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The Overview on Inert Glove Boxes and How They Work

  • By : PureAire Monitoring Systems
  • Posted on : October 09, 2017
inert glove box oxygen monitor

For businesses that work with inert gases or hazardous materials, glove boxes are essential. They allow employees to safely work with sensitive or hazardous materials without compromising either the material or their safety. While glove boxes are an effective solution to handling inert and hazardous materials, they are not failsafe. To ensure there are no leaks in the glove box, it’s critical to pair a glove box with an oxygen monitor.

How a Glove Box Works 

A glove box, sometimes known as a dry box, is a large box with at least one window and two ports. The ports allow workers wearing arm-length gloves to place their hands inside the inert environment, where they can work with hazardous materials or inert gases, such as argon or nitrogen.

The interior of the glove box is filled with an inert gas — usually nitrogen, although it could be argon or helium if the materials used inside the box react with nitrogen. While the glove box environment is intended to be closed, small amounts of oxygen can seep through the glove ports. Thus, it’s essential that the glove box be purged nightly.

There’s an antechamber on one side of the glove box. This allows you to place materials in the chamber, then open the interior door and bring them into the glove box environment. To prevent the insert gas inside from seeping out through the antechamber, you must never have both the interior and exterior door open at the same time.

Inert gases, such as nitrogen and argon, displace oxygen. If these gases were to leak into the air via the antechamber doors or through a hole in a defective glove box, it would push oxygen out of the room. Oxygen levels would begin to drop, eventually falling below the OSHA threshold.

When oxygen levels drop below the OSHA threshold, it can cause respiratory and cognitive problems, as well as death via asphyxiation. To protect employee safety in a glove box environment, it’s critical to use oxygen monitors onsite.

How an Oxygen Monitor Protects Your Workers 

While your staff might see the antechamber doors open and understand that a leak has occurred, most leaks are undetectable until it is too late.

Inert gases have no color or odor, so there is no way for someone working onsite to know at a glance or sniff there’s been a leak. Meanwhile, the air in the room would slowly lose oxygen, eventually leading to an oxygen deficient environment that places your employees at risk of death by asphyxiation.

A wall-mounted oxygen monitor samples room air 24/7. The monitor remains silent if there’s sufficient air in the room. If there is a leak of nitrogen, for example, and oxygen levels fall, the monitor will sound an alarm and flash lights, so workers can see and hear there is a problem.

Your employees will be able to leave the room before suffering adverse health effects. Staff will also be able to complete shifts with less stress when they know the environment is safe, because they trust the oxygen monitor is working properly.

PureAire’s oxygen monitors feature long-lasting zirconium sensors. Once installed, these oxygen monitors measure the oxygen in the air for 10 or more years, without needing annual calibration or maintenance. The monitors are unaffected by sudden shifts in barometric pressure or thunderstorms. The digital display provides legible, updated oxygen readings so employees can check ambient oxygen levels. PureAire’s oxygen monitors can be used in confined spaces and in temperature extremes as low as -40 Celsius. All PureAire oxygen monitors come with a three year warranty for your protection. Review specifications or learn more about oxygen monitors from PureAire by visiting