Mar
07

Turnarounds are “Wright ” Around the Corner

Today we are welcoming guest blogger Jason Wright to AskDave.

Spring is in the air. Winter is finally coming to an end and the harsh, cold weather going along with it. Time to set the clocks forward. Flowers will be blooming, buds on the trees. Spring. A time for renewal, a time for rebirth, a time for… TURNAROUNDS!!!

When a unit shuts down for maintenance within a refinery, mill, power plant, etc., it typically means the workforce performing the construction, repairs and maintenance will increase greatly during that timeframe. These outqages  typically last from a week to a couple of months. The plant may have enough safety equipment to cover their operations folks, but are sometimes tasked with supplying the contractors with safety equipment as well.  Included in that list of safety equipment are gas detectors.

A great solution for these “short term” needs for extra gas detection equipment is the same as for other instances in which something is needed to cover a short time period – rentals. Gas detection rental for turnarounds, shutdowns, and outages has proven to be the most economical option, and also the most practical.

Not only can there be a challenge associated with the sheer volume of gas detectors needed during a turnaround, but sometimes there is also a challenge regarding which type of gas detector is needed. The work being performed by the maintenance/construction crews during a shut down is often of a different nature, and requires a type of gas detector different from what would typically be used or needed (ex. personal monitor vs. monitor with a pump) in the plant. The work could also require a sensor configuration different from the configuration typically supplied by the plant to the operations crew.

Bump testing and calibrating the influx of extra gas detectors can also be a challenge. This again can be solved by renting extra docking stations to perform these tasks. The stations will speed the process and help to keep records of the tasks performed.

My name is Jason Wright, National Account Manager for Rental at Industrial Scientific. I encourage you to consider whether or not gas detection rental is the “Wright” option for your program’s short term needs! Also, if you have any questions about our rental program including some of our latest products like the Tango TX1 and the Ventis MX4, feel free to comment on this post with your question or send me an email directly to jwright@indsci.com.

 

Jan
25

Happy Birthday ISC!

This is a rare Saturday post, but the occasion certainly warrants it.

Twenty-nine years ago today, January 25, 1985, the courage and vision of our founders led them to risk taking a small division of National Mine Service Company independent and give birth to Industrial Scientific Corporation.  And look at us now!

We have grown from 32 employees in Oakdale, PA at the start to nearly 750 worldwide today.  We have branched out from our underground roots in the mining industry to put portable gas detection on the International Space Station and in virtually every industry in between.  We introduced the 200-Series multi-gas instruments, the most rugged gas detectors ever produced, expanded from the early 3-gas detectors to monitor up to six gases in one instrument today, and introduced Dual Sense technology, using redundant sensors in a single-gas instrument to keep workers safer than ever before.  We made the term ”docking station” ubiquitous in the industry and created the first subscription gas detection program, iNet, to deliver gas detection as a service to more than 5000 customer sites in 27 countries.

As employees of Industrial Scientific we have been privileged to serve and touch countless lives with our work and are dedicated to achieving the vision of ending death in the workplace in this century.  We will stop at nothing to ensure that every worker makes it home safely ever day.  The challenges and opportunities in front of us are great, but if the first 29 years are any example, the coming years will bring that vision into focus. 

Thank you K.E. and Kent for your courage, vision, leadership and unwavering commitment to Industrial Scientific. Happy Birthday ISC!

Dave

 

Oct
23

Are Low-Power Infrared Sensors the Cure-All for Combustible Gas Detection?

In a recent article entitled “LED-Driven Infrared Sensors: Shining New Light on LEL Gas Measurement for Oil and Gas and Confined Space Entry Applications” published in Industrial Hygiene News, Bryan Bates, CEO of GasClip Technologies, touted the benefits of using low-power infrared sensors for detecting combustible gases over the industry standard catalytic bead sensing technology.  While there can be no doubt that the comparatively minimal power consumption, ability to detect gas in an inert atmosphere and the immunity from poisons of IR sensors provides tangible benefits in some applications, the infrared technology does come with some significant shortcomings.

