The varied range of applications and processes within the steel sector create a variety of potentially dangerous levels of gases, including sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen depletion.
With the release and presence of so many hazardous gases, alongside the dust and hot working conditions the steel sector is rife with gas related hazards, specifically in furnace areas, pits, and underground walkways.
In order to remain abreast of the toxic and explosive gases present in steel environments, gas detection equipment should be implemented to keep teams safe and aware of the dangers as they arise and fluctuate. Accurate monitoring can also help avoid detector contamination, false alarms, and reduce downtime. Reliable gas detection also ensures compliance with the required occupational exposure limits.
Within the steel sector confined space entry is a considerable risk to workers, with individuals having to navigate crawl spaces, service hatches and inspection points which present serious hazards. Personal gas detectors and monitors are required as oxygen poses multiple dangers, especially if it is deficient. This is because when oxygen is enriched things combust more easily, and will burn hotter and more fiercely. As a result, extinguishing a flame in these types of environments can be almost impossible.
Within the secondary process of steel manufacture, oxygen depletion is again a risk, as is the release of toxic sulphur and carbon, nitrogen and argon. In small concentrations CO₂ is a natural part of the breathing air. In higher concentrations, it displaces the oxygen present in the environment and means spaces are no longer safe to work within.
Grainy ferrous dust is generated through the grinding of metals and non-ferrous metals in steel production. This needs to be removed from the air as it can prevent the gas requiring detection from reaching the resident detector. Whenever any metal particles become present in the air, irrespective of how they are produced, it is a real hazard in terms of ensuring accurate gas detection. Utilising removable filters, that are able to be cleaned and replaced, will ensure that the gas has a clear path to the sensor.
One of the biggest risks within the steel sector is the risks posed through the production of carbon monoxide (CO). During the smelting process the gas mixture leaves the furnace at the temperature of 200 degrees celsius. 20% of this mixture is CO, and, even a few breaths of high concentrations of this gas can severely impact health, causing heart and nervous system damage. Therefore it is important for gas detection apparatus to be implemented within this environment.
In the US, the EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are the agencies primarily responsible for regulating the iron and steel sector.
The UK standards governing gas safety within this industry were established in 1998 and are entitled the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations.
The European Union standards EN 19694-2 Stationary Source Emissions, governs Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in energy-intensive industries, in which the second part relates to the iron and steel industry. The regulations offer guidance and best practice on calculating GHG emissions and performance in the sector, as well as provide standardised measuring, testing and quantifying methods, assessment levels and reporting processes for companies to adhere to. The standard focuses strongly on the direct and indirect CO2 emissions produced in steel facilities, which it measures through CO2 impact, so as to evaluate the total emission produced.