Balloon gas safety: The dangers of Helium and Nitrogen 

Balloon gas is a mixture of helium and air. Balloon gas is safe when used correctly but you should never deliberately inhale the gas as it is an asphyxiant and can result in health complications. Like other asphyxiants, the helium in balloon gas occupies some of the volume normally taken by air, preventing that air being used to keep fires going or to keep bodies functioning.  

There are other asphyxiants used in industrial applications. For example, use of nitrogen has become almost indispensable in numerous industrial manufacturing and transport processes. While the uses of nitrogen are numerous, it must be handled in accordance with industrial safety regulations. Nitrogen should be treated as a potential safety hazard regardless of the scale of the industrial process in which it is being employed. Carbon dioxide is commonly used as an asphyxiant, especially in fire suppression systems and some fire extinguishers. Similarly, helium is non-flammable, non-toxic and doesn’t react with other elements in normal conditions. However, knowing how to properly handle helium is essential, as a misunderstanding could lead to errors in judgement which could result in a fatal situation as helium is used in many everyday situations. As for all gases, proper care and handling of helium containers is vital. 

What are the dangers? 

When you inhale helium knowingly or unknowingly it displaces air, which is partly oxygen. This means that as you inhale, oxygen that would normally be present in your lungs has been replaced with helium. As oxygen plays a role in many functions of your body, including thinking and moving, too much displacement poses a health risk. Typically, inhaling a small volume of helium will have a voice-altering effect, however, it may also cause a bit of dizziness and there is always the potential for other effects, including nausea, light headedness and/or a temporary loss of consciousness – all the effects of oxygen deficiency. 

  • As with most asphyxiants, nitrogen gas, like helium gas, is colourless and odourless. In the absence of nitrogen detecting devices, the risk of industrial workers being exposed to a dangerous nitrogen concentration is significantly higher. Also whilst helium often rises away from the working area due to its low density, nitrogen remains, spreading out from the leak and not dispersing quickly. Hence systems operating on nitrogen developing undetected leaks is a major safety regulatory concern. Occupational health preventive guidelines attempt to address this increased risk using additional equipment safety checks. The problem is low oxygen concentrations affecting personnel. Initially symptoms include mild shortness of breath and cough, dizziness and perhaps restlessness, followed by rapid breathing chest pain and confusion, with prolonged inhalation resulting in high blood pressure, bronchospasm and pulmonary edema. 
  • Helium can cause these exact same symptoms if it is contained in a volume and can’t escape. And in each case a complete replacement of the air with the asphyxiant gas causes rapid knockdown where a person just collapses where they stand resulting in a variety of injuries. 

Balloon Gas Safety Best Practice 

In accordance with OSHA guidelines, mandatory testing is required for confined industrial spaces with the responsibility being placed on all employers. Sampling atmospheric air within these spaces will help to determine its suitability for breathing. Tests to be carried out on the sampling air most importantly include oxygen concentrations, but also combustible gas presence and tests for toxic vapours to identify build ups of those gases. 

Regardless of the duration of stay, OSHA requires all employers to provide an attendant just outside a permit-required space whenever personnel are working within. This person is required to constantly monitor the gaseous conditions within the space and call for rescuers if the worker inside the confined space becomes unresponsive. It is vital to note that at no time should the attendant attempt to enter the hazardous space to conduct a rescue unassisted. 

In restricted areas forced draft air circulation will significantly reduce the build-up of helium, nitrogen or other asphyxiant gas and limit the chances of a fatal exposure. While this strategy can be used in areas with low nitrogen leak risks, workers are prohibited from entering pure nitrogen gas environments without using appropriate respiratory equipment. In these cases, personnel must use appropriate artificially supplied air equipment. 

What to do – and what not to do – with your Flue Gas Analyser/Combustion Analyzer

A durable, accurate and versatile flue gas analyser/combustion analyzer is a wonderful thing. For many heating and gas engineers, it’s tough to get a day’s work done without one. That’s why it makes sense to treat your analyser well – and in this blog post we’ll be giving you some tips on how to do just that. 

