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The case for continuously monitoring your air

13 March 2018

Inhalation of toxic gases can kill you. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you and your employees are breathing air that is safe and free of such gases. RPB Safety's view is that testing breathing air every quarter is not enough, as the quality of your breathing air is subject to so many variables that can change in an instant. Here, the specialist in air supplied respirators, airline filters and monitoring equipment explains more

Gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) can’t be seen or smelled but are dangerous to your health and even your life. Consistent low levels of exposure to CO can cause symptoms similar to that of the flu. The effects are cumulative and can increase the risk of heart disease. High levels of exposure can cause unconsciousness or death. Typical causes of CO in your breathing air include a vehicle driving past your compressor, and your compressor overheating or leaking oil. The former example is temporary and would be of minimal consequence to your health (providing the vehicle isn’t idling next to the compressor). However, the latter example will continue to draw CO into your breathing air until it is repaired. If your air is only checked every three months, you could be breathing CO for up to three months and will probably experience the symptoms explained earlier. By continuously monitoring your air, you would be immediately alerted that the CO levels are dangerous, allowing you to correct the issue right away.

Then there is oxygen. It is important that there is enough oxygen (19.5% - 23.5%) in your breathing air. The lack of oxygen can very quickly lead to suffocation. This seems obvious – so much that it is often overlooked.

Depending on the industry, another gas that should be monitored is hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Inhalation of this gas can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory system, headaches and nausea. High exposure is life-threatening.

Features to look for

Thanks to technology, gas detection and airline monitoring is easier than it has ever been. Premium devices can monitor multiple gases simultaneously, so you can ensure you are protected from the most common toxic gases that can be found in the workplace. Here are some more features that can be found in the best gas monitors and that you should look for:

  • A unit that you can set up and forget about, knowing that it will alert you if there are any issues. For example: unsafe gas levels, calibration required, loss of power.
  • One that provides real-time data, so you can assess and fix any issues immediately as they arise.
  • Integrated WIFI and network capabilities. This allows managers to view any real-time or past data relating to the device and the air quality from outside of the immediate work environment.
  • Capability to integrate external alarms especially in high-noise environments, for example a strobe light. Other custom systems can also be set up to force your employees to vacate the work area if the air quality is jeopardized, for example, automatically turning off their equipment when the unit alarms.

Why compliance is not enough

To conclude, we believe that any regulation requiring you to spot check your breathing air only every three months is insufficient, and that simply complying does not guarantee the safety of yourself and your employees. But regardless of the regulation, the risks exist. Even if you’re legally protected by the regulation, you and your employees need to breathe air that you know is safe. For this to happen, you need to continuously monitor breathing air to make sure you’re not killing yourself or your staff inadvertently. You deserve it, your employees deserve it and your families deserve it. Look for a device that can simultaneously monitor multiple gases, provides real time data, has integrated WIFI capability and will alert you if there are any unsafe gases in the air. The cost of installing and maintaining air monitoring equipment is far outweighed by the potential cost of ruining a person’s life. View air monitoring not as a cost, but an investment in protecting you for life’s best moments.