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    Top Five Guidelines for Gas Detector Maintenance

    By Chuck Hurley.
    4th Article for 2006 - Certification Maintenance (CIH) Quiz

    Benchmark your maintenance program against these five areas.

    On a daily basis, safety professionals are presented with the question, “What is the correct amount of maintenance necessary to ensure a safe workplace?” The answer isn't as easy as you might expect. There is a significant minefield for an employer and manager to navigate between local regulations, state regulations, federal regulations and internal company policies. This article is intended to help any engineer with the basics of successfully traversing the danger area.

     

    1. Use the Right Instrument.

    The first step is determining the correct instrument for the job at hand. It may seem obvious, but it isn't uncommon to find instrumentation installed in an inappropriate application or situation. One of the main reasons that there are so many gas detection manufacturers in the market place is that each has developed products targeting specific industries and applications. Portable instruments, fixed instruments, detection devices, analytical devices, catalytic bead, electrochemical cells, colorimetric tape, FTIR, NDIR, PID, and cavity ring down spectrometry are all technologies that have their place in the gas detection arena because they are good at what they do for specific applications and market needs. Selecting the right instrument for your needs is the first key step in determining the correct maintenance schedule for any equipment.

     

    2. Consider Usage Requirements.

    The second phase in putting together a successful maintenance program is understanding usage requirements. A fixed system that is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week will be subject to a different maintenance routine than a portable instrument being used by a construction company once every three months. With a fixed system, the user must not only contend with the frequency of calibration and regular maintenance but must also ensure that a system is in place for bringing the process down, testing, calibrating, performing the appropriate maintenance on the instrument and putting the system back into operation. To do this successfully, a user either has to halt the process being monitored or bring in another form of gas detection while maintenance is being carried out on the primary system.

    At the opposite end of the gas detection spectrum, portable units can be tested and calibrated in the morning, prior to use. Understanding how an instrument is used has a significant impact on how it should be maintained.

     

    3. Ensure Compliance with Regulations.

    The next point in determining a maintenance schedule for gas detection equipment is one that is most often believed to be out of a user's control: the requirements of federal, state and local compliance laws. Unfortunately, one single answer won't move a user through the system successfully. The difference between calibrating an instrument and performing maintenance on it can be very small or quite significant depending on the make and model of a unit, and there is no one sure way to guarantee a user is meeting all statutory requirements.

    The best advice is to meet with a local code enforcement officer to discuss an application alongside suggested calibration and maintenance routines. It is more than likely that the officer will be able to assist in determining what is required from a local and a state perspective. The next step is determining which OSHA regulations the user's operation falls under and is expected to adhere to.

    Fortunately, OSHA's Web site, osha.gov, can be searched for specific applications and regulations, and also houses Safety and Health Bulletins regarding interpreting regulations and implementing best known practices. An additional benefit provided by OSHA and local state funding is a free consultation service available to small businesses, which is a confidential consultation ensuring issues will not be reported directly to the OSHA inspection staff.

    Finally, depending on the size and scope of gas detection requirements a user may wish to hire a private consulting firm to assist in the evaluation of calibration and maintenance routines. Many gas detection manufacturers offer this service, and there are a significant number of local health and safety consulting groups available to review applications and maintenance schedules with federal, state and local compliance in mind.

     

    4. Add the Corporate Philosophy.

    The final point that must be considered is a personal or corporate philosophy regarding maintenance. We all know the person who drives the car until it breaks and the other person who changes the oil every 1,500 miles. Most people fall in between the two examples listed, but, regardless of where you fall, it is still a matter of choice. Maintenance routines are written by people, and therefore, an element of human nature enters into the mix.

     

    5. Review Documentation.

    One last thought: document what is done. The closure of any good maintenance system is to document exactly what was done and who did it. To develop a system that outlines the frequency of maintenance but fails to either detail actions or record what has been done is a disservice to the system.

     

    Conclusion

    The best method to ensure proper maintenance of equipment is to put together a simple matrix covering the issues outlined in this article. The minimum requirements to be taken into account are the recommendations of the manufacturer from the instruments operation manual, regulatory requirements, and a company's usage requirements. Add to that a personal or corporate philosophy regarding maintenance, and this will amount to the basics of an effective maintenance program.

    CM