First and foremost, the infrared sensor has no ability to detect hydrogen – Period.   If the sensor is being used in any application to detect combustible gas on a general basis and there is any possibility that hydrogen may be encountered, the user of the instrument will be left unprotected.  Bates acknowledges this limitation but promotes the cross interference of the typical carbon monoxide sensor to hydrogen, which is typically on the order of 40 – 60 percent as the cure for this ill.  When did relying on the shortcomings of one sensor to make up for the shortcomings of another become a recommended or acceptable practice?  The cross interference of hydrogen on the CO sensor is very common, and although the response stated here is typical, it can vary greatly from sensor to sensor.  What happens if a given sensor has a significantly less level of interference?   Hydrogen interference on carbon monoxide sensors results in false CO alarms which leads the user to a lack of trust and confidence in the monitor.  Once this occurs repeatedly, the user is as likely to turn the monitor off or not use it at all as he/she is to heed its warnings, regardless of the level of training that they may have.

A key benefit of the catalytic bead gas sensor is that it the only sensing technology which detects gas based on the hazard of the gas itself – it detects combustible gas by burning it.   The catalytic bead sensor is capable of detecting virtually any combustible gas, because it is combustible.  By contrast, the detection capability of the infrared sensor is limited by the IR adsorption characteristics of the gas and the bandwidth of the IR filter in the sensor.   Many combustible gases are simply undetectable by this type of low power infrared sensor.  Examples of non-detectable combustible gases include acetylene, acrylonitrile, aniline and carbon disulfide.  Bates acknowledges the limitation of the sensor for detecting acetylene, a very common hazard in hot work and confined space entry applications, and again promotes the interference of the carbon monoxide sensor as the solution to this pitfall.  The argument given above with respect to hydrogen remains the same and gets broad when you take into account that the CO sensor may not have a cross interference to a given combustible gas that is simply not within the scope of detection of the infrared sensor.  

The response of the catalytic bead sensor to combustible gas is inherently linear and there is relatively close correlation in the response from one gas to another with respect to the calibration gas.  Response factors for catalytic bead sensors to various gases are typically less than two.  The response of the infrared sensor is non-linear and only becomes linear once the sensor is characterized to a particular gas.  Response factors between gases also vary greatly and can be greater than a factor of ten in some cases.   For example, an infrared sensor that is characterized to methane will provide a non-linear response to pentane or propane and accordingly the response factor will only be accurate at one point on the response curve.  If a gas with a response factor of 10 or greater is encountered, the instrument would produce a false alarm when the actual gas concentration was just 1-percent of the LEL.  The chart below highlights the difference in gas response factors between catalytic bead and low-power infrared combustible gas sensors.

 

Sensor Type

Methane

Butane

Ethane

Hexane

Pentane

Propane

Catalytic Bead

1.0

1.9

1.37

2.32

2.12

1.66

Infrared

1.0

2.97

6.5

0.88

1.5

3.8

 

Catalytic bead sensors are relatively unaffected by varying environmental conditions such as temperature and pressure.  These factors greatly affect the performance of the infrared sensor and therefore the sensor must be characterized for these environmental effects in order to provide an accurate and reliable response.

As stated above, the benefits of the infrared technology for detecting combustible gases in some applications are undeniable.  However, before dismissing the long-standing, industry standard catalytic bead technology, you must make sure that your application is appropriately matched to the technical capabilities of the sensor.   Otherwise, the risk you have exposed yourself to may be far greater than the reward.

Dave

Sep
20

Why do LEL sensors drift so much?

In recent weeks, I have addressed many questions as to why catalytic bead LEL sensors seem to drift so much, particularly in  the hot, humid summer weather.  To understand the reason for the drift, you must understand the operating principle behind the sensors themselves.

Catalytic bead LEL sensors are made up of two resistive fine-wire elements, one a detector and the other a reference.  As the detector element encounters combustible gas, the temperature of the bead increases and the resistance increases accordingly.  The difference in the resistance between the detector and the reference elements is the signal representing the concentration of gas.  

Theoretically, in a “clean-air” atmosphere, the resistance of the elements does not change and the sensor signal remains at zero, but in reality, this is not the case.  The resistance of the elements will also change as the thermal properties of the atmosphere change.  Again, in theory, if the resistance of the two elements are equal, any change in the thermal conductivity of the atmsophere not related to the presence of combustible gas would cause the resistance of each element to change at the same rate and the signal from the sensor would reman at zero.  But this is only theory and the resistance of the two elements is very rarely exact.  Thus, any change in the thermal conductivity of the atmosphere such as the change caused by an increase in wator vapor, ie. relative humidity, will cause the resistance of the elements to change at different rates creating a signal from the sensor that appears as zero drift.  The drift may be positive or negative and is solely dependent on the resistance of one element relative to the other.

