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 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.

The Dangers of Gas Exposure in Wineries

Wineries face a unique set of challenges when it comes to safeguarding workers from the potential harm caused by hazardous gases. Gas exposure has the potential to occur at every stage of the wine production process, from the moment that the grapes arrive at the winery facility, through to the fermentation and bottling activities. Care must be taken at each stage to ensure that workers are not exposed to unnecessary risk. There are several specific environments within the winery facility that pose a risk of gas leakage and exposure, including fermentation rooms, pits, barrel cellars, sumps, storage tanks and bottling rooms. The main gas hazards that are found during the winemaking process are carbon dioxide, and oxygen displacement, but also hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, ethyl alcohol and carbon monoxide.

What are the Gas Hazards?

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)

Hydrogen sulphide is a gas that can be present during the fermentation process. It is more commonly present in damp conditions where bacterial action has acted on natural oils. It hides dissolved in standing water until disturbed. The most dangerous occurrence is when cleaning a confined space e.g., a tank where released gases cannot easily escape. A pre-entry check comes up clean, and the standing water is then disturbed upon entry. The risks associated with H2S are that it is potentially hazardous to health, upsetting breathing patterns. Hydrogen sulphide poses severe respiratory risks, even at a relatively low concentration in the air. The gas is very easily and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lung tissue, which means it is distributed throughout the whole body very quickly.

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)

Sulphur Dioxide is a natural by-product of fermentation, but it is also commonly used as an additive in the process of organic wine making. Extra SO2 is added during the wine making process in order to prevent the growth of any undesirable yeast and microbes within the wine. Sulphur dioxide can be highly hazardous to health and is a highly toxic gas, causing numerous irritations in the body upon contact. Sulphur dioxide is a gas that can cause irritation to the airways, nose, and throat. Workers who are exposed to high levels of sulphur dioxide may experience vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, and irritation or corrosive damage to the lungs and airways.

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol)

Ethanol is the main alcoholic product of organic wine fermentation. It helps to maintain the flavour of the wine and stabilizes the aging process. Ethanol is created during fermentation as the yeast converts sugar from the grapes. Wine typically contains somewhere between 7% and 15% ethanol, which gives the drink its alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage. The amount of ethanol actually produced depends on the sugar content of the grapes, the fermentation temperature, and the type of yeast that is used. Ethanol is a colourless and odourless liquid that gives off flammable and potentially hazardous fumes. The fumes given off by ethanol or ethyl alcohol can irritate the airways and lungs if inhaled, with the possibility of intense coughing and choking.

Where are the dangers?

Open Fermentation Tanks

Any worker whose job involves carrying out operations over an open fermentation vessel or tank may be at a high risk of gas exposure, especially to CO2, or oxygen depletion. It has been shown that a worker who leans over the top of an open fermenter during full production, even though they may be as much as 10 feet off the ground, can potentially be exposed to 100% CO2. Therefore, particular care and attention to gas detection should be taken in these areas.

Exposure Due To Inadequate Ventilation

The fermentation process needs to take place in environments that are well ventilated to avoid the build-up of toxic and asphyxiant gases. Fermentation rooms, tank rooms, and cellars are all places that may pose a risk. During cold weather or night-time, increased levels of gas may build up as door and window vents may be shut.

Confined Spaces

Confined spaces such as pits and sumps are often problematic and well known for the potential build-up of hazardous gases. The definition of a confined space in a winery is one that contains, or may contain, a hazardous atmosphere, has the potential for engulfment by material, or an entrant to the environment may become trapped or asphyxiated.

Multiple Units

As a winery grows and expands their operations, they may want to add new production units to meet the demand. However, it is important to remember that potential gas exposure risks differ between environments, e.g., the gas risk in a fermentation cellar is not the same as a barrel room. Therefore, different types of gas detectors may be needed in different areas.

For more information about gas detection solutions for wineries, or to ask further questions get in touch today.

Did you know about the Sprint Pro’s Ambient Air Monitor?

You probably know that the Sprint Pro has a host of useful functions, but have you ever scrolled through the menu of your Sprint Pro, found the ambient air monitor and wondered how you could use it?  

Well, you need wonder no longer – because in this post we will look at the Sprint Pro ambient air monitor and its uses.

Who needs to carry out ambient air monitoring? 

