The importance of gas detection in the Medical and Healthcare sector

The need for gas detection in the medical and healthcare sector may be less widely understood outside of the industry, but the requirement is there, nonetheless. With patients across a number of settings receiving a variety of treatment and medical therapies that involve the usage of chemicals, the need to accurately monitor the gases utilised or emitted, within this process is very important to allow for their continued safe treatment. In order to safeguard both patients and, of course, the healthcare professionals themselves, the implementation of accurate and reliable monitoring equipment is a must.

Applications

In healthcare and hospital settings, a range of potentially hazardous gases can present themselves due to the medical equipment and apparatus utilised. Harmful chemicals are also used for disinfectant and cleansing purposes within hospital work surfaces and medical supplies. For example, potentially hazardous chemicals can be used as a preservative for tissue specimens, such as toluene, xylene or formaldehyde. Applications include:

  • Breath gas monitoring
  • Chiller rooms
  • Generators
  • Laboratories
  • Storage rooms
  • Operating theatres
  • Pre-hospital rescue
  • Positive airway pressure therapy
  • High flow nasal cannula therapy
  • Intensive care units
  • Post anaesthesia care unit

Gaz Hazards

Oxygen Enrichment in Hospital Wards

In light of the worldwide pandemic, COVID-19, the need for increased oxygen on hospital wards has been recognised by healthcare professionals due to the escalating number of ventilators in use. Oxygen sensors are vital, within ICU wards specifically, as they inform the clinician how much oxygen is being delivered to the patient during ventilation. This can prevent the risk of hypoxia, hypoxemia or oxygen toxicity. If oxygen sensors do not function as they should; they can alarm regularly, need changing and unfortunately even lead to fatalities. This increased use of ventilators also enriches the air with oxygen and can raise the combustion risk. There is a need to measure the levels of oxygen in the air using a fixed gas detection system to avoid unsafe levels in the air.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide level monitoring is also required in healthcare environments to ensure a safe working environment for professionals, as well as to safeguard patients being treated. Carbon dioxide is used within a plethora of medical and healthcare procedures from minimally invasive surgeries, such as endoscopy, arthroscopy and laparoscopy, cryotherapy and anaesthesia. CO2 is also used in incubators and laboratories and, as it is a toxic gas, can cause asphyxiation. Heightened levels of CO2 in the air, emitted by certain machinery, can cause harm to those in the environment, as well as spread pathogens and viruses. CO2 detectors in healthcare environments can therefore improve ventilation, air flow and the wellbeing of all.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

A range of VOCs can be found in hospital and healthcare environments and cause harm to those working and being treated within it. VOCs such as aliphatic, aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons, aldehydes, alcohols, ketones, ethers and terpenes, to name a few, have been measured in hospital environments, originating from a number of specific areas including reception halls, patient rooms, nursing care, post-anaesthesia care units, parasitology-mycology labs and disinfection units. Although still in the research stage of their prevalence in healthcare settings, it is clear VOC ingestion has adverse effects on human health such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches and the loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs, benzene specifically, is a carcinogen. Implementing gas detection is therefore a must to safeguard everyone from harm.

Gas sensors should therefore be used within PACU, ICU, EMS, pre-hospital rescue, PAP therapy and HFNC therapy to monitor the gas levels of a range of equipment including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, oxygen generators and anaesthesia machines.

Standards and Certifications

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the organisation in England that regulates the quality and safety of the care delivered within all healthcare, medical, health and social care, and voluntary care settings across the country. The commission provides best practice details for the administering of oxygen to patients and the proper measurement and recording of levels, storage and training about the use of this and other medical gases.

The UK regulator for medical gases is the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They are an Executive Agency of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that ensures public and patient health and safety through the regulation of medicines, healthcare products and medical equipment in the sector. They set appropriate standards of safety, quality, performance and effectiveness, and ensure all equipment is used safely. Any company manufacturing medical gases requires a Manufacturer’s Authorisation issued by the MHRA.

In the USA The Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates the certification process for the manufacture, sale and marketing of designated medical gases. Under Section 575 the FDA states that anyone marketing a medical gas for human or animal drug use without an approved application is breaking specified guidelines. The medical gases that require certification include oxygen, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, helium, 20 carbon monoxide, and medical air.

To find out more on the dangers in the medial and healthcare sector, visit our industry page for more information.

Why is gas detection crucial for drink dispense systems

Dispense gas known as beer gas, keg gas, cellar gas or pub gas is used in bars and restaurants as well as the leisure and hospitality industry. Using dispense gas in the process of dispensing beer and soft drinks is common practice worldwide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) or a mix of CO2 and nitrogen (N2) is used as a way of delivering a beverage to the ‘tap’. CO2 as a keg gas helps to keep the contents sterile and at the right composition aiding dispensing.

Gas Hazards

Even when the beverage is ready to deliver, gas-related hazards remain. Those arise in any activity at premises that contain compressed gas cylinders, due to the risk of damage during their movement or replacement. Additionally, once released there is a risk of increased carbon dioxide levels or depleted oxygen levels (due to higher levels of nitrogen or carbon dioxide).

