Reducing time exposed to hazards is key to minimising risk. We review some of the multiple benefits that developments in gas detection technology are introducing, to reduce the amount of time operators must spend in hazardous areas and improve worker safety.
Gas detector maintenance
Conventional fixed detectors require routine calibration to ensure reliable, long term use. A new generation of ‘intelligent’ gas detectors offer ‘bump test’ functions as an alternative to full calibration every 3 months. On higher-risk sites a full calibration could be performed once every six months, with only a simple bump test in-between. A bump test produces a definitive ‘pass/fail’ that not only enables the engineer to leave the area quickly, but also produces an auditable record that the test was conducted and the sensor was fully operational.
Detectors that boast ‘non-intrusive calibration’ eliminate the need to remove the lid, or any other part of the transmitter, meaning no hot-work permit is required and making this a much quicker procedure than in the past.
Some widely used sensor types have to be replaced routinely every 2 to 5 years; or more frequently if exposed to extremes of temperature, humidity, gas etc. This often means taking apart the transmitter or sensor housing. If done in a hazardous area this can take a lot of time – especially if PPE (gloves, goggles etc) has to be worn!
New ‘Hot-swap’ sensors mean faster replacement, with the most intuitive designs enabling the sensor module to be removed without even having to open the housing. On some units this can also be done using only one-hand – a much simpler job – especially if you need to hold onto a ladder at the same time.
Remote access to data
Gas detectors equipped with Modbus or HART communication protocols can be tested remotely for operating status or fault diagnosis. Whereas the 4-20mA analogue signal may still be used to perform the safety function (i.e. activate sounder and beacons, control gas valves etc), workers can communicate with detectors remotely to get detailed information on the current ‘health’ of the detector. If any faults or issues are found, corrective actions can be properly planned before sending the engineer into the area.
Intelligent gas detectors now offer local displays with a range of diagnostic messages and improved information which greatly reduces the amount of time required to identify faults on site, on the rare occasions they occur. All parameters within the gas sensor and transmitter are constantly monitored and, where an issue that may affect operation or safety is identified, the transmitter will display an appropriate message. This alerts the engineer to the issue and may even prescribe the solution, speeding up the resolution.
The best way to keep people safe is by reducing risk.
Now that gas detectors can be monitored remotely, and maintenance planned to significantly reduce the time engineers’ must spend in potentially hazardous areas, we can radically reduce the risks workers are exposed to.