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What Kind of Gas Detector Do You Need?

gas detectorIf you’re only familiar with home and office carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, you might be surprise at the wide variety and sophistication of gas detectors on the market. In this blog post, we’ll quickly review where gas detectors are typically deployed as well as some of the more popular options.

Does Your Workplace Need Gas Detectors?

Generally, gas detectors are used anyplace with potential gas hazards. This includes plants where hazardous vapors are produced, such as wastewater treatment plants. It also includes welding shops and other facilities where combustible gases could be present. Less obviously, it also includes confined spaces where gasses can accumulate.

Many OSHA standards require the use of gas detectors, such as 29 CFR 1910.146 (permit-required confined spaces); 29 CFR 1910.120 (hazardous waste operations and emergency response); and section 5, appendix A of 29 CFR 1910.272 (grain handling facilities).

Types of Gas Detectors

Because gas detectors are used in so many different facilities, it’s not surprising so many different types exist. Here are just a few:

Single vs. Multi-Gas

Traditionally, gas detectors could only test for only a single type of gas. If you needed to test for multiple gases, then you’d needed multiple detectors.

Your home CO detector is an example of a single-gas detector. Other common types are oxygen, hydrogen sulfide and combustible gas.

Today, multi-gas detectors are available. For example, the BW Technologies Gas Alert Max XT II Multi-Gas Detector monitors levels of oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, combustible gas and carbon monoxide—all in one device!

Portable vs. Fixed

You can also choose between portable and fixed gas detectors. Portable detectors are small and lightweight. You can clip them onto your tool belt or tool kit to carry them with you. Fixed detectors are installed permanently in areas that require continuous careful monitoring, such as power stations and food processing plants.

Visual vs. Alarm

Home CO detectors sound an alarm when dangerous levels of CO are reached. But in industrial settings, it’s more useful to have a continuous visual readout of gas levels in addition to an alarm. This allows workers to better assess and react to gas hazards.

Permanent vs. Manual Calibration

Your home CO detector comes pre-calibrated to detect dangerous levels of CO. Unlike smoke detectors, which sound when a certain smoke level is detected, CO detectors use a more complex formula of CO level and time before triggering an alarm. For example, (according to Wikipedia) a level of 100 ppm CO won’t trigger a CO alarm for ten or more minutes. A level of 400 ppm, however, will trigger an alarm within a few minutes.

Most home and office CO detectors have a limited life span of two to five years, largely due to concerns about inaccurate calibration over time. (Note the “test” button on a CO monitor only tests circuitry, not calibration.)

Most detectors designed for industrial use are manually calibrated. The worker uses a controlled source of gas to make sure the detector is measuring gas levels accurately.

Sadly, even with the sophistication of today’s gas monitors, accidents still occur, such as the death of four workers at a chemical plant in Texas. While gas detectors are important they’re no substitute for engineering controls, administrative controls and training.

Gas Detectors at Select Safety Sales

At Select Safety Sales, we’re proud to carry portable gas detectors by trusted manufacturer BW Technologies. These detectors are small, lightweight, long lasting and affordable! If you need help selecting gas detectors for your workplace, talk to our safety experts (toll free) at (866) 864-3495 or email sales@selectsafetysales.com. You can also ask us questions through online chat.

And if you haven’t yet installed CO monitors in your home and office , we have lots of those to choose from too.

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