CO2 occurs naturally in the atmosphere (0.04%) and is colourless and odourless. It is heavier than air and if it escapes, will tend to sink to the floor. CO2 collects in cellars and at the bottom of containers and confined spaces such as tanks and silos. CO2 is generated in large amounts during fermentation. It is also injected into beverages during carbonation – to add the bubbles. Early symptoms of exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide include dizziness, headaches, and confusion, followed by loss of consciousness. Accidents and fatalities can occur in extreme cases where a significant amount of carbon dioxide leaks into an enclosed or poorly ventilated volume. Without proper detection methods and processes in place, everyone entering that volume could be at risk. Additionally, personnel within surrounding volumes could suffer from the early symptoms listed above.

Nitrogen (N2) is often used in the dispensing of beer, particularly stouts, pale ales and porters, it also as well as preventing oxidisation or pollution of beer with harsh flavours. Nitrogen helps push the liquid from one tank to another, as well as offer the potential to be injected into kegs or barrels, pressurising them ready for storage and shipment. This gas is not toxic, but does displace oxygen in the atmosphere, which can be a danger if there is a gas leak which is why accurate gas detection is critical.

As nitrogen can deplete oxygen levels, oxygen sensors should be used in environments where any of these potential risks exist. When locating oxygen sensors, consideration needs to be given to the density of the diluting gas and the “breathing” zone (nose level). Ventilation patterns must also be considered when locating sensors. For example, if the diluting gas is nitrogen, then placing the detection at shoulder height is reasonable, however if the diluting gas is carbon dioxide, then the detectors should be placed at knee height.

The Importance of Gas Detection in Drinks Dispense Systems

Unfortunately, accidents and fatalities do occur in the drinks industry due to gas hazards. As a result, in the UK, safe workplace exposure limits are codified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in documentation for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Carbon dioxide has an 8-hour exposure limit of 0.5% and a 15-minute exposure limit of 1.5% by volume. Gas detection systems help to mitigate gas risks and allow for drinks manufacturers, bottling plants and bar/pub cellar owners, to ensure the safety of personnel and demonstrate compliance to legislative limits or approved codes of practice.

Oxygen Depletion

The normal concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere is approximately 20.9% volume. Oxygen levels can be dangerous if they are too low (oxygen depletion). In the absence of adequate ventilation, the level of oxygen can be reduced surprisingly quickly by breathing and combustion processes.

Oxygen levels may also be depleted due to dilution by other gases such as carbon dioxide (also a toxic gas), nitrogen or helium, and chemical absorption by corrosion processes and similar reactions. Oxygen sensors should be used in environments where any of these potential risks exist. When locating oxygen sensors, consideration needs to be given to the density of the diluting gas and the “breathing” zone (nose level). Oxygen monitors usually provide a first-level alarm when the oxygen concentration has dropped to 19% volume. Most people will begin to behave abnormally when the level reaches 17%, and hence a second alarm is usually set at this threshold. Exposure to atmospheres containing between 10% and 13% oxygen can bring about unconsciousness very rapidly; death comes very quickly if the oxygen level drops below 6% volume.

Our Solution

Gas detection can be provided in the form of both fixed and portable detectors. Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space such as cellars or plant rooms to provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, for worker safety in and around cylinder storage area and in spaces designated as a confined space, a portable detector can be more suited. This is especially true for pubs and beverage dispensing outlets for the safety of workers and those who are unfamiliar in 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 COusing alarms and visual signals, indicating that the user should immediately vacate the area.

For more information about gas detection in drink dispense systems, contact our team.

Industry Overview: Food and Beverage 

The food and beverage (F&B) industry includes all companies involved in processing raw food materials, as well as those packaging and distributing them. This includes fresh, prepared foods as well as packaged foods, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. 

The food and beverage industry is divided into two major segments, which are the production and the distribution of edible goods. The first group, production, includes the processing of meats and cheeses and the creation of soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, packaged foods, and other modified foods. Any product meant for human consumption, aside from pharmaceuticals, passes through this sector. Production also covers the processing of meats, cheeses and packaged foods, dairy and alcoholic beverages. The production sector excludes foods and fresh produce that are directly produced via farming, as these fall under agriculture. 

The manufacture and processing of food and beverages create substantial risks of fire and toxic gas exposure. Many gases are used for baking, processing and refrigerating foods. These gases can be highly hazardous – either toxic, flammable, or both. 

Gas Hazards 

Food Processing

Secondary food processing methods includes fermentation, heating, chilling, dehydration or cooking of some kind. Many types of commercial food processing consist of cooking, especially industrial steam boilers. Steam boilers are usually gas-fired (natural gas or LPG) or use a combination of gas and fuel oil. For gas-fired steam boilers, natural gas consists mainly of methane (CH4), a highly combustible gas, lighter than air, which is piped directly into boilers. In contrast, LPG consists mainly of propane (C3H8), and usually requires an on-site fuel storage tank. Whenever flammable gases are used on site, forced mechanical ventilation must be included in storage areas, in case of leakage. Such ventilation is usually triggered by gas detectors that are installed near boilers and in storage rooms. 