As a gas engineer, your need for ambient air monitoring may vary according to the type of work you do, but if you specialise in Carbon monoxide (CO)/Carbon dioxide (CO2) detection – for example, if you have CMDDA1 certification for dwellings or undertake COMCAT (commercial catering) reports in the UK, or have equivalent domestic or catering CO/CO2) certification elsewhere in the world – you will probably find this function very useful.  

How does ambient air monitoring work? 

In general terms, ambient air monitoring is simply the measurement of pollutants in the atmosphere, but in a gas detection context it refers to analysis of how much carbon monoxide is in the air.  

In some cases, the level of CO2 is also measured. The Sprint Pro 4 and Sprint Pro 6 both have a direct CO2 infrared sensor fitted, therefore they can measure both CO and CO2.

Ambient air monitoring may be carried out anywhere that CO and/or CO2 present a risk. For example, to detect CO leakages in the home (perhaps from a boiler), or to monitor CO2 levels in commercial catering premises.  

With the Sprint Pro, ambient air monitoring is carried out over a given time period, which may be anything from a few minutes to several days, during which time the analyser samples the ambient air at intervals of between one and thirty minutes. At the end of the test, the device gives readings for the current, peak and whole-test average rates for both CO and CO2. You can save these directly to your log and/or print them out as paper reports. 

Even when it comes to report printing, the Sprint Pro gives you options, so you can print as much or little of the relevant information as you need. This can be very handy when you have just taken literally hundreds of samples over a 7-day period! 

Ambient air monitoring for CO is available on all Sprint Pro models 

Why do I need ambient air monitoring functionality? 

Regardless of specialist certification, having the capacity to analyse ambient air is increasingly useful to HVAC professionals and gas engineers. This is particularly true in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the benefits of fresh air and good indoor ventilation have been highlighted. Excessive CO and CO2 are threats to both human and environmental health, and with growing awareness of this, and sustainability becoming an increasingly important social/political/policy topic, the need to quantify and measure them is likely to increase. 

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. 

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.

Where do Flue Gas Analysers Fit into the UK Government’s Decarbonisation Plans?

When the UK government announced, in March 2021, that £1 billion of already-allocated funds would be redirected to projects designed to reduce greenhouse gases, the energy sector sat up and listened. And with good reason – as it turned out, £171 million will be allocated to an industrial decarbonisation plan that focuses on hydrogen gas generation and carbon capture and storage technologies.  

However, the news extended beyond green energy production and is relevant to domestic and industrial HVAC applications. In a gesture that reflects the role HVAC engineers and manufacturers can play in sustainability, more than £900 million will be spent upgrading public buildings, like schools and hospitals, with greener fittings such as heat pumps, solar panels and insulation, which will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

But where does this leave the individual households and business units that many HVAC staff visit daily? That is a question that several commentators have asked, and it seems that – for now at least – the main drive to reduce the environmental impact of privately-owned heating and plumbing systems will continue to come from the manufacturers, engineers and installers working in the HVAC sector. 

And that’s quite a responsibility. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2020, there were approximately 27.8 million households in the UK; government statistics from 2019 indicate that around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK (specifically of carbon dioxide, along with methane, F gases and nitrous oxide) came from those residential settings. That’s a lot of excess CO2 to clean up. 

So, what can HVAC people do to help decarbonisation? 

If they have decent equipment, heating engineers and plumbers can help to reduce that figure by 15%. For example, they are well placed to measure CO2 and other greenhouse gases: while most flue gas analysers will measure CO2, some can also measure NO/NOx (for example, the Sprint Pro 5 and Sprint Pro 6) well.  

A flue gas analyser that gives a wide range of easy-to-read and interprets measurements allows engineers to see when appliances are not working correctly and whether an upgrade (for example, to a government-subsidised heat pump) might be in order. 

This is a pressing need: many households hang onto appliances for as long as possible, even though older appliances tend to be much less environmentally friendly than their modern counterparts. This is bad enough for the environment, but using a malfunctioning older appliance is the worst of all possible outcomes. 

A good flue gas analyser will provide the readings required to convince many customers to decarbonise their homes or businesses more effectively. It will also allow the engineer to fix many problems in more modern and efficient appliances, bringing them back to their original operating standards and protecting the planet once more. 

