Laboratory Gas Detection
Laboratory Gas Detection Solutions
The laboratory can be a dangerous place. From trip hazards, flammable materials and even bio-hazards. Furthermore, there are many aspects of risk minimisation that need to be considered to create a workplace that is both safe and compliant with health and safety legislation. One particular hazard that is common to many types of laboratory, from the life sciences, to physics research, is the hazards posed by gases.
Gases can be a chemical hazard in themselves, in the case of substances like Chlorine(1) and Nitrogen Oxides(2), which are corrosive and toxic. Therefore, to ensure compliance with COSHH regulations check occupational exposure levels in HSE document EH40 or the supplied MSDS. Even seemingly innocuous gases, like Nitrogen and Argon, which are famous for being chemically inert, can instead pose asphyxiation risks if leaks occur in poorly ventilated places. You must also consult ACOPs published by bodies such as the British Compressed Gases Association.
Another category of risk posed by gases used in laboratories is the explosion/flammability risk. Gases are typically stored in pressurised cylinders, and improper handling can lead to cylinder damage with sudden pressure discharge and explosions.(3) Any small spark from electrical equipment like vacuum gauges or hot surfaces can be sufficient to trigger a fire. Remember also that an Oxygen leak causing localised Oxygen enrichment will multiply the flammability risk many times over.
Furthermore certain gases also pose a toxic hazard for example, Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). Toxic gases have Short Term Exposure Limits (STEL) of 15 minutes and Long Term Exposure Limits (LTEL) of 8 Hours. Toxic gas occupational exposure levels can be found on both the HSE EH 40 (or OSHA for US) or on the supplied MSDS sheets. It is a requirement to ensure employees are not exposed levels that exceed the STEL or LTEL.
These combined risks mean that is very important to be vigilant for gas leaks. In a laboratory setting, this will involve the installation and maintenance of appropriate gas monitors to warn of leaks. Audible and visual alarms will also be required. Multiple alarm types cater for differing user needs. For example a hearing impaired occupant may need to rely on visual alarms. Networked solutions, sometimes termed addressable systems, allow multiple devices as detectors, audible visual alarms and shutdown interlocks to be efficiently installed on one interlinked cable highway. As a result, this minimises cabling costs. At the same time these systems provide continuous integrity checks, quickly alerting to any faults which may go hidden on dated analogue type systems.
Two commonly used gases that pose their own detection and safety challenges are Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide. In Great Britain Carbon Dioxide has been classed as a ‘substances hazardous to health’ since 2002 (4). This means that there are recommended work-space exposure limits for both short and long term exposure. Therefore, in order to ensure worker safety and compliance with exposure limits, the installation of gas monitors is strongly recommended(5). Further to this there is specific guidance from the British Compressed Gas Association for Oxygen Alarm points. Therefore if you are not monitoring the environment for leaks you will struggle to show compliance to COSHH requirements and therefore also the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Furthermore, HSE document EH40 not only lists occupational exposure levels but also the required calculations to determine how long post exposure a person must recover in ‘clean’ air, if exposed to either the short term or long term exposure levels.
Carbon Dioxide Asphyxiant or Toxic?
Many people wrongly assume the main risk of Carbon Dioxide exposure is asphyxiation. People mistakenly believe that, in settings where Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen monitoring are both required; an Oxygen depletion monitor is sufficient to cover both gases. However, doing this is in violation of the safety standard BS EN 60079-29-2:20156, which specifically states that “where carbon dioxide levels need to be monitored for safety reasons, a dedicated CO2 detector must be used”. This is because it is possible to exceed safe CO2 exposure limits still with sufficient oxygen concentrations that an oxygen depletion sensor would not trigger a warning. IGD offer CO2 sensors with a range of 0-5000ppm. This has a number of advantages over the industry standard of 0-5%V/V. For CO2 HSE document EH40 lists a long term 8 hour exposure at 5000ppm (0.5%)and a short term 15 minute exposure at 15,000ppm (1.5%).
Further to this the HSE Document EH40 details the ‘Legally Binding Calculations’ to ensure any person exposed to levels exceeding either the STEL or LTEL; has followed correct recovery protocol and this has been recorded (Health & Safety Commission 2004). This involves calculating to formal methods how long a subject is required to ‘recover’ in clean air based on the level they are exposed to. So long as neither of the above levels are breached occupants remain safe and the requirement to carry out a recovery assessment is not required. Document Building Bulletin BB101 also lists CO2 exposure levels. IGD normal practice is therefore to set alarm levels at:
- Alarm level 1 3500ppm
- Alarm level 2 4500ppm
Both below the lowest legislative level for formal recording and recovery calculation. This means you can detect for leaks before the area becomes hazardous, potentially endangering personnel.