Chemical Disinfection 

The F&B industry takes hygiene very seriously, as the slightest contamination of surfaces and equipment can provide an ideal breeding ground for all kinds of germs. The F&B sector therefore demands rigorous cleaning and disinfection, which must meet industry standards. 

There are three methods of disinfection commonly used in F&B: thermal, radiation and chemical. Chemical disinfection with chlorine-based compounds is by far the most common and effective way to disinfect equipment or other surfaces. This is because chlorine-based compounds are inexpensive, fast acting and effective against a variety of microorganisms. Several different chlorine compounds are commonly used, of which include hypochlorite, organic and inorganic chloramines, and chlorine dioxide. Sodium hypochlorite solution (NaOCl) is stored in tanks while chlorine dioxide (ClO2) gas is usually generated on site.  

In any combination, chlorine compounds are hazardous and exposure to high concentrations of chlorine can cause severe health issues. Chlorine gases are usually stored on site and a gas detection system should be installed, with a relay output to trigger ventilation fans once a high level of chlorine is detected. 

Food Packaging 

Food packaging serves many purposes; it allows food to be transported and stored safely, protects food, indicates portion sizes and provides information about the product. To keep food items safe for a long time, it is necessary to remove oxygen from the container because otherwise, oxidation will occur when the food comes into contact with oxygen. The presence of oxygen also promotes bacterial growth, which is harmful when consumed. However, if the package is flushed with nitrogen, the shelf life of packaged food can be extended. 

Packagers often use nitrogen (N2) flushing methods for preserving and storing their products. Nitrogen is a non-reactive gas, non-odorous and non-toxic. It prevents oxidation of fresh food with sugars or fats, stops the growth of dangerous bacteria and inhibits spoilage. Lastly, it prevents packages from collapsing by creating a pressurized atmosphere. Nitrogen can be generated on site using generators or delivered in cylinders. Gas generators are cost effective and provide an uninterrupted supply of gas. Nitrogen is an asphyxiant, capable of displacing oxygen in air. Because it has no smell and is non-toxic, workers may not become aware of low oxygen conditions before it is too late.  

Oxygen levels below 19% will cause dizziness and loss of consciousness. To prevent this, oxygen content should be monitored with an electrochemical sensor. Installing oxygen detectors in packaging areas ensures the safety of workers and early detection of leaks. 

Refrigeration Facilities 

Refrigeration facilities in the F&B industry are used to keep food cool for long periods of time. Large-scale food storage facilities often use cooling systems based on ammonia (> 50% NH3), as it is efficient and economical. However, ammonia is both toxic and flammable; it is also lighter than air and fills up enclosed spaces rapidly. Ammonia can become flammable if released in an enclosed space where a source of ignition is present, or if a vessel of anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.   

Ammonia is detected with electro-chemical (toxic) and catalytic (flammable) sensor technology. Portable detection, including single- or multi-gas detectors, can monitor instantaneous and TWA exposure to toxic levels of NH3. Multi-gas personal monitors have been shown to improve workers’ safety where a low-range ppm for routine system surveys and flammable range is used during system maintenance. Fixed detection systems include a combination of toxic- and flammable-level detectors connected to local control panels – these are usually supplied as part of a cooling system. Fixed systems can also be used for process over-rides and ventilation control. 

Brewing and Drinks Industry 

The risk involved in the manufacture of alcohol involves sizable manufacturing equipment which can be potentially harmful, both to operate and because of the fumes and vapours that can be emitted into the atmosphere and subsequently impact the environment. Ethanol is the main combustible hazard found within distilleries and breweries is the fumes and vapours produced by ethanol. With the capacity to be emitted from leaks in tanks, casks, transfer pumps, pipes and flexible hoses, ethanol vapour is a very real fire and explosion hazard faced by those in the distillery industry. Once the gas and vapour is released into the atmosphere, it can quickly build and pose a danger to the health of workers. It is worth noting here however, that the concentration required to cause harm to workers’ health has to be very high. With this in mind, the more significant risk from ethanol in the air is that of explosion. This fact reinforces the importance of gas detection equipment to recognise and remedy any leaks straight away, so as to avoid disastrous consequences. 

Packaging, Transport and Dispensing 

Once wine is bottled and beer is packaged, they must be delivered to the relevant outlets. This commonly includes distribution companies, warehousing and in the case of breweries, draymen. Beer and soft drinks use carbon dioxide or a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen as a way of delivering a beverage to the ‘tap’. These gases also give beer a longer-lasting head and improve the quality and taste. 

Even when the beverage is ready to deliver, gas-related hazards remain. Those arise in any activity at premises that contain compressed gas cylinders, due to the risk of increased carbon dioxide levels or depleted oxygen levels (due to high levels of nitrogen). Carbon dioxide (CO2) occurs naturally in the atmosphere (0.04%). CO2  is colourless and odourless, heavier than air and if it escapes, will tend to sink to the floor. CO2 collects in cellars and at the bottom of containers and confined spaces such as tanks and silos. CO2  is generated in large amounts during fermentation. It is also injected into beverages during carbonation. 