How to keep your analyser happy 

  • The most important rule of all is this: get your flue gas analyser/gas combustion analyzer calibrated every year, on time, without fail. No excuses! 
  • If you can, book your analyser in for service or recalibration at the time you need it least (for example, if you are going on holiday or planning some time off). 
  • Keep an eye on your machine’s condensate trap and remove any water promptly, and always before you put it back into your bag. 
  • Make sure the flue probe is connected to the analyser before turning the analyser on (to purge the probe and instrument) and until the instrument has switched off (so that the probe is purged as the machine shuts down). 
  • When you take a sample from the flue, make sure the tip of the probe is in the centre of the flue. This puts the thermocouple in the hottest part, which provides the most accurate temperature reading and efficiency calculation. When you have taken your readings, put the flue inspection cap back on. 
  • Don’t put your probe in the flue and then switch the boiler on – this runs the risk of excess CO ruining reducing the lifespan of your sensor. 
  • When finishing a job, wait for the device to switch off, then remove the probe and then put the analyser in the bag. NEVER put the analyser in the bag whilst the instrument is shutting down or purging, because if you do, debris from the bag may be sucked into the instrument and cause damage. 
  • It’s dangerous to leave your analyser in a vehicle overnight. Not only could it be stolen, but overnight temperature fluctuations can lead to a build-up of condensation inside the device, which may cause it to malfunction. 
  • Only initiate start-up and purge in clean, fresh air (i.e., not in a room with the appliance already running).  
  • Take care of your flue probe; if it’s not completely air tight it may draw in ambient air and give inaccurate readings. Top tip: if you cover the end of the probe that usually attaches to the analyser and then blow through the other end, you should not be able to blow right through the probe. If you can, it’s leaking. 
  • When you have used the flue probe, let any condensate drain out.  
  • Check filters regularly and discard any that get dirty or damaged. Always carry spares.
  • Keep the display screen and buttons clean, for ease of visibility and use. 

Cared-for analysers live longer 

While there are quite a few rules for analyser care, most of them become second nature over time and are well worth sticking with. A decent flue gas analyser/combustion analyzer is an important investment, but with a little care and attention, that investment will last you for many years. 

To find out more information about flue gas analysers/combustion analyzers visit our solution page.

Our partnership with Heating Engineer Supplier (HES) 

Background  

Founded in 2012 (11 years as a limited company) and based in County Limerick in Ireland, Heating Engineer Supplies (HES) are one of the main suppliers of Anton and Crowcon in Ireland, supplying Cork, Dublin, Galway, Waterford and throughout Ireland. HES provide an extensive range including; flow and pressure, flue gas analysers, gas detectors and oil accessories.  

Views on HVAC 

Providing workers within the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) sectors with the correct equipment is vital, therefore providing these workers with an integral tool is crucial. SprintPro is a tool that is used every day by HVAC; therefore, Anton by Crowcon flue gas analysers provides a five-gas analysis through an easy-to-use tool. Sprint Pro is manufactured in the UK to exacting standards, stay on the job longer with a reliable device you can trust. Multi-function and easy-to-use, it is designed to last with troubleshooting built in and triple filter water trap system for total hydrophobic protection. 

Providing gas detection equipment that is lifesaving allows HES’ customers to have a full solution option best suited to their needs and requirements. HES work by providing their customers with the knowledge, expertise and advise in order to keep them safe when using gas detection products, whilst highlighting and focusing on the awareness of why this type of equipment is required in a variety of industries. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas that is also highly toxic and potentially flammable (at higher levels: 10.9% Volume or 109,000ppm). It is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as wood, oil, coal, paraffin, LPG, petrol and natural gas. CO is present in several different industries, such as steel works, manufacturing, electricity supply, coal and metal mining, food manufacturing, oil and gas, production of chemicals and petroleum refining to name a few. The Clip SGD  is a CO personal monitor that can sense what you can’t, giving you time to react and ultimately can save you and your customers lives. 

Working with Anton by Crowcon 

A 12-year partnership through continued communication and support has allowed Heating Engineer Supplies to supply their customers with both flue gas analysers and gas detection solutions. HES is an official service centre for Anton by Crowcon located in house at their base in county Limerick, with the possibility of portable calibration coming soon. “Over many years we have built up an excellent relationship with Anton by Crowcon. It’s fantastic to know we have brilliant Technical support and we know moving forward with Fixed & Portable gas detection this will continue, we look forward to growing our respective businesses.” Although previously our partnership has predominately been focused on both flue gas analysers and portable gas detection solutions, HES are expanding their offering to cover sales and calibration of our portable gas detection equipment with future hopes being focussed on our fixed product range.  

Seasonal Gas Dangers

When it comes to gas safety there’s no off-season, although it is important to know that there is such a thing as seasonal gas safety. When temperatures rise and fall, or the rain falls in deluge, it can have unique impacts on your gas appliances. To help you get a better understanding on seasonal gas safety, here is everything you need to know about key challenges throughout the year.  

Gas safety on holiday 

When on holiday, the last thing on your mind is gas safety, however, it’s crucial that you keep yourself safe. Whether it’s a long summer holiday or a winter weekend getaway are you packing a carbon monoxide monitor in your suitcase? If not, you should be. Gas safety on holiday is just as important as it is at home, this is because when you’re on holiday you have less knowledge or control over the state of any gas appliances. 