For practical solutions to monitoring, Our networked monitors are an attractive and simple solution that cuts down installation costs by up to 70% compared to the industry standard. As well as providing dedicated gas monitors, we also offer maintenance and calibration services to ensure the best possible accuracy and reliability of monitors.
Want to learn more about our capabilities for the laboratory market? Read our Q&A session here which we conducted with AZONetwork.
Why Choose IGD?
Founded in the UK in 1917, we bring 100 years of experience to the design of networked gas and safety systems. Many of our gas detectors are based upon the 2-Wire safe area addressable gas detection system with detectors for over 400 different gases. This system has a unique design that makes it quick and easy to install and can then be used for continuous gas level monitoring.
These devices utilise addressable technology, which means they can be integrated with additional detectors or networked equipment. This includes devices such as our innovative Room Status Indicators, which can be installed outside the laboratory and have a visual display showing gas concentrations inside the lab and whether or not it is safe to enter. A single status indicator can display the output from up to 8 other detectors and devices. With a colour change RGB display and internal sounder, this is the perfect solution for room entry control with clear unambiguous messages.
The two-wire design for these devices means, you have one two core cable for both power and communication. Minimal cabling but offering maximum flexibility as the detectors themselves also have interface points built in for other devices.
These can include:
- Call points
- analogue signals
- relay interlocks
- and much more.
It also reduces the risk of wiring mistakes as the 2 core cable connection has no specific polarity requirement. Multiple detector monitoring, alarm and interlock solutions can be quickly and efficiently configured. This makes our system especially desirable where it is recommended to have multiple detectors at different heights in the laboratory with audible visual warnings, gas interlocks and secondary monitoring.
The possibilities of devices that can be integrated with the 2-wire detectors are endless. For instance, audible-only alarms may not provide sufficient warning (e.g. in environments where ear protection is required), the detectors can also be integrated with our visual alarms to create safe working areas.
Our Oxygen detectors boast impressive product lifetimes. Industry standard lifetimes for Oxygen sensors may only be 2 years. Due to our use of new technologies, our Oxygen sensors last over five years. Being based on new reliable solid polymer technologies. Added benefits are enhanced reliability and accuracy ensuring freedom from false alarms. Each detector on the system can have its own individual alarms, up to 3 alarm points within its measured range.
With this flexibility it is possible to create networked pre-alarms and main safety alarms. These can be mapped to output devices that can warn of developing hazards as they evolve. Instead just sounding when situations have reached a critical point.
Due to 2-Wire Addressable’s flexibility, it is possible to create networked pre-alarms and main safety alarms. These can be mapped to output devices that can warn of developing hazards as they evolve instead of just sounding when situations have reached a critical point.
Using modern addressable gas detection systems, multiple controllers in an installation can network back to a main display panel (HMI). The main panel not only provides a system overview, but can also data log. This provides up to the minute information with capability to re-transmit over the internet. This makes data not only available on site but to anyone with an internet connection on any device type including, phone, tablet, PC. This provides connectivity 24 hours a day to operators, administrators, service and support people.
In addition to this IGD also offer a range of portable gas detector devices for over 30+ gases. Ideal for both alarm verification with your fixed gas detection system and for personnel protection in confined spaces.
The flexibility of IGD’s devices and the significantly reduced installation costs mean it is easy and affordable to create reliable, custom safety solutions in any working environment; from standard building blocks. With post-sales support (including a free to access bump testing video) and training opportunities for end users, both online with CPD accredited courses or in-person. We can help ensure a safe workplace for all.
Contact us today:
+44 (0)161 483 1415
- M. J. Withers and F. P. Lees, J. Hazard. Mater., 1985, 12, 231–282.
- Arroyave and M. Morcillo, Corros. Sci., 1995, 37, 293–305.
- M. Leslie and A. M. Birk, J. Hazard. Mater., 1991, 28, 329–365.
- NIOSH Guidelines, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/76-194/default.html, (accessed March 2019)
- HSE on CO2, http://www.hse.gov.uk/carboncapture/carbondioxide.htm, (accessed March 2019)
- BS EN 60079-29-2:2015, British Safety Standards Information, BSI, 2015