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Top Gas Safety Concerns and Solutions for Cannabis Manufacturers

Since 2012, when the first two states – Colorado and Washington - approved marijuana for recreational use, up to the present, when cannabis is legal in 33 states, this industry has experimented to create more value for its crops. And it brought new safety hazards into the processing and extraction operations.

In the 33 states where cannabis is legal, at least 10 fires or explosions have occurred in the past 5 years at facilities that extract hash oil. At least 19 people have been killed and 126 people injured by hash-oil fires in California since 2014, the DEA reports.

So, the need for gas detection and monitoring systems at manufacturing facilities has become imperative. Let’s discuss gas detection solutions for this industry.

Explosions across the United States

The booming cannabis industry is prone to safety hazards.

In 2016, more than 40 adults and three children were injured from hash-oil lab explosions in the State of California, according to child-safety advocate Sue Webber-Brown, quoted by Reuters. In the same year, Washington federal prosecutors have brought charges in five cases involving explosions during hash oil production, one of which killed the former mayor.

And last year, OSHA fined a cannabis manufacturer $50k after an explosion burned worker handling propane to extract oil.

Respiratory risks

“If the release of hazardous material can cause immediate harm to a person or property, a means to mitigate the release shall be provided”, Chapter 50 of International Fire Code (IFC) states.

Cannabis plant cultivation and oil extraction processes carry a variety of toxic and combustible gasses that often reach alarm activation levels and need to be continuously monitored for safety.

Greenhouse heating and ventilation can also pose concerns during a leak. Combustible gases such as carbon dioxide, butane, propane, hexane, ethanol, or carbon monoxide are the byproduct of solvent-based cannabis oil extraction. Solvent extraction is used to remove the essential oils from plant matter. and should not exceed 20% LEL.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – toxic, asphyxiator gas used in the growth process of marijuana – is typically caused stored in cryogenic liquid cylinders, compressed gas cylinders or dry ice. The OSHA PEL for CO2 is 5,000 ppm TWA.

There is also a danger of oxygen deficiency. Furnaces, boilers and portable generators using fossil fuels, where incomplete combustion may occur, are the main source of carbon monoxide (CO) release. The OSHA permissible limit here is 50ppm (TWA).

Refrigerant leaks from the chiller rooms/HVAC systems are also a potential source of toxic gases. Natural gas – methane – is often present in the boiler room, as the result of fuel for gas-powered equipment.

Growing cannabis plants also releases VOC emissions, namely toxic and flammable gases. Spaces that prohibit natural ventilation, like storage tanks, open pits found in boiler, extraction and cultivation rooms may pose asphyxiation risks that need to be addressed.

Safety standards, a state matter

Consumption hasn’t been legalized at the federal government level, thus, worker safety protections are inadequate even in states that do offer environment, health, and safety (EHS) guidance.

Federal EHS standards apply, but many companies are too small to fall under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As additional states have legalized marijuana, they have responded to challenges by enacting tighter safety controls.

Gas detection solutions

Honeywell is permanently innovating in gas monitoring instrumentation to protect people, equipment and the environment. These are the products we recommend for cannabis manufacturers:

Fixed gas detection

The fixed line incorporates the full spectrum of Honeywell gas sensing technologies, offering safety managers a "one-stop" solution for choosing a compatible gas detection system or integrated fire and gas system.

1.       XNX™ Universal Transmitter

XNX is a universal transmitter for toxic, oxygen, and combustible gas detection compatible with all Honeywell gas sensing technologies. XNX's advantage comes from a simple-to-use, low-maintenance universal platform that works with Honeywell’s full range of gas sensor technologies (Electrochemical, Infrared, Catalytic Bead).

The XNX Universal Transmitter marks a new turn in gas detection from Honeywell Analytics. It supports the widest range of sensors on a common platform and offers a modular choice of inputs and outputs, saving customers time and money. Its single interface provides complete diagnostic, alarm and gas concentration values, in a failsafe operation.  

2.       Searchpoint Optima Plus Point Infrared Gas Detector

Searchpoint Optima Plus is a market-leading point infrared Hydrocarbon gas detector certified for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

The unit’s infrared detection principle offers the fastest speed of response and fail-to-safe operation, ensuring that your plant is compliant, your personnel is protected, and your production process can deliver maximum uptime. With reduced routine maintenance when compared with conventional electro-catalytic based gas detectors, Searchpoint Optima Plus provides a low ongoing cost of ownership.

The development of advanced internal fault diagnostics and false alarm rejection algorithms ensures that Searchpoint Optima Plus delivers the highest level of operational integrity. Discover more about this product.

Or go find out more about Honeywell’s solutions for fixed gas detection.

Portable gas detection

From simple alarm-only units to advanced, fully configurable and serviceable instruments, Honeywell Analytics and BW Technologies offer a variety of single or multi-gas detectors, in compact, lightweight designs. Portable gas detectors are ideal for confined spaces and are marked by flexibility, quality, and mobility.

1.       ToxiRAE Pro CO2

The ToxiRAE Pro CO2 is the world’s first wireless personal carbon dioxide gas monitor and the only wireless CO2 single gas monitor available on the market.

The ToxiRAE Pro CO2 takes worker protection to the next level. It provides safety professionals wireless access to real-time instrument readings and alarm status, including man down alarm.

It is a personal detector that keeps people aware of carbon dioxide levels and facilitates remote monitoring of readings from any location for better visibility and faster response. Read more about it.

2.       Honeywell BW™ Ultra

The Honeywell BW™ Ultra is a five-gas detector designed specifically for sampling and monitoring confined spaces, before and after entry. Honeywell BW™ Ultra has enhanced sensor technology, visibility on gas readings, comfort, and connectivity.

Reliable and user-friendly, the Honeywell BW™ Ultra simultaneously detects the four gases you’re required to monitor in confined spaces plus one other gas of your choice.

The Honeywell BW™ Ultra is the first gas detector on the market to feature the 1‑Series sensor, with fast response, reliable performance, and long life, even in extreme working conditions. More information, here.

Find out more about Honeywell’s solutions for portable gas detection.