Although, there isn’t much difference between gas safety in a caravan or gas safety on boats, gas safety when camping in a tent is different. Gas camping stoves, gas heaters (such as table and patio heaters), and even solid fuel BBQs can produce carbon monoxide (CO) thereby leading to possible poisoning. Therefore, if they are brought into a tent, a caravan or any other enclosed space, during or after use, they can emit harmful CO putting anyone around them in danger. 

It’s also important to remember that gas safety regulations in other countries may differ from those outside the UK. While you can’t be expected to know what’s legal and what’s not everywhere you go, you can keep you and others around you safe by following some simple tips. 

Tips for gas safety on holiday 

  • Ask if the gas appliances in your accommodation have been serviced and safety checked. 
  • Take an audible carbon monoxide alarm with you.
  • When you arrive, the appliances may not work in the same way as those you have at home. If no instructions are provided, then contact your holiday rep or accommodation owner for assistance if you’re unsure.
    • Be aware of the signs of unsafe gas appliances 
    • Black marks and stains around the appliance 
    • Lazy orange or yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones 
    • High levels of condensation in your accommodation
  • Never use gas cookers, stoves or BBQs for heating, and ensure they have adequate ventilation when in use.  

BBQ safety

Summer is a time for being outdoors and enjoying long evenings. Come rain or shine we light up our BBQs with usually the only worries being whether it will rain, or the sausages are fully cooked through. Gas safety isn’t just something for the home, or industrial environments, BBQs need special attention to ensure they’re safe.  

Carbon monoxide is a gas that its health risks are widely known with many of us installing detectors in our homes and businesses. However, the association of carbon monoxide is associated with our BBQs is unknown. If the weather is poor, we may decide to barbeque in the garage doorway or under a tent or canopy. Some of us may even bring our BBQs into the tent after use.  These can all be potentially fatal as the carbon monoxide collects in these confined areas. It must be noted that the cooking area should be well away from buildings and be well ventilated with fresh air, otherwise you are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Knowing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning is vital – Headaches, Nausea, Breathlessness, Dizziness, Collapse or Loss of consciousness. 

Equally with a propane or butane gas canister, we store in our garages, sheds and even our homes unaware that there is a risk of a potentially deadly combination of an enclosed space, a gas leak and a spark from an electrical device.  All of which could cause an explosion. 

Gas safety in winter

When the cold weather sets in, gas boilers and gas are fired up for the first time in several months, to keep us warm. However, this increased usage can put extra pressure on appliances and can result in them breaking down. Therefore, preparing for winter by ensuring gas appliances – including boilers, warm air heaters, cookers and fires – have been regularly safety checked and maintained by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer, who carry gas detectors 

What to do if you suspect a gas leak

If you can smell gas or think there could be a gas leak in a property, boat or caravan, it’s important to act fast. A gas leak poses a risk of fire or even explosion. 

You should: 

  • Extinguish any naked flames to stop the chance of fire or explosion.
  • Turn off the gas at the meter if possible (and safe to do so).
  • Open windows to allow ventilation and ensure the gas dissipates.
  • Evacuate the area immediately to prevent risk to life.
  • Inform your holiday representative or accommodation owner immediately or equivalent.
  • Seek medical attention if you feel unwell or show signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms

The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for other illnesses, such as food poisoning or flu. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or feeling sick
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately go outside into the fresh air and seek urgent medical attention. 

Personal gas detectors 

The Clip SDG personal gas detector is designed to withstand the harshest industrial working conditions and delivers industry leading alarm time, changeable alarm levels and event logging as well as user-friendly bump test and calibration solutions. 

Gasman with specialist CO sensor is a rugged, compact single gas detector, designed for use in the toughest environments. Its compact and lightweight design makes it the ideal choice for industrial gas detection. 

Detecting dangers in dairy: What gases should you be aware of? 

Global demand for dairy continues to increase in large part due to population growth, rising incomes and urbanisation. Millions of farmers worldwide tend approximately 270 million dairy cows to produce milk. Throughout the dairy farm industry there are a variety of gas hazards that pose a risk to those working in the dairy industry.  

What are the dangers workers face in the dairy industry?

Chemicals

Throughout the dairy farm industry, chemicals are used for variety of tasks including cleaning, applying various treatments such as vaccinations or medications, antibiotics, sterilising and spraying. If these chemicals and hazardous substances are not used or stored correctly, this can result in serious harm to the worker or the surrounding environment. Not only can these chemicals cause illness, but there is also a risk of death if a person is exposed. Some chemicals can be flammable and explosive whilst others are corrosive and poisonous. 