Helping to reach net zero 

In late 2021, the UK government set out its plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and every heating engineer in the country has a part to play in that project. While checking flue gases may be an everyday event for many HVAC engineers, the fact remains that household and business emissions account for a substantial proportion of CO2 output and emissions of other dangerous gases. While persuading a single household to operate with lower carbon emissions may not seem like a big deal, the impact can be very substantial when this is scaled up across the country. 

Green Hydrogen – An Overview

What is Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is one of the most abundant sources of gas contributing approximately 75% of the gas in our solar system. Hydrogen is found in various things including light, water, air, plants, and animals, however, it is often combined with other elements. The most familiar combination is with oxygen to make water. Hydrogen gas is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas which is lighter than air. As it is far lighter than air this means it rises in our atmosphere, meaning it is not naturally found at ground level, but instead must be created. This is done by separating it from other elements and collecting the gas. 

What is Green Hydrogen?

Green hydrogen is produced using electricity to power an electrolyser that separates hydrogen from the water molecule producing oxygen as a by-product. Excess electricity can be used by electrolysis to create hydrogen gas that can be stored for the future. Essentially, if the electricity used to power the electrolysers originates from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro, or if it originates from nuclear power – fission or fusion, then the hydrogen produced is green, in which the only carbon emissions are from those embodied in the generation infrastructure. Electrolysers are the most significant technology used for synthesising zero-carbon hydrogen fuel using renewable energy, known as green hydrogen. Green hydrogen and derivatives are an essential solution to the decarbonisation of heavy industry sectors and experts suggest will constitute up to 25% of total final energy use in a net-zero economy. 

Advantages of Green Hydrogen

It is 100% sustainable as it does not emit polluting gases either through combustion or production. Hydrogen can be easily stored thereby allowing it to be used later for other purposes and/or at the time of production. Green hydrogen can be converted into electricity or synthetic gas and can be used for a variety of domestic, commercial, industrial or mobility purposes. Additionally, hydrogen can be mixed with natural gas at ratio of up to 20% without modification of the gas main infrastructure or gas appliances.  

Disadvantages of Green Hydrogen

Although hydrogen is 100% sustainable it currently comes at a high cost than fossil fuels due to renewable energy being more expensive to produce. The overall production of hydrogen requires more energy than some other fuels, so unless the electricity required to produce hydrogen comes from a renewable source the entire process of production may be counterproductive. Additionally, hydrogen is a highly flammable gas, therefore extensive safety measures are essential to prevent leakage and explosions. 

What is The Green Hydrogen Catapult (GHC) and what does it aim to achieve? 

Members of the Green Hydrogen Catapult (GHC) are a coalition of leaders with an ambition to expand and grow Green Hydrogen Development. As of November 2021, they have announced a commitment for 45 GW of electrolysers to be developed with secured financing by 2026 with additional targeted commissioning for 2027. This is a vastly increased ambition as the initial target set by the coalition at the time of its launch in December 2020 was 25 GW. Green hydrogen has been seen as a critical element in creating a sustainable energy future as well as being one of the largest business opportunities in recent times. And has been said to be the key to allowing for the decarbonisation of sectors like steel manufacturing, shipping, and aviation.  

Why Hydrogen is seen as a cleaner future?

We live in a world in which one of the collective sustainability aims is to decarbonise the fuel we use by 2050. To achieve this, decarbonising the production of a significant fuel source like hydrogen, giving rise to green hydrogen, is one of the key strategies as production of non-green hydrogen is currently responsible for more than 2 % of total global CO2 emissions. During combustion, chemical bonds are broken and constituent elements combined with oxygen. Traditionally, Methane gas has been the natural gas of choice with 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s electricity depending on natural gas. Methane is a cleaner fuel than coal, however, when it is burnt carbon dioxide is produced as a waste product which, on entering the atmosphere, starts contributing to climate change. Hydrogen Gas when burnt only produces water vapour as a waste product, which has no global warming potential. 

The UK Government have seen the use of hydrogen as a fuel and hence hydrogen homes as a way forward for a greener way of living, and have set a target for a thriving hydrogen economy by 2030. Whilst Japan, South Korea and China are on course to make considerable progress in hydrogen economy development with targets set to surpass the UK by 2030. Similarly, the European Commission has presented a hydrogen strategy in which hydrogen could support 24% of Europe’s energy by 2050.