To find out more on the gas hazards in food and beverage production visit our industry page for more information. 

The importance of Gas Detection in the Water and Wastewater Industry 

Water is vital to our daily lives, both for personal and domestic use and industrial/commercial applications. Whether a facility focuses on the production of clean, potable water or treating effluent, Crowcon is proud to serve a wide variety of water industry clients, providing gas detection equipment that keeps workers safe around the world. 

Gas Hazards 

Apart from common gas hazards known in the industry; methane, hydrogen sulphide, and oxygen, there are bi-product gas hazards and cleaning material gas hazards that occur from purifying chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone that are used in the decontamination of the waste and effluent water, or to remove microbes from clean water. There is great potential for many toxic or explosive gases to exist as a result of the chemicals used in the water industry. And added to these are chemicals that may be spilled or dumped into the waste system from industry, farming or building work. 

Safety Considerations  

Confined Space Entry 

The pipelines used to transport water require regular cleaning and safety checks; during these operations, portable multi-gas monitors are used to protect the workforce. Pre-entry checks must be completed prior to entering any confined space and commonly O2, CO, H2S and CH4 are monitored. Confined spaces are small, so portable monitors must be compact and unobtrusive for the user, yet able to withstand the wet and dirty environments in which they must perform. Clear and prompt indication of any increase in gas monitored (or any decrease for oxygen) is of paramount importance – loud and bright alarms are effective in raising the alarm to the user. 

Risk assessment 

Risk assessment is critical, as you need to be aware of the environment that you are entering and thus working in. Therefore, understanding the applications and identifying the risks regarding all safety aspects. Focusing on gas monitoring, as part of the risk assessment, you need to be clear on what gases may be present.  

Fit for purpose 

There is a variety of applications within the water treatment process, giving the need to monitor multiple gases, including carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, chlorine, methane, oxygen, ozone and chlorine dioxide. Gas detectors are available for single or multiple gas monitoring, making them practical for different applications as well as making sure that, if conditions change (such as sludge is stirred up, causing a sudden increase in hydrogen sulphide and flammable gas levels), the worker is still protected.  

Legislation   

European Commission Directive 2017/164 issued in January 2017, established a new list of indicative occupational exposure limit values (IOELVs). IOELV are health-based, non-binding values, derived from the most recent scientific data available and considering the availability of reliable measurement techniques. The list includes carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, manganese, diacetyl and many other chemicals. The list is based on Council Directive 98/24/EC that considers the protection of the health and safety of workers from the risks related to chemical agents in the workplace. For any chemical agent for which an IOELV has been set at Union level, Member States are required to establish a national occupational exposure limit value. They also are required to take into account the Union limit value, determining the nature of the national limit value in accordance with national legislation and practice. Member States will be able to benefit from a transitional period ending at the latest on 21 August 2023.  

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that each year several workers will suffer from at least one episode of work-related illness. Although, most illnesses are relatively mild cases of gastroenteritis, there is also a risk for potentially fatal diseases, such as leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and hepatitis. Even though these are reported to the HSE, there could be significant under-reporting as there is often failure to recognise the link between illness and work.  

Under domestic law of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees and others. This responsibility is reinforced by regulations. 

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 applies where the assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces. These regulations contain the following key duties: 

  • Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g., by doing the work from the outside. 
  • If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work.
  • Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take. 

Our solutions

Elimination of these gas hazards is virtually impossible, so permanent workers and contractors must depend on reliable gas detection equipment to protect them. Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Our portable gas detectors protect against a wide range of gas hazards, these include T4x, Clip SGD, Gasman, Tetra 3,Gas-Pro, T4 and Detective+. Our fixed gas detectors are used in many applications where reliability, dependability and lack of false alarms are instrumental to efficient and effective gas detection, these include Xgard, Xgard Bright and IRmax. Combined with a variety of our fixed detectors, our gas detection control panels offer a flexible range of solutions that measure flammable, toxic and oxygen gases, report their presence and activate alarms or associated equipment, for the wastewater industry our panels include Gasmaster.    

To find out more on the gas hazards in wastewater and water treatment visit our industry page for more information.  

Construction and Key Gas Challenges

Workers in the construction industry are at risk from a wide variety of hazardous gases including Carbon Monoxide (CO), Chlorine Dioxide (CLO2), Methane (CH4), Oxygen (O2), Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). 

Through the use of specific equipment, transport and the undertaking of sector specific activities, construction is a main contributor to the emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere, which also means construction personnel are more at risk of ingestion of these toxic contaminants. 

Gas challenges can be found in a variety of applications including building material storage, confined spaces, welding, trenching, land clearing and demolition. Ensuring the protection of workers within the construction industry from the multitude of hazards they may encounter is very important. With a specific focus on safeguarding teams from harm by, or the consumption of, toxic, flammable and poisonous gases. 