There are several ways to manage these chemical hazards, although the main concern should be in implementing a process and procedure. This procedure should ensure all staff are trained in the safe use of chemicals with records being maintained. As part of the chemical procedure, this should include a chemical manifest for tracking purposes. This type of inventory management allows for all personal to have access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as well as usage and location records. Alongside this manifest, there should be consideration for the review of current operation.  

  • What is the current procedure?  
  • What PPE is required?  
  • What is the process for discarding out of date chemicals and is there is a substitute chemical that could pose less of a risk to your workers? 

Confined Spaces

There are numerous circumstances that could require a worker to enter a confined space, including feed silos, milk vats, water tanks and pits in the dairy industry. The safest way to eliminate a confined space hazard, as mentioned by many industry bodies, is to employ a safe design. This will include the removal of any need to enter a confined space. Although, this may not be realistic and from time to time, cleaning routines need to take place, or a blockage may occur, however, there is a requirement to ensure there is the correct procedures to address the hazard. 

Chemical agents when used in a confined space can increase the risk of suffocation with gases pushing out oxygen. One way you can eliminate this risk is by cleaning the vat from the outside using a high-pressure hose. If a worker does need to enter the confined space, check that the correct signage is in place since entry and exit points will be restricted. You should consider isolation switches and check that your staff understand the correct emergency rescue procedure if something were to happen. 

Gas Hazards

Ammonia (NH3) is found in animal waste and slurry spreading on farming and agricultural land. It is characteristically a colourless gas with a pungent smell that arises through the decomposition of nitrogen compounds in animal waste. Not only is it harmful to human health but also harmful to livestock wellbeing, due to its ability to cause respiratory diseases in livestock, and eye irritation, blindness, lung damage, alongside nose and throat damage and even death in humans. Ventilation is a key requirement in preventing health issues, as poor ventilation heightens the damage caused by this gas.  

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is naturally produced in the atmosphere; although, levels are increased through farming and agricultural processes. CO2, is colourless, odourless, and is emitted from agricultural equipment, crop and livestock production and other farming processes. CO2 can congregate areas, such as waste tanks and silos. This results in oxygen in the air to be displaced and increasing the risk of suffocation for animals and humans.  Sealed silos, waste and grain storage spaces are specifically dangerous as CO2 can accumulate here and lead to them being unsuitable for humans without an external air supply. 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gases known as oxides of nitrogen or nitrogen oxides (NOx). At worst, it can cause sudden death when consumed even from short term exposure. This gas can cause suffocation and is emitted from silos following specific chemical reactions of plant material. It is recognisable by its bleach-like smell and its properties tend to create a red-brown haze. As it gathers above certain surfaces it can run into areas with livestock through silo chutes, and therefore poses a real danger to humans and animals in the surrounding area. It can also affect lung function, cause internal bleeding, and ongoing respiratory problems. 

When should gas detectors be used?

Gas detectors provide added value anywhere on dairy farms and around slurry silos, but above all: 

  • When and where slurry is being mixed 
  • During pumping and bringing out slurry
  • On and around the tractor during slurry mixing or spreading 
  • In the stable during maintenance work on slurry pumps, slurry scrapers and the like 
  • Near and around small openings and cracks in the floor, e.g., around milking robots 
  • Low to the ground in poorly ventilated corners and spaces (H2S is heavier than air and sinks to the floor) 
  • In slurry silos 
  • In slurry tanks 

Products that can help to protect yourself 

Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space to provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, a portable detector can be more suited for worker’s safety. 

To find out more on the dangers in agriculture and farming, visit our industry page for more information. 

The Benefits of MPS Sensors 

Developed by NevadaNano, Molecular Property Spectrometer™ (MPS™) sensors represent the new generation of flammable gas detectors. MPS™ can quickly detect 18 characterised flammable gases at once. Until recently, anyone who needed to monitor flammable gases had to select either a traditional flammable gas detector containing a pellistor sensor calibrated for a specific gas, or containing an infra-red (IR) sensor which also varies in output according to the flammable gas being measured, and hence needs to be calibrated for each gas. While these remain beneficial solutions, they are not always ideal. For example, both sensor types require regular calibration and the catalytic pellistor sensors also need frequent bump testing to ensure they have not been damaged by contaminants (known as ‘sensor poisoning’ agents) or by harsh conditions. In some environments, sensors must frequently be changed, which is costly in terms of both money and downtime, or product availability. IR technology cannot detect hydrogen – which has no IR signature, and both IR and pellistor detectors sometimes incidentally detect other (i.e., non-calibrated) gases, giving inaccurate readings that may trigger false alarms or concern operators. 