Instrument manufacturers and sensor users both have different ways of dealing with the drift.  Some manufacturers will mask any drift in the negative direction.  Others will mask a certain amount of drift in both directions by applyind a “dead-band” to the sensor readings where any reading within the limits of the dead-band will appear as zero.  Other manufacturers minimize the amount of drift by using more complex software filtering algorithms.  Many sensor users will simply ignore the drift as it is rarely more than just a few percent LEL and well below the typical LEL alarm points at 10 percent.  Others that use very low LEL alarm point thresholds find the drift much more troublesome.  In these cases, the best way to compensate for the drift in the sensor caused by the changes in the atmosphere is to allow the sensor elements to stabilize in the thermal environment in which they are used and then zero the sensors in that environment.

The good news about LEL sensor drift is that more comfortable fall weather in the northern hemisphere is at hand and the drift issue will typically take care of itself.   Until then, and again when the hot-humid weather of summer returns, my recommendation is to keep the LEL alarm thresholds set at reasonable levels and zero the LEL sensors in the outdoor environments in which they are used.

Enjoy the fall and keep safe!

Dave

 

 

Jul
15

Why Do We Still Settle for Compliance

More than a decade ago, I wrote an article  about using gas detection in confined space entry procedures entitled Compliance vs. Best Practice where I discussed the differences between simply achieving compliance to the applicable regulations and taking the steps necessary to follow what would be considered industry best practices.   I wondered then why anyone would settle for compliance and not take the seemingly small steps necessary to achieve best practice, particularly when we are talking about the safety industry and the fact that lives are at stake everyday.

You can imagine my reaction when I went to my mailbox this past week and pulled out the latest issue of one of the leading safety industry publications.   The  magazine cover titled this lastet offering  ”The Compliance Issue.”  I was stunned.  The first thing that entered my mind was why isnt  this called “The Best Practice Issue”?  I don’t get it.  Why is just being compliant good enough? 

Recently I have been working with the NFPA 350 committee creating a best practice guide for confined space entry. I have seen how difficult it is to agree on what constitutes a best practice when someone knows that their own company will not buy in to following it. But it doesn’t change that the best practice is what it is. 

It’s not always easy.  It’s not cheap.  The best of anything never is.  But this is not the food industry, or the auto industry, or the retail industry.  It’s the safety industry.  And the cost of following an industry best practice is certainly not as high as the cost of a tragedy.

So please, when it comes to preventing accidents and injuries and saving lives, let’s stop settling for anything less than the best.  Forget about simply complying and think best practice all the time and the world will be a safer place to work and live.

Have a safe, best practice-filled day!

Dave

 

 

Feb
26

Two Rules to Live By

CO Bump

A couple of weeks ago, I spent the afternoon visiting a local customer’s facility.  After parking the car, I was greeted by this sign at the gate on the walkway before entering the plant.

You know you have a strong safety culture when there is as much awareness about bump testing your gas detector as there is about looking both ways before you cross the street.   In either case, complacency can lead to fatality and it is really difficult to say that one is more important than the other.

If you work in an industrial environment where you can be threatened by deadly gases, these really are two rules to live by.  Start your day right every day:  Don’t forget to look both ways and dont’ forget to bump!

Dave

 

Feb
09

It Takes Two…

This week, Industrial Scientific introduced our newest single gas monitor, the Tango TX1.   That Tango TX1 uses Dual Sense technology to give users of this instrument the highest level of protection in the industry today.

Dual Sense technology uses redundant sensors to determine the concentration of the target gas in the atmosphere and reduce the risk of instrument failure.  That’s right, two sensors of the same type, in one single gas instrument, to give you one reliable and accurate gas reading.

Allow me to explain.  Think of the two sensors in the Tango TX1 like your two eyes or your two ears.  Sure, you can see okay out of one eye and hear pretty well out of one ear. But when both eyes and both ears are working together, your sight and hearing are much better.  Not only that, the chance of damaging both eyes or both ears at the same time and completely losing your sight or hearing is much, much lower than the potential of losing just one.

