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Incorporating Newer Technologies into Your Gas Detection Program

Nov. 11, 2013
If you are responsible for improving your facility's portable gas detection program, what do you need to know to incorporate the latest technology?

Take a good look around at the gas detection equipment in use at your facility. Is it suffering the wear-and-tear of daily use? Is it looking old? Is it old? What about maintenance? Is it completely manual, requiring a lot of time and leaving room for employee error and/or disregard? Lastly, do you have proper documentation of things such as equipment maintenance history or worker exposure history? 

Your facility's safety record to this point might be free of gas-related incidents, but the safety of your employees could be at risk, particularly if the equipment isn't maintained properly or if it isn't used correctly in the field. Implementing a complete gas detection program that includes the use of reliable equipment and training in its use ultimately could keep your workers safer. 

A recent study on bump-testing practices was conducted by a leading gas detection manufacturer. The study showed that about 20 percent of users bump tested their monitors prior to each day's use and 15 percent never bump tested. The rest of the users' practices fell somewhere in between. We are not surprised by the findings. 

New Technology and Accessories

A portable gas detector is a critical piece of equipment meant to save the lives of employees. If you are going to use it with confidence, you must know that it is in proper working condition. The most important elements of gas detector maintenance are function (bump) testing and calibration.

The processes often are thought to be too costly and too burdensome to perform on a regular basis. However, there are services available that fully automate and document these functions, reducing the cost to your employer. These services also provide the data that is critical to assessing the overall health of the program.

Some of the new technology available in gas detection is revolutionary. For example, a new single-gas monitor uses two like sensors for the detection of a single gas. The two sensor readings are processed through an algorithm and displayed as a single reading to the user. This technology was developed to address the major challenge of making sure workers always are using fully functioning, reliable instruments in the field. Previously, that required a functional bump test of the instrument before each day's use.

When implementing a complete gas detection program, employers need to consider the accessories needed to support their gas detector fleets – for example, confined space sampling accessories. Fortunately, some key accessories have been developed over the years that are attached to, or integrated into, a typical portable instrument to improve its performance when sampling for confined spaces such as pumps (external and internal), tubing, filters and probes. Specifically, there are options that allow a gas detector to function as a personal monitor, but allow it to be quickly converted for confined space sampling applications. 

They also need to consider calibration gas. A true gas detection professional recognizes the importance of quality calibration gas and manages its supply accordingly. Consult with several gas detection manufacturers to ensure that they can provide the necessary calibration gas concentrations and stability to achieve accurate calibrations.

Docking Stations

Another important accessory to consider is a docking station. Since their introduction to the market, docking stations quickly have grown in popularity as they go beyond simply charging and automating the bump testing and calibration of an instrument. Docking stations store every calibration, bump test, data event and alarm that the instrument has ever recorded, as well as provide a single user interface for fleet-wide instrument management and visibility. 

Docking stations have become a game-changing accessory by ensuring proper instrument maintenance and providing unique insight into user habits. They enable companies to thoroughly investigate root-cause incidents and increase the overall safety of their gas-detection program. 

Industrial hygienists and EHS managers need to decide whether or not a "gas detection as a service" solution would be beneficial to their facilities. Gas detection as a service is a software-based system that provides visibility into gas detector alarms, exposure and usage. 

By subscribing to such a service, your gas detection fleet and data is managed for you. When a unit is malfunctioning, a sensor is losing life or calibration gas is running low, a service-based gas detection program automatically notifies you and sends a new instrument, new sensors or replacement calibration gas cylinders. This often happens before you even know that these things require attention. This eliminates instrument downtime by having equipment that is always running at peak performance.  

Beyond knowing when a unit is malfunctioning, a sensor is losing life or calibration gas is running low, a gas detection service can answer the following questions in real time: Do your gas detectors work properly? Are your gas detectors used properly? What gas hazards are present in your workplace?

Though the essential data stored within gas detectors will help you make decisions that increase workplace safety and strengthen your safety culture, it often goes unused. Informed decisions will save lives; uninformed decisions will encourage more unsafe behaviors and conditions. 

Learn how managing the data in your gas detection program will keep your people safer and help you answer these three questions:

• Do your gas detectors work properly?

• Are your gas detectors being used correctly?

• What gas hazards are your team members being exposed to?

Data pertaining to these three key areas held within your monitoring instruments paints a picture of your gas detection program and safety culture.

Despite all the advancements in gas-detection technology, industrial workers still die from exposure to toxic or explosive gases. Gas detector manufacturers can produce the most reliable instruments available, but if they are not used properly, the likelihood of people being injured and killed will remain very high.

In an organization with a weak safety culture or poor processes, team members might not use their gas detectors correctly. They might not use them at all. Even with the highest skill levels, years of experience and the best of intentions, team members will be at risk if they are not supported by safety-conscious management working to improve the culture and choose the correct gas detection equipment.

Gregg Wagner is the distributor marketing specialist at Industrial Scientific Corp. He can be reached at [email protected]. Candace Adrian is the marketing communications specialist at Industrial Scientific, and can be reached at [email protected]

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