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Trends in ... instruments and monitors

May 1, 2012

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Invest in safety

By Tracy Haas, editorial assistant

Instruments and monitors for the occupational safety field protect against dangers that workers might not be able to detect on their own, such as whether a workplace is safe to enter without hearing protection, or if a workplace contains dangerous levels of gases or fumes. Now, technological advancements are aiming to make these important safety tools simpler and more reliable than ever.

“One of the fastest-growing trends in technology in instrument safety today involves the use of data-logged information to show trends in hazardous conditions and monitor worker safety,” said Dave Wagner, director of product knowledge for Oakdale, PA-based Industrial Scientific Corp. “The data may be collected in real time using wireless technologies, or may be stored and downloaded for review at a later time, but in either case, reviewing data to gain a greater understanding of the conditions that workers are exposed to – including when and where these conditions occur – is being used more frequently to help provide a safer workplace,” he said.

Another important aspect of instruments and monitors is how long they will work. Gustavo Lopez, product group manager, portable instruments and sensors, for Cranberry Township, PA-based MSA, explained that products are now available that can be relied on for years. As an example, “A catalytic combustible sensor uses two detectors to double the instrument’s life from two to four years,” Lopez said. “In addition, a lead-free oxygen sensor that uses a non-consuming chemical reaction, and lasts 4-plus years, has now been released.”

However, long sensor life and new features do not make instruments and monitors foolproof. “Data from instruments is commonly misinterpreted or improperly applied,” Wagner said. “This is often because the user does not clearly understand how the data was originally captured or the meaning of specific trends or markers within the data.”

To avoid this, a worker needs to be completely comfortable with the equipment at hand. “The easiest way to correct this problem is to provide more training with respect to the data-logging capabilities and features of various instruments, and continue to train on the value of reviewing data on a regular basis,” Wagner said.

Besides knowing how to manage the intricacies of a particular tool workers are using, other factors should be considered, Lopez noted. “Simply put, people misuse products by not providing the proper care and maintenance,” he said. “These products and sensors require bump testing prior to each use.” Lopez cautioned that if care is ignored or sloppy, workers can experience sensor drift that could lead to false alarms.

Wagner and Lopez offered some final advice regarding these potentially life-critical tools. “By far, the most important aspect of any instrument program should be ensuring that the particular instrument and its features and functionality are appropriate for the application it is being used in, and will deliver the results that the end user expects,” Wagner said. According to Lopez, the initial quality of the product is a huge determining factor. “Most importantly, when buying a product, please consider the product’s durability, reliability and overall cost of ownership in your purchasing decision,” he said. “You are making an investment, one that will enable you to work more efficiently and more safely.”

Coming next month…
Hand protection

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