Your workplace may have environmental risks that are not apparent at first glance. Do you have large cylinders of nitrogen that are used for purging conduit or transmission lines? Do you keep a supply of pressurized oxygen for welding or other applications?. Perhaps you work with helium, argon, or other inert, non-toxic, non-explosive gases.
Oxygen depletion is a condition where oxygen in the air is replaced by inert gases such as nitrogen, helium, or argon. This can easily occur if a cylinder of these gases, stored in a confined space, develops a leak. Being colorless and odorless, employees entering such an environment would soon pass out from a lack of oxygen.
When an oxygen depletion sensor is installed in a gas detection system, the goal is to measure the oxygen level in an enclosed space and signal an alarm if the level exceeds fixed limits. Gases displace the amount of oxygen in the air, which makes it difficult to detect hazardous gases. By monitoring the change in oxygen levels, you can stay one step ahead of leaks, keeping both your employees and equipment safe.
Defining Oxygen Depletion
Oxygen makes up a significant portion of the air we breathe, which consists of 20.8% of oxygen, 78% nitrogen, and a small amount of carbon dioxide and other trace gases. Oxygen is essential for maintaining life, and levels below 18% can be hazardous. When certain gases are present, the amount of oxygen is reduced, hence the term oxygen depletion. For facilities to maintain adequate control of the gases that are present, it’s important to monitor oxygen levels. By staying ahead of hazardous conditions, workers can quickly prepare for whatever consequences could ensue from the lack of oxygen.
Pro Tip: Because gases such as nitrogen, helium, and argon are chemically inert, leaks cannot be detected directly by traditional electrochemical sensors that depend on the target gas reacting with the senor’s electrolyte. An oxygen depletion sensor is often used as an indirect way to determine if an inert gas is leaking into an enclosed cabinet or storage space.
Health Risks of Inert Gases
Inert, or noble gases pose the greatest risk for reducing the amount of oxygen in the air. From argon to helium and nitrogen, inert gases are used in a variety of industrial processes such as medical procedures, laboratories, commercial driving, and food packaging. These gases are toxic-free but are known to reduce the amount of oxygen when present. Due to asphyxiation caused by the lack of oxygen, inert gases can quickly impair a person’s concentration and decision-making.
Benefits of an Oxygen Depletion Sensor
In order for workplaces to monitor a room’s oxygen levels, a fixed gas detection system is necessary. With an oxygen sensor attached, you can measure the amount of oxygen in a certain area and receive alerts to hazardous conditions. If you’re unsure whether you need an oxygen depletion sensor installed in your workplace, consider the following:
- Ongoing Protection – An oxygen sensor helps create a safe environment for your employees. When oxygen levels decrease, you can trust that you will receive an alert so that you can respond promptly.
- Equipment Safety – In situations where oxygen increases to 24% or higher, certain traditionally non-combustible materials can catch fire or explode. With an oxygen sensor, you can protect both your equipment and facility from unnecessary harm.
- Consistent Detection – Other sensors and detection systems monitor the concentration levels of specific toxic gases, but if the amount of oxygen is displaced, readings will be inaccurate. By having a sensor dedicated to measuring the oxygen levels in your environment, you can ensure that all devices are working properly.
Pro Tip: Each piece of equipment at your site has its own requirements for optimal functioning. Determine the optimal atmospheric conditions when installing an oxygen sensor in your facility.
Protecting Your Oxygen Levels
With an oxygen depletion sensor, you can be one step ahead of disastrous consequences. Like most gases, oxygen has no taste, smell, or color. With a detection system configured to measure oxygen alone, you can adequately maintain safety within your facility. If you regularly work with inert or specialty gases, it’s pertinent for you to have an oxygen depletion sensor installed.