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Why is gas detection so important on ships?
Exposure to excessive amounts of toxic substances or to an environment that is deficient of oxygen can cause crew serious harm or even death. Combustible gas explosions can also be incredibly hazardous and, in addition to putting the lives of crew in danger, may destroy cargo and equipment as well as damaging the vessel itself.
In the continuing drive to improve maritime safety, the regulatory bodies of the maritime industry are constantly trying to improve gas detection and measurement by introducing new guidelines. The latest regulation from the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which came into force in July 2016, made it mandatory for all applicable vessels to carry portable gas detectors onboard.
According to Regulation XI-1/7, every ship is to carry at least one appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument. As a minimum, this must be capable of measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide, prior to entry into enclosed or confined spaces.
As stated in Regulation MSC.1/Circ.1477: ‘It should be noted that, given a ship’s specific characteristics and operations, additional atmospheric hazards in enclosed spaces may be present that may not be detected by the instrument recommended to be selected by these Guidelines, and in such cases, if known, additional appropriate instruments should be carried.’
Health and Safety Executive: Safety alert!
The Health and Safety Executive released a gas detection safety alert in which you need to bump test and ensure that your gas detection equipment is working correctly.
This HSE Safety Alert highlights the risk of misleading gas detection readings associated with the use of sampling tubes with pumped gas detectors. Sampling tubes are sometimes used to extend the reach of the detection device and/or to allow detection at an increased distance from the user.
In a recent incident a gas detector failed to detect the presence of a flammable vapour. Hot work proceeded in the belief that there was no flammable vapour present. The subsequent explosion resulted in a fatal injury.
This incident has highlighted the importance of selecting the correct systems for gas detection and verifying the effectiveness of the detection system.
Ensure accuracy of your gas detection equipment
The only way to know whether an instrument is capable of proper performance is to expose it to test gas. Exposing the instrument to known concentration test gas verifies that gas is properly able to reach and be detected by the sensors. It verifies the proper performance of the instrument’s alarms, and (if the instrument is equipped with a real-time display), that the readings are accurate.
This bump test guide details what a bump test is and how it should be carried out prior to using gas detection equipment to ensure the accuracy of the equipment and therefore its ability to keep the user safe.