How to Protect Your Employees from Danger Using Hazardous Area Gas Sensors

Working with hazardous gases, flammable gases, and toxic gases can become dangerous extremely quickly. Hazardous area industries often include petroleum extraction sites, refineries, natural gas processing, and other inherently hazardous environments. 

The Dangers of Hazardous Areas

Gas leaks and other unintended contamination can result in explosive consequences, physical harm, and the risk of fire. In confined spaces, many hazardous gases can even asphyxiate workers in the vicinity by displacing oxygen, which results in death. All of these outcomes jeopardize employee safety and the safety of equipment and property. And it can open up your company to liability, costly court judgments, and regulatory fines. Hazardous area gas sensors are essential for workplace safety for many industries. 

Fixed and portable gas detection systems can alert employees to a problem. And early detection provides crucial time to evacuate the areas and address the underlying problem. These extra seconds can often help to avert a major disaster or minimize the effects of flammable gas leaks or exposure. 

How Hazardous Area Gas Sensors Can Help

Hazardous area gas sensors can detect a range of different dangerous, flammable, and toxic gases. Some of these gases include:

  • Natural Gas: Natural gas is increasingly used for industrial and commercial applications since many consider it the safest and cleanest fossil fuel. While it is non-toxic, natural gas can cause death by suffocation as it displaces oxygen. It is also naturally odorless, colorless, and tasteless. These attributes make natural gas very difficult to detect. Because of its dangers, natural gas often has additives that give it a pungent smell so that humans have some way to alert them of its presence. Even in low concentrations, natural gas causes harmful physical effects. It can result in disorientation and incapacitation. And when it burns, it emits carbon monoxide, which is frequently referred to as the ‘silent killer’. This name comes from the fact that carbon monoxide is odorless. 
  • Hydrocarbons: Hydrocarbons are organic compounds used for combustion and energy sources, transport fuels, solvents, lubricants, and other uses. Common hydrocarbons include methane, ethane, propane, butane, and pentanes, among others. Hydrocarbons are toxic gases that can result in not only severe physical ailments when inhaled, but can cause explosions that can be very dangerous.  
  • Hydrogen Sulfide: Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas known for its distinct ‘rotten egg’ odor. It is highly flammable and toxic. Hydrogen sulfide is frequently found in oil and gas refining, mining, and other commercial processing applications. It also occurs naturally in sewers and wells. It is heavier than air, meaning it can collect in low-lying and enclosed spaces. Because of the dangers of this gas, working in confined spaces can be very dangerous. Hydrogen sulfide is dangerous even at low concentrations. Its effects range from mild headaches and eye irritation to very serious, including unconsciousness and even death.

This list includes just a few of the many types of hazardous gases, flammable gases, and toxic gases encountered across industrial applications. Hazardous area gas sensors can alert users of the presence of many of these dangerous gases, helping them to secure the area and enhance safety quickly. 

Types of Hazardous Area Gas Sensors

There are several types of hazardous area gas sensors, each of which has distinct advantages depending upon its intended use. 

  • Portable Gas Detectors: Companies like Blackline Safety create portable gas detectors. Portable gas detectors have sensors to detect a wide range of hazardous industrial gases. With many types of detectors offering distinct features, you can be sure to find the right solution for your portable gas detection needs. These detectors can be found in options that simultaneously detect single or multiple gases. They are incredibly effective at detecting gas in potentially hazardous locations. Unlike fixed gas detection systems, they can be taken to different locations depending on the need and the specific type of gas present. 
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Fixed gas detection systems provide continuous, ongoing monitoring that benefits areas at high risk of developing an explosive atmosphere or suffering from a leak or other threat of hazardous gas accumulation. Fixed systems can detect flammable and toxic gases. They then report their presence and activate corresponding alarms to alert staff. These fixed detectors use different protective and communication technologies that can hold up to many challenging environments. This feature is perfect for detecting hazardous gases since these gases are present in some of the most challenging environments, such as areas of oil and gas exploration, water treatment, and chemical plants. Companies such as Crowcon, Pemtech and Gastronics have many options for fixed systems that are used even in the automotive and aerospace manufacturing sectors.

At the end of the day, both types of systems offer the benefit of detecting dangerous conditions or an explosive atmosphere quickly. And early detection offers many benefits that enhance safety in the workplace. It allows employees to:

  • Leave the area before suffering severe physical harm.
  • Prevent ignition sources from entering an explosive atmosphere.
  • Stop a leak or prevent the additional accumulation of hazardous gases.
  • Identify the type and concentration of the gas, which can allow medical providers and other employees to identify the correct material safety data sheet and administer proper medical care. 
  • Identify an entire zone where the hazardous gas is present and prevent anyone from entering this area. 
  • Activate the proper workplace procedures to vacate the area and address the underlying problem. 

These hazardous area gas detectors provide the extra time most employees need to ensure safety and avert a major disaster that involves the loss of life. It also protects the assets of the company by keeping physical equipment safer and reducing the legal liability and punitive damages that can result from a major disaster. There is no other way to look at it – hazardous area gas detectors keep many workplaces safer and they remain an essential tool for these types of industries.

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