Hazardous Location Lighting Fundamentals and the National Electric Code

This information is provided as a simplified guide only. For actual installation, use the NEC/CEC code book and IEC/CENELEC approvals and wiring codes as final authority on any installation. For paint booth applications consult NFPA Article 33.

Hazardous Location Standards are laid out in the following guidelines:

  • The NEC (National Electric Code) for the USA
  • The CEC (Canadian Electric Code) for Canada

In both countries these guides are accepted and used by most authorities as the final standard on installation and use of electrical products. These 2 guides with the issuance of the new NEC standard are almost identical.


In the United States of America the government agency responsible is OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration). OSHA has authorized a group of NRTL (Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories). At this time the following laboratories are recognized.

  • CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
  • ETL Testing Laboratories Incorporated
  • Factory Mutual Research Corporation
  • MET Laboratories
  • UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.)
  • United States Testing Co. Inc.

The CEC (Canada)

In Canada the government agency responsible is the Standards Council of Canada. Standards Council of Canada has authorized a group of testing laboratories to certify equipment. At this time the following laboratories are authorized.

  • CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
  • ETL Testing Laboratories Incorporated
  • UL (underwriters Laboratories Inc.)
  • C-UL (Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada)

In addition to these two government agencies both countries have state, city and county inspectors that may or may not accept the national standards

Hazardous Locations and The National Electrical Code

The National Electrical Code treats installations in hazardous locations in articles 500 through 516. Hazardous locations are classified by NEC definitions. The following are interpretations of these classifications and applications.

Class I Locations

Class I locations are those in which inflammable gases or vapors are or may be present in sufficient quantities to produce explosive or flammable mixtures.

Class I, Division 1 locations are where hazardous atmosphere may be present during normal operations. It may be present continuously, intermittently, periodically or during normal repair or maintenance operations, or those areas where a breakdown in processing equipment releases hazardous vapors with the simultaneous failure of electrical equipment.

Class I, Division 2 locations are those in which volatile flammable liquids or gases are handled, processed or used. Normally they will be confined within closed containers or in closed systems from which they can escape only in the case of rupture or deterioration of the containers or systems.

Class II Locations

Class II locations are those that are hazardous because of the presence of combustible dust.

Class II, Division 1 locations include areas where combustible dust may be in suspension in the air under normal conditions in sufficient quantities to produce explosive or ignitable mixtures (Dust may be emitted into the air continuously, intermittently or periodically), or where failure or malfunction of equipment might cause a hazardous location to exist and provide an ignition source with the simultaneous failure of electrical equipment, included also are locations in which combustible dust of an electrically conductive nature may be present.

Class II, Division 2 locations are those in which combustible dust will not normally be in suspension nor will normal operations put dust in suspension, but where accumulation of dust may interfere with heat dissipation from electrical equipment or where accumulations near electrical equipment may be ignited.

Class III Locations

Class III locations are those considered hazardous due to the presence of easily ignitable fibers of flyings, which are in quantities sufficient to produce ignitable mixtures.

Locations in which easily ignitable fibers or materials producing combustible flyings are handled, manufactured or used.

Locations where easily ignitable fibers are stored or handled.

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