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The Importance of Bump Testing

Posted on 16th May 2022

You may already know how important it is to invest in responsive and reliable gas detection solutions to protect lives at sea. But to operate accurately, most gas detectors (both fixed and portable) require a manual ‘bump test’ before being used. 

There are so many rules and safety regulations to keep up with that bump testing may feel like another slither of red tape to add to your daily activity sheet. But bump testing is essential to ensure the safety of your crew and vessels – and it takes just a few minutes to complete each day. 

What is bump testing?

Bump testing involves a quick test of your portable gas detectors to ensure they function as intended. The bump test checks that the sensors and alarms are working correctly by exposing the detector briefly to a known gas concentration. 

This is the only way to know that the sensor will alert you to dangerous gas in the atmosphere as you go about your daily duties on board. Bump testing is recommended by all manufacturers and is covered by SOLAS regulations – and yet remarkably, there are still many people who rely on pure chance and skip the bump test before use. As those who have seen the potential impact of dangerous gas on board will know, complacency is not an option for protecting yourself and your fellow crew members whilst at sea. 

View our bump test guide.

Why is bump testing so important?

When fully functioning, gas detectors are certainly remarkable pieces of protective technology, but they aren’t infallible. As they are stored in a safe atmosphere, there’s no way of knowing whether they are working properly unless you conduct a bump test. 

Following alarming rates of complacency and several companies calling into question the need for regular bump testing, various studies were conducted to determine the reliability of portable gas detectors (and evaluate the need for regular bump testing). The resulting data analysis revealed remarkable results – bump test failure on instruments tested daily was 0.3%, or a rate of 3 in every 1000, which is not insignificant given the number of crew onboard a large vessel at any given time. A further study by the ISC revealed that 1 in 100 gas detectors that had not been bump tested failed to alert the user to a potentially fatal gas leak.  

Using a gas detector without bump testing first is like a pilot getting on a plane and deciding not to do routine checks before flying – it puts the safety of you and others around you at risk. Although malfunctions and critical errors are unlikely, they can and do occur, so bump testing each and every time (just like preliminary pre-flight checks) is essential. 

Why would a bump test fail?

There are several reasons why a bump test could potentially fail – and it’s not always because the unit is defective or broken. Environmental factors are usually the culprits instead of an issue with the gas detector or sensors themselves. Common reasons for a failed bump test include:

*Extreme shock: Although portable gas detectors are generally used in challenging environments where they may be subjected to frequent wear and tear, a fall from a significant height or dropping the unit onto a hard surface could cause the sensor not to operate correctly. 

*Extreme temperature changes and weather conditions: Exposure to very hot or very cold temperatures can affect the sensor’s sensitivity. 

*Excessive exposure to dust, dirt and grime: Physical blocks can cause the sensor to become less sensitive to gas in the surrounding atmosphere.  

You should always bump test before using a portable gas detector (even multiple times on the same day, if entering a new environment or returning from a break), but you may need to repeat the bump test if:

*The device has been dropped or damaged: Following any accident, you should bump test your device again, even if it has already been checked earlier in the day. 

*The device has been immersed in water: Many portable gas detectors are not fully waterproof – if they are exposed to water splashes, mist or humidity, they may not remain as responsive as is necessary to offer complete protection (our Triple-C model has been developed specifically for use at sea and remains fully functional when submerged up to 1.5m depth for 30 minutes – but bump testing before immersion is still recommended) 

*Recent genuine alert: If your gas detector has recently alerted you to a leak on board (or alerted as a false alarm), you may need to recalibrate and conduct a bump test before the following first use to ensure everything is working as it should. 

Damage to an instrument isn’t always visible, so bump testing is the only way to know that you’re fully protected at all times. 

Bump testing with Martek Marine

At Martek Marine, we specialise in robust, reliable, portable and fixed gas detectors developed explicitly for life at sea – featuring enhanced durability, longevity and reliability. Our innovative gas detection solutions offer intelligent support and management for regular bump testing – with easy, fail-safe self-calibration and bump testing for Marine 4 from our A-B-C station and continuous data recording (including bump test logs) from Triple C. 

Discover our marine gas detection solutions or get in touch for tailored advice and support.