The MPS™ sensor delivers key features that provide real world tangible benefits to operator and hence workers. These include: 

No calibration  

When implementing a system containing a fixed head detector, it is common practice to service on a recommended schedule defined by manufacturer. This entails ongoing regular costs as well potentially disrupting production or process in order service or even gain access to detector or multiple detectors. There may also be a risk to personnel when detectors are mounted in particularly hazardous environments. Interaction with an MPS sensor is less stringent because there are no unrevealed failure modes, provided air is present. It would be wrong to say there is no calibration requirement. One factory calibration, followed by a gas test when commissioning is sufficient, because there is an internal automated calibration being performed every 2 seconds throughout the working life of the sensor. What is really meant is – no customer calibration. 

The Xgard Bright with MPS™ sensor technology does not require calibration. This in turn reduces the interaction with the detector resulting in a lower total cost of ownership over the sensor life cycle and reduced risk to personnel and production output to complete regular maintenance. It is still advisable to check the cleanliness of the gas detector from time to time, since gas can’t get through thick build ups of obstructive material and wouldn’t then reach the sensor. 

Multi species gas – ‘True LEL’™  

Many industries and applications use or have as a by-product multiple gases within the same environment. This can be challenging for traditional sensor technology which can detect only a single gas that they were calibrated for at the correct level and can result in inaccurate reading and even false alarms which can halt process or production if another flammable gas type is present. The lack of response or over response frequently faced in multi gas environments can be frustrating and counterproductive compromising safety of best user practices. The MPS™ sensor can accurately detect multiple gases at once and instantly identify gas type. Additionally, the MPS™ sensor has a on board environmental compensation and does not require an externally applied correctional factor. Inaccurate readings and false alarms are a thing of the past.  

No sensor poisoning  

In certain environments traditional sensor types can be under risk of poisoning. Extreme pressure, temperature, and humidity all have the potential to damage sensors whist environmental toxins and contaminants can ‘poison’ sensors, leading to severely compromised performance. Detectors in environments where poisons or inhibitors may be encountered, regular and frequent testing is the only way to ensure that performance is not being degraded. Sensor failure due to poisoning can be a costly experience. The technology in the MPS™ sensor is not affected by contaminates in the environment. Processes that have contaminates now have access to a solution that operates reliably with fail safe design to alert operator to offer a peace of mind for personnel and assets located in hazardous environment. Additionally, the MPS sensor is not harmed by elevated flammable gas concentrations, which may cause cracking in conventional catalytic sensor types for example. The MPS sensor carries on working. 

Hydrogen (H2)

The usage of Hydrogen in industrial processes is increasing as the focus to find a cleaner alternative to natural gas usage. Detection of Hydrogen is currently restricted to pellistor, metal oxide semiconductor, electrochemical and less accurate thermal conductivity sensor technology due to Infra-Red sensors inability to detect Hydrogen. When faced with challenges highlighted above in poisoning or false alarms, the current solution can leave operator with frequent bump testing and servicing in addition to false alarm challenges. The MPS™ sensor provides a far better solution for Hydrogen detection, removing the challenges faced with traditional sensor technology. A long-life, relatively fast responding hydrogen sensor that does not require calibration throughout the life cycle of the sensor, without the risk of poisoning or false alarms, can significantly save on total cost of ownership and reduces interaction with unit resulting in peace of mind and reduced risk for operators leveraging MPS™ technology. All of this is possible thanks to MPS™ technology, which is the biggest breakthrough in gas detection for several decades. The Gasman with MPS is hydrogen (H2) ready. A single MPS sensor accurately detects hydrogen and common hydrocarbons in a fail-safe, poison-resistant solution without recalibration.

For more on Crowcon, visit https://www.crowcon.com or for more on MPSTM visit https://www.crowcon.com/mpsinfixed/  

Carbon Dioxide: What are the dangers in the Food and Beverage Industry? 

Almost all industries must monitor gas hazards, with the food and beverage industry no exception. Although, there is a lack of awareness regarding the dangers of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the dangers those working in the industry face. CO2 is the most common gas in the food and beverage industry because it is used in the carbonation of drinks, to propel beverages to the tap in pubs and restaurants and to keep food items cold during transportation in the form of dry ice. It is also naturally produced in beverage manufacturing processes by leavening agents like yeast and sugar. Although CO2 may seem harmless at first glance as we exhale it with every breath, and plants need it for survival, the presence of carbon dioxide becomes a problem when its concentration rises to dangerous levels.

