For most of us, wastewater treatment plants are nothing more than a mild inconvenience in the form of a foul smell. However, for those who work at these plants, gases are very potent hazards that could threaten safety at any moment.
Wastewater plants are full of confined spaces, like recirculation pits, clarifier tanks, and wet wells. These spaces alone can be hazardous, and the danger only increases when you consider the gases that often permeate the air at wastewater treatment facilities.
Methane and hydrogen sulfide, byproducts of decomposing organic materials in waste flows, can displace oxygen or even cause explosions. Additionally, the purifying chemicals used to decontaminate effluent water can be hazardous to workers. Chlorine, ammonia, and chlorine dioxide are common at wastewater treatment plants, and they all pose health risks if inhaled in sufficient concentrations.
Since it's impossible to eliminate these gas hazards from the wastewater treatment process, workers must have access to reliable gas detection equipment, including portable gas detectors.
Workers and Gases are Constantly Moving
Many wastewater plants rely on fixed gas detectors and confined space monitoring kits to protect their workers from hazardous gases. While these solutions can be effective in their intended applications, they won’t alert workers to gas hazards outside of those specific areas.
Similarly, employees responsible for entering confined spaces likely know the procedures for entering that confined space safely. They know to take their pre-entry samples and they understand the critical nature of the 2-by-2 rule. But what happens when a gas hazard escapes the confined space into the general workplace? How are gas hazards detected in the “gaps” between fixed units?
This is why your gas detection program should include portable or personal gas detectors to alert your team to gas hazards no matter where they work. By equipping workers with the right portable detectors, your team will be able to monitor gas hazards in real time, no matter where they’re located.
The Benefits of Portable Gas Detectors
Wastewater facilities that are serious about employee safety are much more likely to use portable gas detectors. These detectors offer three distinct advantages that wastewater plants can benefit from.
1. Enhanced Safety
Employee safety is, after all, the number one goal of gas detection equipment. When a gas detector's alarm sounds, it can cause a panic if the employee hasn't been properly trained. This is why newer portable detectors provide action messages with instructions like "Evacuate" or "Wear a Respirator" to reinforce a worker's hazard training. Everyone responds to emergencies differently, so it can be helpful to have a reminder of the appropriate action to take.
Another enhanced safety feature of portable gas detectors is the ability to share gas data and alert peers when someone is in danger. Even when properly trained and equipped, workers can be overcome or incapacitated by a gas hazard. When this happens, the ability to call for help is a literal life saver. Some portable detectors include panic buttons and can automatically alert peers in the area when a worker experiences a high gas concentration or stops moving.
All of these features are designed to ensure workers can get to safety before it’s too late. In a life-or-death situation, personal gas detectors can make all the difference.
2. Improved Efficiency
Data and event logging capabilities make life much easier for plant managers, aggregating data that would otherwise take valuable man hours to collect. Studies show that automatic data reporting collects up to five times as much alarm information as manual data reporting, so using personal gas monitors with automatic data logging gives plant managers a more accurate operating picture.
Portable detectors can also help wastewater plants cut down on costs by alerting workers when they need to evacuate an area, thus reducing accidents and injuries.
3. Low Maintenance
Device maintenance is always a concern, especially with portable technologies. A mobile device loses its appeal if its upkeep is challenging or time-consuming. Luckily, most portable gas detectors have options to make maintenance easy.
Docking stations are a popular option to automate charging, bump testing, and calibrating based on a customizable schedule. Docking stations can also create compliance records and track gas detection data to more accurately assess a facility's safety.
Subscription-based services for gas detector repair and replacement are another great option because they simplify all aspects of your gas detection program—gas detector availability, cost, and ownership—by delivering equipment on demand. Service programs use data from docking stations to identify when monitors need maintenance, then dispatch a new device to you before the monitor fails.
Gas Safety Requires Proper Training
Providing workers with the proper gas detection equipment is a great start, but your workers also need to be trained thoroughly, either in-person or via online training. The alarms on portable gas detectors can only do so much. Wastewater plant employees must know how to use their equipment, the industry best practices for gas detection, and what to do when an alarm does sound.
Gas safety should never be taken lightly. Every wastewater treatment plant should take a holistic approach to addressing gas safety, and portable gas monitors are a crucial aspect of this approach.