Gas Challenges 

Confined Space Entry 

Workers are more at risk from hazardous gases and fumes when they are operating within confined spaces.  Those entering these spaces need to be protected from the presence of flammable or/and toxic gases such as Volatile Organic Compounds (ppm VOC), Carbon Monoxide (ppm CO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (ppm NO2). Undertaking clearance measurements and pre-entry safety checks are paramount to ensure safety before a worker enters the space. Whilst in confined spaces gas detection equipment must be worn ongoingly in case of environmental shifts which make the space no longer safe to work in, due to a leak for example, and evacuation is needed. 

Trenching and Shoring 

During excavation works, such as trenching and shoring, construction workers are at risk of inhaling harmful gases generated by degradable materials present in certain ground types. If undetected, as well as posing risks to the construction workforce, they can also migrate through subsoil and cracks into the completed building and harm housing residents. Trenched areas can also have reduced oxygen levels, as well as contain toxic gases and chemicals. In these cases atmospheric testing should be performed in excavations that exceed four feet. There is also the risk of hitting utility lines when digging which can cause natural gas leaks and lead to worker fatalities. 

Building Material Storage  

Many of the materials used within construction can release toxic compounds (VOC’s). These can form in a variety of states (solid or liquid) and come from materials such as adhesives, natural and plywood’s, paint, and building partitions. Pollutants include phenol, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. When ingested, workers can suffer from nausea, headaches, asthma, cancer and even death. VOCs are specifically dangerous when consumed within confined spaces, due to the risk of asphyxiation or explosion. 

Welding and Cutting 

Gases are produced during the welding and cutting process, including carbon dioxide from the decomposition of fluxes, carbon monoxide from the breakdown of carbon dioxide shielding gas in arc welding, as well as ozone, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen chloride and phosgene from other processes. Fumes are created when a metal is heated above its boiling point and then its vapours condense into fine particles, known as solid particulates. These fumes are obviously a hazard for those working in the sector and  illustrate the importance of reliable gas detection equipment to reduce exposure. 

Health and Safety Standards 

Organisations working in the construction sector can prove their credibility and safety operationally by gaining ISO certification. ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certification is split across multiple different certificates, all of which recognise varying elements of safety, efficiency and quality within an organisation. Standards cover best practice across safety, healthcare, transportation, environmental management and family. 

Although not a legal requirement, ISO standards are widely recognised as making the construction industry a safer sector by establishing global design and manufacturing definitions for almost all processes. They outline specifications for best practice and safety requirements within the construction industry from the ground up. 

In the UK, other recognised safety certifications include the NEBOSH, IOSH and CIOB courses which all offer varied health and safety training for those in the sector to further their understanding of working safely in their given field.  

To find out more on the gas challenges in construction visit our industry page for more information. 

Industry Overview: Battery Power

Batteries are effective at reducing power outages since they can also store excess traditional grid energy. The energy stored within batteries can be released whenever a large volume of power is needed, such as during a power failure at a data centre to prevent data being lost, or as a back-up power supply to a hospital or military application to ensure the continuity of vital services. Large scale batteries can also be used to plug short-term gaps in demand from the grid. These battery compositions can also be used in smaller sizes to power electric cars and may be further scaled down to power commercial products, such as phones, tablets, laptops, speakers and – of course – personal gas detectors.

Applications include battery storage, transportation and welding and can be segregated into four main categories: Chemical – e.g., ammonia, hydrogen, methanol and synthetic fuel, electrochemical – lead acid, lithium ion, Na-Cd, Na-ion, electrical – supercapacitors, superconductive magnetic storage and Mechanical – compressed air, pumped hydro, gravity.

Gas Hazards

Li-ion battery fires

A major concern arises when static electricity or a faulty charger damages the battery protection circuit. This damage can result in fusing the solid-state switches into an ON position, without the user knowing. A battery with a faulty protection circuit may function normally, however, may not provide protection from short circuit. A gas detection system can establish if there is a fault and may be used in a feedback loop to shut off power, seal the space and release an inert gas (such as nitrogen) into the area to prevent any fire or explosion.

Leakage of toxic gases prior to thermal runaway

Thermal runaway of lithium-metal and lithium-ion cells has resulted in several fires. With research showing that fires fuelled by flammable gases are vented from the batteries during thermal runaway. The electrolyte in a lithium-ion battery is flammable and generally contains lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6) or other Li-salts containing fluorine. In the event of overheating, the electrolyte will evaporate and eventually be vented out from the battery cells. Researchers have found that commercial lithium-ion batteries can emit considerable amounts of hydrogen fluoride (HF) during a fire, and that emission rates vary for different types of battery and state of-charge (SOC) levels. Hydrogen fluoride can penetrate skin to affect deep skin tissue and even bone and blood. Even with minimal exposure, pain and symptoms may not present for several hours, by which time damage is extreme.

