Facility and site managers may be well versed in monitoring their workplace for "known" hazardous gasses such as combustibles, O2, CO, and H2S, but detecting a wide array of VOCS can be difficult.
That’s where photoionization detector (PID) gas monitors come in. They can be used to detect low concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. These compounds are considered extremely dangerous to workers. They tend to be found in and around facilities that handle hazardous materials, including fuel, oil, and gasoline.
The vapors from diesel fuel and gasoline are not only potentially combustible (if conditions are right) but are also classified as harmful known VOCS. Certain types of paint, aerosols, adhesives, and pesticides can also emit VOCs into the air. These compounds are a hazard to workers even at low concentrations. Depending on the length of exposure, symptoms including eye, nose, and throat irritation, dizziness, fatigue, visual disorders, and memory impairment can become severe. The severity of these symptoms depends on the length of exposure.
Monitoring VOC Levels
Currently, there is no cost-effective way to monitor diesel vapor levels in the workplace. OSHA has yet to implement general VOC guidelines, but it has for formaldehyde that comes with a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of 0.75 ppm and an action level of 0.5 ppm. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has a threshold limit value (TLV), or the amount a worker can be exposed to in a workday, of just 15 ppm for diesel vapor.
PID gas monitors use a process known as photoionization to calculate the precise volume of VOCs in the air. The device will issue an alarm so workers can evacuate the area or utilize the proper safety gear to prevent exposure.
PID Monitors To Consider
Workers can use personal PID monitors to check the air for VOCs. The monitor detects VOCs using an ultraviolet lamp that emits photons. Photoionization occurs when atoms absorb light from energy. The target gas will produce electrons when exposed to UV light. This sends an electrical signal to the monitor, which then converts the charge into a reading of the concentration of VOCs in the air.
These devices can detect a broad range of compounds, with direct values calculated using a library of VOCs if the target gas is known. However, it won’t parse out the particular levels of each compound, but it will produce an accurate reading of the overall VOC level.
Most PID gas detectors are designed to detect common hazardous gasses. That means managers will need to test for these compounds separately. There are unfiltered LEL sensors that can detect the heavier hydrocarbons, but oftentimes, the monitors require re-configuring and the sensors themselves are highly susceptible to poisoning. It’s worth noting that colorimetric tubes can offer a quick snapshot of the presence of VOCs, but the accuracy can vary due to manual operation of the piston.
Some great PID gas detection options we recommend are Honeywell’s BW Ultra Five-Gas Portable Gas Detector,RAE Systems’s MultiRAE Multi-Threat Wireless Monitor, and RKI’s GX-6000 6 Gas Sample Draw PID and Super Toxics Gas Monitor.
Though all offer solid protection, the GX-6000 can detect up to 6 target gasses, including the four standard gasses (combustibles, LEL, O2, CO, and H2S), as well as VOCs using photoionization. The included PID sensor comes with a range of 6,000 ppm. You can also add a sixth sensor to monitor particular VOCs, including SO2 at 6 ppm, HCN at 15 ppm, NH3 at 400 ppm, or Cl2 at 10 ppm. It uses a library of 600 VOCs to target a wide range of compounds. You can also create a personalized list of up to 30 VOCs to target. It comes with a durable, water-resistant enclosure that’s designed to endure the nastiest of environments. Like the best gas detectors, it issues a flashing LED, vibrating, and audible alarm for maximum awareness and faster response times.
The device can be carried around on the worker’s person, so they can test the air as needed. The battery will work for up to 14 hours and needs around 3 hours to recharge. This is the ideal choice when working in confined spaces, such as manholes, utility tunnels, and basements. Workers can also take this equipment with them when overseeing mechanical operations in the field.
Companies that work with hazardous materials that can produce VOCs should use PID sensor technology to protect their employees from possible exposure. These PID gas detectors are improving workplace safety by combining the features of a 4-gas monitor with a PID gas monitoring system. Workers can monitor their surroundings for a range of hazardous gases and compounds at the same time without having to work with multiple devices. The worker can access all the information they need using the same interface for maximum protection in the field.
VOCs remain an urgent threat, and companies can use this gas detection technology to improve workplace safety at every turn. If you need help selecting a PID monitor for your application, or have any other questions related to safety gear, contact the experts today at PK Safety.