The 4​​ best ways to minimise the risks of toxic gases at work

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One of the single most reliable ways to protect yourself and your staff from toxic gases is, of course, to install gas detection alarms at key locations throughout your premises. However, obviously it takes a bit more than that to ensure that your obligations are indeed being properly fulfilled, and that you can enjoy complete peace of mind. With more than 25 years of experience in gas detection here at Gas Alarm Systems, here are our top recommendations.

Conduct a detailed risk assessment

Yes, this is the most obvious point and yes, you’ve almost certainly completed yours already, but in a post about minimising risks, we’d be objectively remiss not to mention it. Plus, since risk assessments are such routine tasks, it can sometimes be tempting not to give them the full attention they deserve, and treat them merely as box ticking exercises. In reality, ideally every risk assessment should be treated as if it’s being performed for the first time.

When it comes to protecting your staff from toxic gases, there are a few particularly common scenarios that can pose a potentially deadly threat to human health:

  • Petrol-powered equipment like generators and cut-off saws may be being used indoors or in dangerously enclosed spaces. This can cause asphyxiation lethally quickly – it often takes only a few minutes for someone to lose consciousness
  • Similarly, any equipment that uses Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), such as heaters or cookers, in enclosed spaces

This isn’t a complete list – just the more critical dangers! One easy way to negate the dangers is to use electrical tools whenever possible, but if different tools aren’t an option, then instead the focus needs to be on ensuring sufficient ventilation. If the space cannot be sufficiently ventilated, then the job (quite simply) needs to be relocated.

risk assessment

Ensure that relevant staff have portable gas alarms

As well as your main carbon dioxide gas alarms (or whatever gas you’re targeting), it’s also always worth equipping your staff with personal gas alarms. These smaller devices can give your team valuable early warning of deadly gases, which can make all the difference to protecting not just their health as an individual, but also the collective health of their colleagues and anyone else in the vicinity. We supply a range of reliable portable gas alarms here at Gas Alarms Systems – so whatever the nature of your staff’s work, you can be sure that we’ll have exactly what’s required.

Keep on top of maintenance and inspections

In addition to the initial risk assessment, every workplace needs an action plan of scheduled inspections and maintenance to perform throughout the year, to ensure that all premises equipment is kept to an appropriate safety standard. The issue of ventilation needs particular scrutiny, and you may find that it’s easiest to employ (or even hire) someone with the right level of specialist expertise, so that you can always have complete peace of mind. LPG equipment can also be notoriously prone to failure, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for blocked (or partially blocked) burners.

Your storage procedures will also need regular re-examination, as careless or insufficient storage can lead to leaks, fires, or even explosions. In a recent post, we mentioned one of the most devastating examples of this: the PEPCON disaster. In a nutshell, improperly stored barrels of ammonium perchlorate were stored in such quantities on site that when they were accidentally ignited, it ultimately produced an explosion equalling that of a tactical nuclear weapon.

Regularly refresh the training of your staff

All the equipment and systems in the world won’t do any good if your staff aren’t confident with using them, or if they don’t know exactly how to react in case of an emergency. That’s why staff training should be prioritised equally with the procuring gas alarms and other safety assets. Their training also needs to cover the signs any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, or the effects of other toxic gases, so that they can take rapid remedial action in a dangerous situation.

And of course, if you ever decide that any of your current gas detection equipment isn’t quite up to scratch, you’re in exactly the right place. Here at Gas Alarm Systems, we are market-leading experts in the design, development and maintenance of gas leak detection equipment. Feel free to take a look at our range of fixed products or portable products, or if you have any questions or need any advice, by all means call us on 01423 862240, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help.