An obvious way to minimise risk is to minimise time spent in hazardous areas. Advances in technology are making this increasingly easy by reducing the time operators spend directly accessing gas detection instruments. This is especially relevant in hazardous areas and other locations where operators may be exposed to hazardous gases.
Maintenance made easy
Conventional fixed detectors require routine maintenance, including calibration, at 3-month intervals at some high-risk sites. New generation, ‘intelligent’ gas detectors offer ‘bump test’ functions. The bump test is a quicker procedure that produces a ‘pass/fail’ result, which also produces an auditable record of the test and its results. This makes it feasible for some site to perform a full calibration every six months, with quicker, simpler bump testing at the intervening 3 month interval.
Detectors that boast ‘non-intrusive’ calibration eliminate the need to remove the lid, or any other part of the transmitter, meaning no hot-work permit is required and making this a much quicker procedure than in the past.
Simple sensor replacement
Depending on the technology, some widely used sensor types should be routinely replaced every 2 to 5 years; more frequently if exposed to extremes of temperature, humidity, gas etc. This often requires the transmitter or sensor housing to be taken apart. In a hazardous area, this can be time-consuming, especially if PPE (gloves, goggles, etc.) have to be worn. A need for a hot-work permit can delay the work by hours or even days.
New ‘hot-swap’ sensors eliminate much of this. The best designs allow the sensor module to be removed without having to open the housing at all. On some units, this can also be done using only one-hand – much safer if you are working in inaccessible locations.
Intelligent gas detectors now include displays showing comprehensive diagnostic messages and other enhanced information. On the rare occasions they occur, this greatly reduces the amount of time required to identify a fault. All parameters within the gas sensor and transmitter are constantly monitored. When an issue that could affect operation or safety is identified, the transmitter will display an appropriate message. This speeds up problem resolution by alerting the engineer to the issue and possibly even prescribing the solution.
Data at a distance
Modbus or HART communication protocols allow gas detectors to be monitored remotely for operating status or fault diagnosis. This means workers can get detailed information on the current ‘health’ of the detector while they remain in a safe environment. Corrective actions can be properly planned for any faults or issues found, before sending the engineer into the area. The 4-20mA analogue signal may still be used to perform the safety function (i.e. activate sounder and beacons, control gas valves etc).
Keep people safe – reduce exposure to gas hazards
The new generation of gas detectors is helping keep workers out of hazardous areas, now they can be monitored remotely, and maintenance planned ahead of time. When detectors are directly accessed, innovations like non-intrusive calibration, hot-swap sensors and self-diagnosing detectors reduce the time engineers have to spend in hazardous areas. All this radically reduce workers’ exposure to gas hazards.