What is an Oxygen Deficient Environment?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines an environment in which oxygen levels fall below 19.5 percent as an oxygen-deficient atmosphere, which should be treated as immediately dangerous to health or life. When there is not enough oxygen in the air, persons within the affected area may become disoriented, lose consciousness, or even suffocate due to the lack of sufficient oxygen.
An oxygen-deficient environment may be created when oxygen is displaced by inert gases, such as nitrogen, helium, argon, or carbon dioxide. Therefore, manufacturers and other organizations utilizing inert gases in their operations need to successfully navigate complex working environments in which high concentrations of such gases may be critical to production procedures, but where the risks of oxygen deficiency may pose a potential safety hazard for their employees.
Fortunately, by utilizing a top-quality oxygen deficiency monitor, facility managers can maintain stringent processing requirements, as well as protect the health and safety of their personnel.
What is an Oxygen Deficiency Monitor?
An oxygen deficiency monitor is a device that measures oxygen levels in a particular area. By continuously tracking oxygen levels, oxygen deficiency monitors are designed to detect gas leaks from oxygen-depleting gases before employee health is jeopardized.
A number of gases, including nitrogen, helium, carbon dioxide, and argon, among others, are odorless, colorless, oxygen-depleting gases. As such, unless they are using a reliable oxygen deficiency monitor, personnel would likely be unable to detect a gas leak should one occur in a gas cylinder or line.
Which Industries Should Use Oxygen Deficiency Monitors?
Oxygen deficiency monitors contribute to safe working environments in any scientific or industrial application utilizing oxygen-depleting gases and, therefore, requiring continuous monitoring of oxygen levels. For instance:
- The medical industry uses inert gases for a variety of purposes, including MRI facilities, performing cryosurgery, in-vitro fertilization, and cryostorage facilities, and for blood and tissue preservation, while laboratories typically use compressed gases including argon, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers depend upon gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide to maintain sterile environments throughout the drug manufacturing and packaging processes.
- The food and beverage industries rely on carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas for a range of uses. By way of example, carbon dioxide carbonates beverages in bars, fast-food establishments, and restaurants, and it is a critical component in the productions of soft drinks and beer. Nitrogen gas is important in food preservation processes, where it is used to remove oxygen from the manufacturing environment, extend product shelf life, and decrease the likelihood of spoilage.
- Semiconductor fabricators and foundries must closely monitor process gas levels, as an improper amount of gas can ruin the quality and integrity of the components and devices being manufactured.
The foregoing bullet points highlight just a few of the industries that need oxygen deficiency monitors as part of their daily operations. Others include aerospace, cryotherapy, additive manufacturing, research and development, alternative fuel, waste management, and the oil and gas sectors.
PureAire Monitoring Systems’ line of oxygen deficiency monitors offer thorough air monitoring, with no time-consuming maintenance or calibration required. Our monitor continuously tracks oxygen levels and, in the event of a gas leak and a drop in oxygen to an OSHA action level, will set off an alarm, complete with horns and flashing lights, alerting employees to evacuate the affected area.
The monitor will remain accurate at temperatures as low as -40C. PureAire’s durable, non-depleting, long-life zirconium oxide sensor will last for 10+ years in a normal environment without needing to be replaced.
Where Should Oxygen Deficiency Monitors Be Installed?
Oxygen deficiency monitors should be installed 3 to 5 feet away from a gas cylinder or gas line, and in any location where there is a risk of gas leaks that may cause a drop in oxygen to an unsafe level. So that employees can see the monitors and verify their performance, the monitors should typically be mounted 3 to 5 feet off the ground.
There are many other configurations for mounting. For instance, PureAire oxygen deficiency monitors can sample oxygen levels from up to 100 feet away using ¼ inch tubing, or be installed within a glovebox, freezer, gas line, sealed chamber, or even below ground level. PureAire oxygen deficiency sensors can be mounted directly in vacuum chambers with the use of a KF25 vacuum fitting.
How Many Oxygen Deficiency Monitors Do I need?
To ensure safety, PureAire generally recommends that one monitor be installed for approximately every 400 square feet of your facility’s space. However, since cryogenic gases, such as argon, helium, and nitrogen, are unpredictable, we encourage you to contact PureAire for additional guidance specific to your needs.