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Laboratory Gas Detection

Laboratorys can be a dangerous place, there can be all sorts of trip hazards, flammable materials and even bio-hazards. There are many aspects of risk minimisation that need to be considered to create a workplace that is both safe and compliant with health and safety legislation. One particular hazard that is common to many types of laboratory is the hazards posed by gases.

Gases can be a chemical hazard in themselves, in the case of substances like Chlorine and Nitrogen Oxides, which are both corrosive and toxic. Therefore, to ensure compliance with COSHH regulations check occupational exposure levels in HSE document EH40. Even seemingly innocuous gases, like Nitrogen and Argon, which are famous for being chemically inert, can instead pose asphyxiation risks if leaks occur in poorly ventilated places. 

Another category of risk posed by gases used in laboratories is the explosion/flammability risk. Gases are typically stored in pressurised cylinders, and improper handling can lead to cylinder damage with sudden pressure discharge and explosions.  Any small spark from electrical equipment like vacuum gauges or hot surfaces can be sufficient to trigger a fire. Remember also that an Oxygen leak causing localised Oxygen enrichment will multiply the flammability risk many times over.

Certain gases also pose a toxic hazard for example, Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O). Toxic gases have Short Term Exposure Limits (STEL) of 15 minutes and Long Term Exposure Limits (LTEL) of 8 Hours. Toxic gas occupational exposure levels can be found on both the HSE EH 40 (or OSHA for US) or on our supplied MSDS sheets.

It is a requirement to ensure employees are not exposed levels that exceed the STEL or LTEL.

SGS's Solution

These combined risks mean that is very important to be vigilant for gas leaks. In a laboratory setting, this will involve the installation and maintenance of appropriate gas monitors to warn of leaks. Audible and visual alarms will also be required. Multiple alarm types cater for differing user needs. Networked solutions, sometimes termed addressable systems, allow multiple devices as detectors, audible visual alarms and shutdown interlocks to be efficiently installed on one interlinked cable highway. As a result, this minimises cabling costs. At the same time these systems provide continuous integrity checks, quickly alerting to any faults which may go hidden on dated analogue type systems.