, based on the results of data analysis.

Approaches to expanding safety areas in which companies are allowed to use electronic equipment and other devices

1. Background

As companies operating petroleum or chemical plants are required to improve the productivity and maintain the safe and stable operation of such plant, aged plant facilities, the retirement of many expert employees, and other factors have decreased the level of securing plant safety. To overcome this serious challenge, it is important for plant operating companies to take advantage of electronic equipment, sensors and other devices in order to enhance the safety of plants and improve the productivity of plants by streamlining of operations involving plant safety.

Meanwhile, plant operating companies are required under laws and regulations to set hazardous areas on the premises of plants. However, in the current situation, they have substantially set the entire plants as hazardous areas. This situation has not permitted such companies to effectively use common electronic equipment and other devices on the premises of their plants.

2. Outline of the guidelines

In light of the situation mentioned above, METI launched a committee of experts and others, bringing together Dr. Mitsuru Arai, Professor of the University of Tokyo, as the chair and officials of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) and other responsible organizations as observers. The committee held discussions on meticulous approaches to setting hazardous areas under the latest IEC standards* and compiled the discussion results into guidelines. Moreover, in cooperation with plant operating companies, METI compiled a “Voluntary Action Plan” for plant operating companies as a referential collection of case examples of approaches that such companies should take in setting hazardous areas in accordance with the guidelines.

*Note: These standards are international standards stipulated by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

These compilations will help plant operating companies to set hazardous areas in a meticulous manner and to expand the scope of use of electronic equipment and other devices on the premises of their plants without lowering the level of plant safety stipulated in laws and regulations, and this is expected to further improve such companies’ ability to secure the safety of plants, e.g., ability to forecast and ascertain potential accidents, based on the results of data analysis.

3. Related documents

Note: For the members of the committee of experts involving the survey, see the last part of the guidelines below.

Division in Charge

Gas Safety Office, Commerce, Distribution and Industrial Safety Policy Group