The Dangers of CO2

Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere (typically 0.04% in air). CO2 is colourless and odourless, heavier than air, and tends to sink to the floor. CO2 collects in cellars and at the bottom of containers and confined spaces such as tanks or silos.

Since CO2 is heavier than air, it quickly displaces oxygen at high concentrations can result in asphyxiation due to a lack of oxygen or breathable air. Exposure to CO2 is easy, especially in a confined space like a tank or a cellar. Early symptoms of exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide include dizziness, headaches, and confusion, followed by loss of consciousness. Accidents and fatalities occur in the food and beverage industry due to a carbon dioxide leak. Without proper detection methods and processes in place, everyone at a facility could be at risk.

Gas Monitors – what are the benefits?

Any application that uses carbon dioxide puts workers at risk, and the only way to identify high levels before it’s too late is to use gas monitors.

Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space such as plant rooms to provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, a portable detector can be more suited for worker safety in and around the cylinder storage area and in spaces designated as a confined space. This is especially true for pubs and beverage dispensing outlets for the safety of workers and those unfamiliar with the environment, such as delivery drivers, sales teams or equipment technicians. The portable unit can easily be clipped to clothing and will detect pockets of CO2 using alarms and visual signals, indicating that the user should immediately vacate the area.

Personal gas detectors continuously monitor the air in workers’ breathing zone when worn correctly,  to give them better awareness and the information they need to make smart decisions in the face of danger. Not only can gas monitors detect carbon dioxide in the air, but they can also alert others if an employee is in danger. Carbon dioxide can be monitored using a single gas monitor or by using a multi-gas monitor with a dedicated carbon dioxide sensor. It is important to note the carbon dioxide can escalate to dangerous levels before an oxygen sensor would alarm.

What is IR Technology? 

Infrared emitters within the sensor each generate beams of IR light. Each beam is measured by a photo-receiver. The “measuring” beam, with a frequency of around 3.3μm, is absorbed by hydrocarbon gas molecules, so the beam intensity is reduced if there is an appropriate concentration of a gas with C-H bonds present. The “reference” beam (around 3.0μm) is not absorbed by gas, so arrives at the receiver at full strength. The %LEL of gas present is determined by the ratio of the beams measured by the photo-receiver. 

Benefits of IR technology 

IR sensors are reliable in some environments that can cause pellistor-based sensors to function incorrectly or in some cases fail. In some industrial environments, pellistors are at risk of being poisoned or inhibited. This would leave a worker on their shift unprotected. IR sensors are not susceptible to the catalyst poisons so significantly enhance safety in these conditions. 

Pellistor technology is considerably less expensive than IR technology, reflecting the comparative simplicity of the detection technology. However, there are several advantages of IR over pellistors. These include IR technology provides fail-safe testing. The mode of operation means that if the infrared beam failed, this would register as a fault.  In normal pellistor operation, conversely, a lack of output is ordinarily an indication that no flammable gas is present, but this could also be the result of a fault. Pellistors are susceptible to poisoning or inhibition; a particular concern in environments where compounds containing silicon, lead, sulphur and phosphates, even at low levels. IR instruments don’t, themselves, interact with the gas.  Only the IR beam interacts with the gas molecules, so, IR technology is immune to poisoning or inhibition by chemical toxins. In high concentrations of flammable gas, pellistor sensors can burn out. As with poisoning or inhibition, this would probably only be picked up by testing.  Again, IR sensors are not affected by these conditions. Low levels of oxygen mean that pellistor sensors won’t work. This can be the case in recently purged tanks, but also in confined spaces generally, where pellistors may be ineffective.  IR technology is effective in areas where oxygen may be reduced or absent. 

Factors that affect IR technology  

Exposure to high levels of flammable gas can cause “sooting” of pellistors, reducing their sensitivity and potentially leading to failure. Pellistors require oxygen to function, however, IR sensors can be relied on in applications such as fuel storage tanks where there is little or no oxygen, due to flushing with inert gas prior to maintenance, or which still contain high levels of fuel vapours. The fail-safe nature of IR sensors, which automatically alert you to any fault, provides an additional layer of safety. Gas-Pro IR measures in %LEL and has been certified for use in hazardous areas as defined by both ATEX/IECEx and UL. 

Knowing when the technology has failed  

IR sensors are reliable in environments that can cause pellistor-based sensors to function incorrectly or in some cases fail. In some industrial environments, pellistors are at risk of being poisoned or inhibited. This leaves workers on their shifts unprotected. IR sensors are not susceptible to these conditions, so significantly enhance safety. 

Problems with IR sensors 

IR sensors do not measure hydrogen, and they usually don’t measure acetylene, ammonia of some complex solvents either except for some specialist sensor types. 

