Product Focus: Instruments and monitors

Trends in ... instruments and monitors

Experts discuss what’s new; avoiding misuse

Whether detecting gas levels, gas leaks or noise levels – or alerting other workers about a possible man-down situation – instruments and monitors are vital safety devices for workers in a number of industries, including construction, manufacturing and utilities. Here, industry insiders describe what’s new in this field and what workers and supervisors need to know about these devices.


Manufacturers of gas monitoring instruments are working to provide end users with functionality that goes beyond gas detection, according to Dave Wagner, director of applications engineering and product knowledge at Pittsburgh-based Industrial Scientific Corp. “To that end, several instruments today offer man-down or panic alert functionality,” Wagner said. “If a worker becomes disabled and is in need of help, he can trigger the panic alert on his monitor, which will activate the audible and visual alarms on his monitor and signal someone working nearby that he is in need of help.”

If a worker is unable to trigger the alert, the instrument’s man-down functionality will automatically trigger its audible and visual alarms, he added.

Other new technologies in the instrument and monitor field focus on gas sensing. “Optical sensors using either infrared or UV sources, including LEDs or lasers, are steadily becoming industry-viable technologies, and offer superb stability and in some cases ultra-low power,” said Robert J. Masi, research and development manager for The Woodlands, TX-based Detcon/Tyco Gas & Flame Detection.

Getting it right

Don’t overlook bump testing. That’s the message Bryan Bates, owner and CEO of Cedar Hill, TX-based Gas Clip Technologies, wants you to remember. “Many users of portable multi-gas detectors forget, or intentionally ignore, the need to bump test their instruments,” Bates said, adding that although he’s aware that bump testing can be tedious and time-consuming, it’s critical for maintaining safety standards. In addition, “New technology available in wall-mounted/desktop-docking stations allows for ease of use and cost-effective compliance to safety standards, making bump testing quick and easy to perform,” he said.

According to Masi, poorly performed or incorrect physical installations are probably the leading case of product misuse, followed by incorrect span calibration executions. “Often, an incorrect gas concentration is delivered to the detector – usually lower than true level – and this creates a noise and drift amplification problem,” he explained.

Masi said the third most common case of misuse involves the improper expectation of the sensor’s analytical capability. “In many cases, a fixed-point ambient detector can only provide for basic levels of accuracy that safeguard worker protection, but often the detector is misused in a measurement application requiring a highly precise and critical reading used for process control,” he said. However, he added, most of these issues can be prevented by educating the customer base on how to properly install, maintain and use these products.

Bates offered similar advice. “It is important to recognize the limitations of the gas monitoring systems and to read – and comply with – the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding general maintenance and care of instruments,” he said.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

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