Hydrogen and explosion risk

With hydrogen fuel cells gaining popularity as alternatives to fossil fuel, it is important to be aware of the dangers of hydrogen. Like all fuels, hydrogen is highly flammable and if it leaks there is real risk of fire. Traditional lead acid batteries produce hydrogen when they are being charged. These batteries are normally charged together, sometimes in the same room or area, which can generate an explosion risk, especially if the room is not properly ventilated. Most hydrogen applications cannot use odorants for safety, as hydrogen disperses faster than odorants do. There are applicable safety standards for hydrogen fuelling stations, whereby appropriate protective gear is required for all workers. This includes personal detectors, capable of detecting ppm level hydrogen as well as %LEL level. The default alarm levels are set at 20% and 40% LEL which is 4% volume, but some applications may wish to have a custom PPM range and alarm levels to pick up hydrogen accumulations quickly.

To find out more on the dangers of gas hazards in battery power visit our industry page for more information.

The Dangers of Gas in Farming and Agriculture 

Farming and agriculture is a colossal industry the world over, providing more than 44 million jobs in the EU and making up over 10% of total US employment. 

With a wide range of processes involved in this sector, there are bound to be hazards that must be considered. These include gas hazards from the likes of methane, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. 

Methane is a colourless, odourless gas which can have harmful effects on humans resulting in slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea and in extreme cases can impact breathing and heartrate, potentially leading to unconsciousness and even death. In agricultural environments, it is created through anaerobic digestion of organic material, such as manure. The amount of methane generated is exacerbated in areas which are poorly ventilated or high in temperature, and in areas with particular lack of airflow, the gas can build up, become trapped and cause explosions. 

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas which is naturally produced in the atmosphere, levels of which can be heightened by agricultural processes. CO2 can be emitted by a range of farming process including crop and livestock production and is also emitted by some equipment which is used in agricultural applications. Storage spaces used for waste and grain and sealed silos are of particular concern due to the capacity for CO2 to build up and displace oxygen, increasing suffocation risk for both animals and humans alike. 

Similarly, to methane, hydrogen sulphide comes from the anaerobic decomposition of organic material and can also be found in a range of agricultural processes relating to the production and consumption of biogas. H2S prevents oxygen from being carried to our vital organs and areas where it builds up often have reduced oxygen concentrations, furthering the risk of asphyxiation where H2S levels are high. Whilst it could be considered easier to detect due its distinct ‘rotten egg’ smell, the intensity of the smell actually decreases at higher concentrations and prolonged exposure. At high levels, H2S can cause severe irritation of, and fluid build-up in the lungs and impact the nervous system. 

Ammonia (NH3) is a gas found in animal waste which is often then spread and emitted further through slurry spreading on agricultural land. As with many of the gases covered, the impact of ammonia is heightened when there is a lack of ventilation. It is harmful to the wellbeing of both livestock and humans, causing respiratory diseases in animals whilst high levels can lead to burns and swelling of the airways and lung damage in humans and can be fatal. 

Nitrogen oxide (NO2) is another gas to be aware of in the agriculture and farming industry. It is present in synthetic fertilisers which are often used in more intensive farming practices to ensure greater crop yields. The potential negative health impacts of NO2 in humans include reduced lung function, internal bleeding, and ongoing respiratory problems.  

Workers in this industry are frequently on the move, and for this specific purpose Crowcon offers a wide range of fixed and portable gas detectors to keep workers safe. Crowcon’s portable range comprises T4, Gas-Pro, Clip SGD and Gasman all of which offer reliable, transportable detection capacities for a variety of gases. Our fixed gas detectors are used where reliability, dependability and lack of false alarms are instrumental to efficient and effective protection of assets and areas, and include the Xgard and Xgard Bright. Combined with a variety of our fixed detectors, our gas detection control panels offer a flexible range of solutions that measure flammable, toxic and oxygen gases, report their presence and activate alarms or associated equipment, for the farming and agriculture industry we often recommend our Gasmaster, Vortex and Addressable Controllers panels.

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

Did you know about the Sprint Pro Room Safety Tester?

If you have a Sprint Pro, you can quickly and easily check a room for carbon monoxide (CO) and (with some models) carbon dioxide (CO2), with no need for extra equipment. In this blog we’ll look at the Sprint Pro’s room safety function, and how to use it. 

What does the room safety function look for? 

All models of the Sprint Pro flue gas analyser/combustion analyzer have a room safety setting that lets heating engineers measure the proportion of CO in the air. This is obviously for safety reasons: CO is a highly toxic, potentially lethal, gas hazard – and heating systems (in particular, faulty boilers) are a major source of risk. We’ve written more about the dangers of CO for HVAC in another blog post: click here to read it 

The room safety test looks for possible leaks of gas into the room, or build up within it – perhaps from a faulty appliance.  

