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Gary Collins, Regional Director for Portable Gas Detection at Scott Safety, discusses the importance of atmospheric monitoring and the benefits of portable gas detectors.

Portable gas detectors are versatile solutions, suited to numerous safety applications, although they may seem small and simple, portable gas detectors are robust, with many designed for use in the toughest of industrial environments.

Portable gas detection generally refers to a monitor that is carried by and provides protection for an individual user. Visual, audible, and vibratory alerts notify users when detection of a gas has occurred and then precautionary measures can be taken. Portable units are typically used in confined space entries, areas where fixed gas detection is not available, where it is not practical to provide continuous monitoring of an individual, or to verify an atmosphere is not hazardous when servicing a fixed gas detection system.

SOPHISTICATED SOLUTIONS Gas monitor solutions have come a long way since the industry’s early, unsophisticated offerings. A range of intelligent sensor technologies have been designed and developed to detect almost any harmful gas that workers might be exposed to on the job. This has seen a dramatic reduction in fatalities and injuries, once accepted as an occupational hazard.

RISK ASSESSMENT It is crucial to carry out a risk assessment before any task in order to better understand what you’re dealing with. This will reveal the types of gases that could potentially be present, the quantity and toxicity of the gases, areas that are a confined space or have the potential to become one, as well as who is at risk. On evaluating those risks, informed decisions can be made on the precautions required and how to better reduce the risks at hand. This procedure will allow workers to help identify the correct gas monitoring equipment and other protective equipment needed to protect against residual risks.




MONITOR SELECTION There are a wide range of gas monitors available that will detect harmful gases during risk assessment. For example, if a fire officer is performing a non-fire rescue, where someone may have collapsed due to the Carbon Monoxide (CO) level in the atmosphere, or performing a home safety visit where the CO level is unknown, a single gas detector is sufficient. However, if working in a confined space, a multi- gas monitor is essential to detect the risk posed by a number of potential gases that could be present.

In almost all cases, consideration needs to be given to the presence of four main gases: methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide and oxygen. Monitoring for the presence of one gas will not provide sufficient protection from the potential effects of other gases on the body if present in the atmosphere. These gases are either toxic and can affect the lungs, causing illness or poisoning or are combustible, causing risk of explosion in combination with oxygen.

TRAINING As with all safety equipment, unless you know how to use it properly you may not be benefitting from the protection that the equipment can provide. It is important that all personnel that come into contact with gas detection equipment are properly trained. Training could cover general information about the devices, how to handle them, the care, maintenance and calibration, as well as practical training.

The important thing is that the user understands how to use the equipment and how to react if it alerts them to the presence of gas. As the old adage goes, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ and taking the precautions could save a life.

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