If nothing is done to prevent it, moisture can build up inside IR sensors on the optics scattering the IR light and causing a fault.  

The fail-safe nature of IR sensors, which automatically alert you to any fault, provides an additional layer of safety, and this results in a fault if there isn’t enough light getting through the system e.g., if the light is being scattered form the beam. 

IR sensors have very high resistance to interference or inhibition by other gases and are suitable for both high gas concentrations and use in inert (oxygen free) backgrounds where catalytic pellistor sensors would perform poorly. 

Products  

Our portable products such as Our Gas-Pro IR and Triple Plus+ help customers to detect potentially explosive gases where traditional, “pellistor,” catalytic sensors will struggle – especially in low oxygen or ‘poisoning’ environments. And allow for the measurement of hydrocarbons at both % LEL and % Volume ranges making this instrument ideal for tank and line purging applications. 

To explore more, visit our technical page for more information. 

Intrinsic Safety – What does it mean? 

Intrinsic safety is an explosion prevention technique used to ensure safe operation of electrical equipment in a hazardous area. This technique uses a low-energy signalling technique that reduces the energy within the equipment to below that required to initiate an explosion, whilst maintaining an energy level this is an be used for its operation.  

What is a hazardous area? 

A hazardous or explosion-prone relates to an environment that has vast amounts of flammable substances such as combustible particles, gases, vapor. Hazardous industrial areas include oil refineries, mining, distilleries and chemical plants. The main safety issue in these industrial scenarios is that of flammable vapours and gases. This is because when they are mix with oxygen within the air, they can establish an explosion-prone environment. Food processing factories, grain handling facilities, recycling operations, and even flour mills generate combustible dust, which is why these are classed as too hazardous locations. Hazardous places are classified in terms of zones on the basis of the frequency and duration of the occurrence of an explosive atmosphere. Areas subject to flammable gas hazards are classified as either Zone 0, Zone 1 or Zone 2. 

How does it work? 

Intrinsic safety prevents sparks and heat from being generated from any electrical equipment, devices or instruments that otherwise ay have initiated an explosion in a hazardous area. Hazardous spaces may belong, but are not limited to, to the following: petrochemical refineries, mines, agriculture grain storage, wastewater, distilling, pharmaceutical, brewing, and utilities. 

Intrinsic safety is achieved with the use of a Zener Diodes which limits voltage, resistors that limit the current and a fuse to cut off electricity. Equipment or devices that may be made intrinsically safe must first be approved for use in an intrinsically safe system through a competent authority, such as the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM), National Electric Code (NEC), and the Instrument Society of Measurement and Control (ISA). 

The advantages of Intrinsic Safety 

The main advantage is that it provides a solution to all problems that occur in a hazardous area regarding equipment. It prevents the cost and bulk of explosion proof enclosures, with additional cost savings as a result of the ability to use standard instrumentation cables. Additionally, the maintenance and diagnostic work can be performed without shutting down production and ventilating the work area. 

Levels of protection  

Intrinsic safety relates to three levels of protection, ‘ia’, ‘ib’ and ‘ic’ that aim to balance the probability of an explosive atmosphere, assessing the probability of whether that is an ignition capable situation that may occur. 

‘ia’  

Offers the highest level of protection and any equipment that is given this level is generally considered adequately safe for use in the most hazardous locations (Zone 0) with two faults.  

‘ib’  

This level is considered adequately safe with one fault is considered safe for use in less frequently hazardous areas (Zone 1).  

‘ic’  

This level is given for ‘normal operation’ with a unity factor of safety is generally acceptable in infrequently hazardous areas (Zone 2). 

Level of protection 
Countable faults 
ATEX Category 
Normal Zone of use 
ia 2 1 0
ib 1 2 1
ic 0 3 2

 

To note, although it is normal for a whole system to be allocated a level of protection, it is also possible for different parts of the system to have different levels of protection.  

Gold Mining: What gas detection do I need? 

How is gold mined?

Gold is a rare substance equating to 3 parts per billion of the earth’s outer layer, with most of the world’s available gold coming from Australia. Gold, like iron, copper and lead, is a metal. There are two primary forms of gold mining, including open-cut and underground mining. Open mining involves earth-moving equipment to remove waste rock from the ore body above, and then mining is conducted from the remaining substance. This process requires waste and ore to be struck at high volumes to break the waste and ore into sizes suitable for handling and transportation to both waste dumps and ore crushers. The other form of gold mining is the more traditional underground mining method. This is where vertical shafts and spiral tunnels transport workers and equipment into and out of the mine, providing ventilation and hauling the waste rock and ore to the surface.