If you have a Sprint Pro 4 or Sprint Pro 5, your device is also fitted with a direct infrared CO2 sensor, which means you can detect CO2. as well as CO. While many people think of CO2 as a harmless gas that puts the fizz into sodas and beer, it’s actually very toxic and poses particular danger in sectors like brewing, hospitality and catering. Click here to read more about the hazards of CO2 

How to run a Sprint Pro room safety test  

Most countries set exposure limits for CO and CO2, and before running any room safety test you should refer to local regulations. These should set out the parameters and methods required for CO/CO2room safety testing in your region.  

Running the test is quite straightforward. Select room safety from the menu and zero the device if necessary (if the device has already been zeroed it will move straight on to display the next menu). When the room safety menu is displayed, choose the relevant appliance from the list, connect the probe to your Sprint Pro (if required) and place the device at an appropriate height – you may need a tripod. Press the soft forward arrow key to start the test.  

Full details of how to conduct an interpret the room safety test can be found on page 20 and in Appendix 1 of the current Sprint Pro manual: click here for a pdf copy. 

The test will run for a period of time determined by the appliance type, and will give the current, peak and permitted levels of CO (and CO2 if you are testing for that). The Sprint Pro doesn’t let you print or save the results until you have completed at least the minimum period required, and if your findings approach or exceed the permitted level you will be offered a chance to repeat the procedure. 

Of course, some of these tests run for extended periods (fifteen minutes and more), and if there are high levels of CO around, waiting for the test to finish could be dangerous. Don’t worry, because the Sprint Pro has you covered for that as well: if dangerous levels are detected it will sound an audible alarm so that you can leave the area.  

Things to remember when room safety testing with a Sprint Pro 

Please bear in mind that, like any analyser, the Sprint Pro acts in an advisory capacity only and in some circumstances – for example, where results are not clear-cut – the Sprint Pro will ask you as the engineer to declare the test a pass or fail, and will record that decision. Ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure any room safety test is correctly performed, in line with local regulations. If the data does not support the result, or if you think it may be wrong or unreliable (for example, due to the presence of cigarette smoke or vehicle exhaust fume), then you must repeat the test and/or seek expert advice. 

An Introduction to the Marine Industry

The marine sector is a global industry and is wide ranging in terms of its applications and different types of vessels including FPSO vessels, ferries and submarines. 

The type of gas hazards that will be present, and subsequently the gas detection requirements, are heavily dependent on the application and the type of marine vessel being used. In this blog we’ll take a look at some of the most common gas hazards within the marine industry and in which applications they are most likely to occur. 

Floating Production, Storage, Offloading Units and Tankers 

Floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) units, which are used in the production, processing and storage of oil, are home to many potential gas hazards. 

Firstly, there is the risk of fire and explosion hazards, which can lead to catastrophic damage and loss of life.  Combustible gas risks that may be present include methane, hydrogen, propane, LPG, solvents and gasoline fumes among others. Due to this risk, flammable gas detection is essential on FPSO vessels.  

FPSO units also have confined spaces in the form of inverted tanks or voids, meaning oxygen detectors are a must for these areas to protect from the risks of oxygen depletion which can cause mental confusion, nausea, weakness and in extreme cases loss of consciousness and death. 

Ferries 

Whilst ferries may not be home to as many gas hazards as other vessels, there are certainly still some to be aware of. On vehicle carrying ferries, for example, there may be a large build-up of emissions from vehicle exhausts which contain harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Both gases are capable of causing damage to human health, causing issues such as nausea, confusion and disorientation, inflammation of the airways and increased vulnerability to respiratory infection. 

Submarines 

Submarines may be used for a variety of purposes including salvage and exploration operations, marine science and facility inspection and maintenance. On these vessels there may be a requirement for hydrogen detection in battery storage rooms. Whilst hydrogen is a non-toxic gas, if it builds up in environments without sufficient airflow it can displace oxygen in the air leading to risk of oxygen depletion. 

Our solutions 

Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Our portable gas detectors protect people against a wide range of gas hazards, and include T4xGas-ProT4 and Gas-Pro TK. Our fixed gas detectors are used where reliability, dependability and lack of false alarms are instrumental to efficient and effective protection of assets and areas. Now available through Crowcon, the Sensitron SMART S-MS MED fixed detector has been designed specifically for use in marine environments. The SMART S-MS MED is fully marine certified by Lloyd’s Register in accordance with MED/3.54 Regulation whilst also being SIL-2 certified. Also available is the Multiscan++MED control panel, also MED and SIL-2 certified, able to manage and monitor up to 64 gas detectors. 

To find out more on the gas hazards in the marine sector visit our industry page for more information.

Gas Hazards in Water Treatment

Water is vital to our daily lives, both for personal and domestic use and industrial/commercial applications. It is everywhere, promoting some chemical reactions and inhibiting others. Being used to clean surfaces, carry chemicals to where they are used and to carry unwanted chemicals away. Do anything and you create a gas somewhere in some quantity. Do anything with water there are so many permutations of things that can come together and react, dissolved gases that can come out of solution, dissolved liquids and solids that can react to generate gases. Additionally, you must determine what gases you generate when you collect, clean, store, transport or use water. Gas detectors must be chosen to suit the specific environment in which they operate, in this case highly humid, often dirty, but rarely outside the temperature range 4 to 30 degrees C. All the risks are present in these complex environments, with multiple toxic and flammable gas hazards and often the additional risk of oxygen depletion.