The Tango TX1 works the same way.  A patent pending software alogorithm uses the individual outputs from two sensors to give you a much clearer picture of the actual gas concentration in the air.  At the same time, the risk of the instrument failing due to a sensor failure is much less with two sensors than it is with one.  How much less you ask? Regardless of how often you bump test your monitor to verify that it is working properly, the risk of both sensors failing at the same time and leaving you unprotected is nearly 300 times less than than a single sensor instrument failure.   The risk of failure on any given day shifts from 1 in 375 to 1 in 110,000 for an instrument that is bump tested everyday and from 1 in 85 to 1 in 20,000 for an instrument that is only bump tested once a month.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or don’t need to bump test your monitor any longer.  It simply means that regardless of your current bump test practices, you are safer carrying a Tango TX1  than you are carrying any other single gas monitor in the world.

Two is better than one.  You can bet your life on it!

Dave

 

PS- See the Tango TX1 at http://www.indsci.com/products/single-gas-detectors/tangoTX1/

 

Dec
21

A Gas Program Challenge for the New Year

Christmas is almost here and right behind it, the end of 2012.  Looking back we certainly have much to be thankful for over the past year.

Everyone at ISC is truly thankful that the number of customers signing up for “Gas Detection as a Service” is growing steadily and we now have more than 80,000 portable instruments enrolled in our iNet program which we are monitoring and servicing for those customers everyday.  We are blessed to be able to serve you and honor the responsibilities you have entrusted to us.

The other day, one iNet customer shared a story with me.  While traveling home from one of their distant facilities, he recieved a call from his supervisor informing him that a worker had fallen ill from an unknown gas exposure.  Seeking an answer to this problem, he pulled off the highway at the next rest stop, connected his laptop to a local WIFI network, and logged into iNet Control to access the data from the gas monitor carried by the fallen worker.  He quickly determined that the gas monitor, and the worker, had been exposed to a concentration of 169 PPM H2S.  This determination was possible because of the 24/7/365, anywhere in the world access he had to all his gas program data through iNet Control.

I am calling you to action in 2013.  In this new year, I challenge everyone who reads this blog to be resolved to learn more about their gas monitoring program.  Make this the year that you use the data and information that your program can provide you to answer questions, increase safety and make a difference in your company.  I challenge you to become part of the movement that iNet is leading to end death in the workplace.

80,000+ and growing, with still plenty of room for you to come on board.   We look forward to serving you in 2013 and beyond.

Wherever you are in the world, have a very safe and happy holiday season!

Dave

Dec
12

Do I need to zero my gas monitor each time I turn it on?

Lately I have been asked a number of questions regarding whether or not it is necessary to “zero” a portable gas monitor each time it is turned on for use.   It’s actually a great question, so what is all this zeroing stuff about anyhow?

As a matter of best practice, we train instrument users to perform four basic steps in clean air each time they turn their monitor on for use:  Verify the battery charge level, Zero, Bump test and Clear the peaks.  The key to this is knowing that you are in clean air.   You should never zero the instrument unless you know that you are in a clean air environment.   Zeroing the instrument in a contaminated atmosphere can lead to confusion in the resulting readings and may even mask the readings of potentially dangerous concentrations of gas.

With all of that said, if you turn your instrument on and the combustible gas and toxic gas sensor readings are 000 and the oxygen sensor reading is 20.9, what is the purpose of zeroing the monitor? Assuming that your monitor does not mask negative readings (no Industrial Scientific montor does) there is none and zeroing it at this point is of no benefit.  So, if you turn your instrument on and the readings are normal or within limits that are acceptable to you, there is no need to waste time going through the zeroing process.  You won’t be any better or safer for it.

But in all cases, if you do zero, make sure you do so in clean air.

Until next time – Be Safe and don’t hit the job site without your gas detector.

Dave

 

Sep
14

NFPA Confined Space Committee

I have spent the past two days in Philadelphia , PA working with the newly established NFPA Confined Space Safe Work-practices Committee.   What a rewarding two days!  Twenty-one people from around the country collaborating on best practices and procedures towards the goal of ending confined space related deaths in the workplace.

The deliverable of this team will be a recommended best practice document for safely entering confined spaces for both work and rescue in the fire services as well as general industry.  We have a long way to go, but I am certain that with the knowledge, expertise and level of experience represented on this team, that we can deliver the most comprehensive guide to confined space entry that has ever been produced.   Craig Schroll,  who took the lead in originally forming this committee but passed away before the team could hold its first meeting, would be very proud of the work that is being done.

Stay tuned for more on the work of the NFPA Confined Space Committee in future posts!

Dave

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