Gas detection in mining

When relating to gas detection, the process of health and safety within mines has developed considerably over the past century, from morphing from the crude usage of methane wick wall testing, singing canaries and flame safety to modern-day gas detection technologies and processes as we know them. Ensuring the correct type of detection equipment is utilised, whether fixed or portable, before entering these spaces. Proper equipment utilisation will ensure gas levels are accurately monitored, and workers are alerted to dangerous concentrations within the atmosphere at the earliest opportunity.

What are the gas hazards and what are the dangers?

The dangers those working within the mining industry face several potential occupational hazards and diseases, and the possibility of fatal injury. Therefore, understanding the environments and hazards, they may be exposed to is important.

Oxygen (O2)

Oxygen (O2), usually present in the air at 20.9%, is essential to human life. There are three main reasons why oxygen poses a threat to workers within the mining industry. These include oxygen deficiencies or enrichment, as too little oxygen can prevent the human body from functioning leading to the worker losing consciousness. Unless the oxygen level can be restored to an average level, the worker is at risk of potential death. An atmosphere is deficient when the concentration of O2 is less than 19.5%. Consequently, an environment with too much oxygen is equally dangerous as this constitutes a greatly increased risk of fire and explosion. This is considered when the concentration level of O2 is over 23.5%

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

In some cases, high concentrations of Carbon Monoxide (CO) may be present. Environments that this may occur include a house fire, therefore the fire service are at risk of CO poisoning. In this environment there can be as much as 12.5% CO in the air which when the carbon monoxide rises to the ceiling with other combustion products and when the concentration hits 12.5% by volume this will only lead to one thing, called a flashover. This is when the whole lot ignites as a fuel. Apart from items falling on the fire service, this is one of the most extreme dangers they face when working inside a burning building. Due to the characteristics of CO being so hard to identify, I.e., colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas, it may take time for you to realise that you have CO poisoning. The effects of CO can be dangerous, this is because CO prevents the blood system from effectively carrying oxygen around the body, specifically to vital organs such as the heart and brain. High doses of CO, therefore, can cause death from asphyxiation or lack of oxygen to the brain. According to statistics from the Department of Health, the most common indication of CO poisoning is that of a headache with 90% of patients reporting this as a symptom, with 50% reporting nausea and vomiting, as well as vertigo. With confusion/changes in consciousness, and weakness accounting for 30% and 20% of reports.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a colourless, flammable gas with a characteristic odour of rotten eggs. Skin and eye contact may occur. However, the nervous system and cardiovascular system are most affected by hydrogen sulphide, which can lead to a range of symptoms. Single exposures to high concentrations may rapidly cause breathing difficulties and death.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) can cause several harmful effects on the respiratory systems, in particular the lung. It can also cause skin irritation. Skin contact with (SO2) causes stinging pain, redness of the skin and blisters. Skin contact with compressed gas or liquid can cause frostbite. Eye contact causes watering eyes and, in severe cases, blindness can occur.

Methane (CH4)

Methane (CH4) is a colourless, highly flammable gas with a primary component being that of natural gas. High levels of (CH4) can reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air, which can result in mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache. In severe cases, there may be changes in breathing and heart rate, balance problems, numbness, and unconsciousness. Although, if exposure is for a longer period, it can result in fatality.

Hydrogen (H2)

Hydrogen Gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is lighter than air this means it float higher than our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found, but instead must be created. Hydrogen poses a fire or explosion risk as well as an inhalation risk. High concentrations of this gas can cause an oxygen-deficient environment. Individuals breathing such an atmosphere may experience symptoms which include headaches, ringing in ears, dizziness, drowsiness, unconsciousness, nausea, vomiting and depression of all the senses

Ammonia (NH3)

Ammonia (NH3) is one of the most widely used chemicals globally that is produced both in the human body and in nature. Although it is naturally created (NH3) is corrosive which poses a serve concern for health. High exposure within the air can result in immediate burning to the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. Serve cases can result in blindness.

Other gas risks

Whilst Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN) doesn’t persist within the environment, improper storage, handling and waste management can pose severe risk to human health as well as effects on the environment. Cyanide interferes with human respiration at cellular levels that can cause serve and acute effects, including rapid breathing, tremors, asphyxiation.

Diesel particulate exposure can occur in underground mines as a result of diesel-powered mobile equipment used for drilling and haulage. Although control measures include the use of low sulphur diesel fuel, engine maintenance and ventilation, health implication includes excess risk of lung cancer.

Products that can help to protect yourself

Crowcon provide a range of gas detection including both portable and fixed products all of which are suitable for gas detection within the mining industry.

To find out more visit our industry page here.