Gas Hazards

Apart from common gas hazards known in the industry; methane, hydrogen sulphide, and oxygen, there are bi-product gas hazards and cleaning material gas hazards that occur from purifying chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine, chlorine dioxide or ozone that are used in the decontamination of the waste and effluent water, or to remove microbes from clean water. There is great potential for many toxic or explosive gases to exist as a result of the chemicals used in the water industry. And added to these are chemicals that may be spilled or dumped into the waste system from industry, farming or building work.

Chlorine (Cl2) gas appears yellow green in colour, used to sterilise drinking water. However, most chlorine is used in the chemical industry with typical applications including water treatment as well as within the plastics and cleaning agents. Chlorine gas can be recognised by its pungent, irritating odour, which is like the odour of bleach. The strong smell may provide adequate warning to people that they are exposed. Cl2 itself is not flammable, but it can react explosively or form flammable compounds with other chemicals such as turpentine and ammonia.

Ammonia (NH3) is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen and is a colourless and pungent gas, also known to be highly soluble when in contact with water. This means that NH3 dissolves quickly into the water supply. Found at very low levels in humans and in nature. It is also often used in some household cleaning solutions. Although NH3 has many benefits, it can be corrosive and dangerous in certain circumstances. Ammonia can enter wastewater from several different sources, including urine, manure, cleaning chemicals, process chemicals and amino acid products. If NH3 enters a copper piping system, it can cause extensive corrosion. If NH3 enters water, its toxicity varies depending on the exact pH of the water. It is possible for ammonia to break down into ammonium ions, which can react with other compounds present.

Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is an oxidising gas commonly used to disinfect drinking water. When used in very small quantities, it is safe and does not lead to significant health risks. But ClO2 is a strong disinfectant that kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and when used in high doses, it can be dangerous to people since it can damage red blood cells and the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Ozone (O3) is a gas with an antiseptic smell and no colour that, mostly, forms naturally in the environment. When inhaled, ozone can have a range of harmful effects on the body. As it is colourless gas it is difficult to trace without an effective detection system in place. Even when relatively small amounts are inhaled, the gas can have a damaging impact on the respiratory tract, causing inflammation and chest pain, alongside coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation. It can also act as a trigger causing diseases such as asthma to worsen.

Confined Space Entry

The pipelines used to transport water require regular cleaning and safety checks; during these operations, portable multi-gas monitors are used to protect the workforce. Pre-entry checks must be completed prior to entering any confined space and commonly O2, CO, H2S and CH4 are monitored. Confined spaces are small, so portable monitors must be compact and unobtrusive for the user, yet able to withstand the wet and dirty environments in which they must perform. Clear and prompt indication of any increase in gas monitored (or any decrease for oxygen) is of paramount importance – loud and bright alarms are effective in raising the alarm to the user.

Legislation

European Commission Directive 2017/164 established an increased list of indicative occupational exposure limit values (IOELVs). IOELV are health-based, non-binding values, derived from the most recent scientific data available and considering the availability of reliable measurement techniques. Non-binding but best practice. The list includes carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, manganese, diacetyl and many other chemicals. The list is based on Council Directive 98/24/EC that considers the protection of the health and safety of workers from the risks related to chemical agents in the workplace. For any chemical agent for which an IOELV has been set at Union level, Member States are required to establish a national occupational exposure limit value. They also are required to take into account the Union limit value, determining the nature of the national limit value in accordance with national legislation and practice. Member States will be able to benefit from a transitional period ending at the latest on 21 August 2023.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that each year several workers will suffer from at least one episode of work-related illness. Although, most illnesses are relatively mild cases of gastroenteritis, there is also a risk for potentially fatal diseases, such as leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and hepatitis. Even though these are reported to the HSE, there could be significant under-reporting as there is often failure to recognise the link between illness and work.

Under domestic law of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees and others. This responsibility is reinforced by regulations.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 applies where the assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces. These regulations contain the following key duties:

  • Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g., by doing the work from the outside.
  • If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work.
  • Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

Our solution

Elimination of these gas hazards is virtually impossible, so permanent workers and contractors must depend on reliable gas detection equipment to protect them. Gas detection can be provided in both fixed and portable forms. Our portable gas detectors protect people against a wide range of gas hazards, and include T4x, Clip SGD, Gasman, Tetra 3, Gas-Pro, T4 and Detective+. Our fixed gas detectors are used where reliability, dependability and lack of false alarms are instrumental to efficient and effective protection of assets and areas, and include the Xgard, Xgard Bright and IRmax product ranges. Combined with a variety of our fixed detectors, our gas detection control panels offer a flexible range of solutions that measure flammable, toxic and oxygen gases, report their presence and activate alarms or associated equipment, for the wastewater industry we often recommend our Gasmaster panel.

To find out more on the gas hazards in wastewater visit our industry page for more information.