Five Things to Consider when Choosing A Gas Monitor for Confined Spaces
By Jacob Spector
December 11, 2019
Each working environment has its safety challenges and risks. Therefore, when evaluating confined space hazards during entry pre-check, your gas monitor should be reliable, detecting all dangerous gases that may exist or arise
There are several types of gas detectors on the market, with different displays, sizes and functionalities. What type of gas detector will best suit your needs and make your confined space entry process safe and efficient?
Here are the aspects you should consider when choosing the right equipment for the specific needs of your work.
1. The display
When evaluating the display of a gas monitor you should consider the size, the resolution and, most importantly, what information is shown. The confined space monitor is something you’ll be constantly looking at; therefore, you’ll want to find a monitor that has a large display, with easy-to-read fonts and icons. Nothing is worse than trying to look through fogged-up safety glasses to determine what readings match each gas.
Once you have a large and clear display, it’s important to see the information you need. Gas readings and gas codes are common. Additional visual elements, like bar charts, can help users determine when an environment is changing and when they should really act.
You’ll also want to find out how the information on the screen is organized. Does it align with your hazard priorities? Remember, when doing a confined space pre-entry check you’ll usually want to look for your oxygen levels, followed by the presence of combustible gas and afterward check for any exotic gases.
A clear and easy-to-read display that has all the information in an easy-to-read format is the ideal option. However, in a short timeframe, your screen will get scratched from the day-to-day grind and you will lose visibility. To help prevent this, seek out gas monitors that have optional tear-away screen protectors, similar to those for mobile phones. Glass ones are the best, as they are impervious to scratches.
2. The shape
Does the shape of the monitor matter? They all seem like bricks.
Over the past 20 years, gas detectors have evolved in weight – from needing a shoulder strap to be carried to handheld and wearable units the size of mobile phones. Confined space monitors are usually handheld, so the focus should be on the handheld ergonomics of the shape. From afar, they all seem to be the same rectangular brick shape. However, up close, there are subtle differences that can play a big role in hand and arm fatigue, especially when having to hold the monitor through an entire day. Below are the features to look out for:
· The weight of the gas monitor. Probably the biggest contributor to hand and arm fatigue. New generation confined space monitors have limited the weight to around 1 pound or less.
· The holding circumference. This number should be as small as possible, so your hand can comfortably grip the unit without putting too much strain on it.
· Are the grips properly designed? Most units have grips on the sides to help ensure the unit doesn’t fall out of your hand. Ensure the grips are spaced far enough apart, so your fingers can interlace between them.
· Hand location is relative to the display and the button(s). When holding the instrument comfortably, do your fingers cover the display? Can you still read it? Is the button easy to press?
· The balance point of the instrument. The battery is often the heaviest component in a monitor and it’s usually located near the bottom of the instrument, making this area the balance point of the instrument. If your hand doesn’t hold it closer to the bottom then, your detector may become bottom-heavy and require more strain to keep it in the correct position.
3. The “one-button operation”
Users can turn on and off their units, review key information like alarm set-points and peak readings, and enter specific modes like “zero”, “bump” and “calibration”.
However, “one-button operation” units restrict the user from changing configurations, setting correction factors or changing alarm set-points right on the unit. Various other methods need to be used to tweak configurations – desktop software, mobile apps – or program the instruments – computer, USB connections, docking systems, Bluetooth and Bluetooth Beacons.
Is it a good fit? If work is happening in a fast pace environment and workers need to make changes on the fly, you’ll want to go for a unit with multiple buttons. However, if you rarely change settings and want to prevent accidental changes, then the “one-button operation” is the best approach.
3. Maintenance and care
Pumped monitors used for confined space entry pre-checks require a clear flow from the monitor through the tubing, free from leaks and blockages.
Leaks in the tubing can introduce a sample of air from a different area, giving a false reading of the space. A visual check can quickly identify kinks and cuts that could lead to a leak. Any tubing with kinks or cuts should be discarded. Blockages in the tubing can stall pumps and lead to false readings, as well. These are harder to notice visually.
Therefore, make sure your detector has a pump block detection feature and that a pump block is tested during the start-up sequence of the detector.
An extra level of maintenance is required for confined space monitors to ensure the pump works properly. There are two, sometimes three filters in most pumped monitors. One is a particulate filter to prevent dust and debris from entering the pump. The other is a hydrophobic filter that prevents liquid or moisture from entering the pump.
Make sure you know where these filters are located and how to change them when needed. The third filter is located through the exhaust, ensuring no dust, debris or moisture can enter the unit when the pump is turned off.
5. Pricing range
How much should I pay for a confined space entry pre-check monitor?
Prices can vary drastically, based on a variety of factors - from sensor configurations to the regions where the gas monitor is being purchased. However, research can go a long way in finding a good deal on the right monitor for you. Here are some tips to help you:
· List all the values and features you want in a confined space monitor and make sure you are comparing apples to apples when reviewing monitors from different manufacturers.
· Read the fine print. Some monitors will have pumps built-in, so the cost will naturally be higher compared to a monitor without a pump. However, the pump component, if added separately, will add to the final price. Even more so, you sometimes then need to upgrade your battery to be able to run the pump. Again, that adds to your cost.
· Don’t be skeptical to choose a gas monitor that is priced more affordably than others. Large manufacturers can produce monitors at lower costs because they buy components in large volumes. Believe it or not, some of these manufacturers are willing to pass on these savings to the customer.
Ultimately, choose the gas monitor that is best for you and your application. You and your team’s safety should be the number one priority and you shouldn’t put a price tag on safety.