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Helping to avoid motor downtime in hazardous areas

01 May, 2022

It can be difficult to monitor motors operating in potentially explosive atmospheres as easily as standard motors, but there are some simple steps that you can take to make maintenance more predictable and to prolong motor lives, as Steve Hughes, digital lead of ABB’s Motion Business in the UK, explains.

Operating electric motors in hazardous areas inevitably leads to risk. There are plenty of motors available on the market designed to operate in hazardous areas, but maintaining them can be a challenge. Early fault detection is crucial in such applications, as it may not be easy to repair the motors quickly, potentially leading to prolonged periods of unplanned downtime. Any outages can be extremely costly, particularly if the motors are difficult and expensive to repair or replace, or require entire processes to be shut down.

How then can a balance best be struck between ensuring safety, while having confidence that your motor is operating optimally?

One way is by embracing online condition monitoring. This can reduce the risks significantly by ensuring maintenance is carried out on motors and their components only when their condition warrants it, eliminating any unnecessary disturbances of the motors. Condition monitoring devices are available that use multiple sensors which can measure temperature, multi-directional vibration, magnetic flux and noise among a host of other parameters, directly from the surface of a motor.

Early detection of multiple faults and component wear is therefore possible, without having to inspect the motor manually. This helps to improve safety by allowing motor inspections to be carried out without personnel having to enter the hazardous area in which the motor is located, or to remove safety enclosures.

Until recently, most external sensors for motor condition monitoring could not be used in hazardous areas, but sensors are increasingly becoming available that are certified for use in Atex environments. Ultimately, this means that sensor readings in Atex environments can be transmitted wirelessly and monitored without requiring personnel to enter the hazardous area. Always check with the motor manufacturer before any Atex installation.

If you have any questions about condition monitoring for motors in hazardous areas, please contact me at

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