Many industries expose their workers to hazardous substances, such as toxic or combustible gases. Where a fixed gas detector is used to monitor levels of gas in a plant and warn if there is a problem, it does not alert the worker of immediate danger. For this reason, portable gas detectors are frequently used. These are small, hand-held devices which are battery-operated and worn on clothing or on a belt or harness. They are not only used for warning of the presence of gas, but also for testing confined spaces before entry. Workers need to make sure that they can see, hear or feel the gas detector at all times, because they alert of hazardous situations through a loud alarm, flashing lights and vibration. It is also essential to make sure that all portable gas detection equipment is fully charged before use and to replace equipment when the battery life is getting low.
Portable gas detection equipment can also communicate through a central monitor through wireless systems and SCADA technology. This allows further monitoring and safety for workers who are in remote environments or confined spaces such as mines. The equipment can be set to detect different and multiple substances and can be set to trigger the alarm at the level you wish. When thinking about what level to set the alarm for, consider how long it will take the worker to get out of the contaminated area, and also how long it might take them to see, hear or feel the alarm. This is particularly important in noisy or busy areas. It will also depend on how toxic or hazardous the substance is and how quickly it will develop into a life-threatening situation. Methane gas (common in mining), for example, can be ignited quickly and create an instant fatal explosion.
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