Gas detection remains a top priority for safety managers in many industries. Accidents and safety incidents involving hazardous gas exposure can lead to serious illness and even death. Combustible gas explosions are devastating, causing fires, structural damage, and loss of life. Depending on their scope, accidents and explosions can have lasting effects on entire communities.

With that kind of risk comes a very serious responsibility. And part of that responsibility is to ensure proper gas monitoring.

How Gas Monitors Work

Abnormal gas concentrations in the air bring danger to workplaces and jobsites. Industries ranging from oil and gas to manufacturing and construction face these hazards every day. Unfortunately, some gases don’t have a smell. That makes detecting them a challenge (see, for instance, Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer). OSHA mandates the implementation of gas monitoring equipment to warn workers, prevent illness, protect property, and, ultimately, save lives.

When the sensor inside of a gas monitor detects a certain chemical above a pre-set level, it alerts the user. Generally, the alert is in the form of a loud audible alarm, vibration, and a bright light. These alerts prompt the worker to take whatever action is needed in response to the atmospheric conditions, whether it is to shut off a gas valve, turn on ventilation fans, or evacuate an area.

Selecting Gas Monitoring Equipment

Safety personnel should choose gas detection equipment carefully. Some criteria to consider are:

  • Specific worksite hazards and risks
  • Ease of use
  • Maintenance
  • Datalogging capabilities
  • Training and support from the manufacturer

Many safety managers choose smaller, personal monitors that are carried by each individual. One of the advantages of a wireless, personal detector is that it can be swapped out for another while repairs are performed. This allows the work to continue safely and minimizes the downtime required while the equipment is serviced or replaced.

Data Collection

Detecting gases in real time is, of course, greatly important. But so is measuring worker exposure to gases and analyzing the alarm incident history.

The data collected by gas monitors can reveal a number of insights, including:

  • Bump testing frequency
  • Time of event
  • Gas concentrations
  • Trends and patterns

Taking the time to carefully assess this data allows safety managers to identify any growing problems and identify areas needing improvement. Patterns in the alarm data can also identify productivity issues and alert a manager of the need for additional worker training.

Personal Gas Monitor Maintenance

Without proper maintenance, air monitors won’t perform at their peak.

A typical schedule for a portable gas detector includes a daily bump test. A bump test is crucial to safety. In some units, it is an automatic feature, but many units will require manual bump testing. Bump testing checks for functionality by exposing the detector to a known concentration of the gas to ensure that the detector will respond appropriately.

Gas monitors should also be regularly calibrated according to the manufacturer's instructions. Calibration is also required any time a bump test's results are not within acceptable range. Docking stations are an easy way to automate these functions.

Training Is Not Optional

Gas detection equipment should not be distributed to workers without proper training. There are several important areas that supervisors should include in their training sessions with their employees:

  • How to minimize exposure
  • How to identify conditions that increase their risk
  • How to use their equipment
  • How to respond to alarms

On any jobsite, developing the right habits and routines is vital for overall safety. Armed with this clear, concise information, workers can do what they can to avoid exposure to dangerous gases and protect themselves (for advice on delivering training, see 7 Superb Psychological Tactics for EHS Training).

Conclusion

Choosing proper gas detection equipment is a key step to ensuring the safety of workers, employers, and their community. Personal gas detectors are a great choice for their portability and ease of use. The end result is better protection and reduced injuries.