Harvest in the wine country is the peak of activity in the winemaking cycle. It's Go Time - The playoffs of the wine growing season. Preparing for the avalanche of grapes means everything in the winery must be tested, sanitized, and ready. Lab equipment for checking sugar, pH, and total acidity must be made ready, barrels need to be prepped, presses cleaned, and sorting tables sorted. It's also the right time to make sure gas monitors are calibrated.
There can be many areas that require testing for safe atmospheric conditions in a winery. OSHA requires confined spaces that have a potential to contain hazardous atmospheres or pose other dangers be tested before workers enter as well as while they are in the space. In wineries confined spaces can include tanks as well as the less obvious fermentation rooms, pits, and sump pump stations.
Most wineries have either portable or fixed gas monitoring systems (or both) not only for carbon dioxide (CO2), but for checking oxygen (O2) levels as well as sulfur dioxide (SO2), and in some applications ozone (O3). As harvest time approaches, it's the ideal opportunity to make sure the sensors and monitors are operating properly.
Testing these areas is not simply a matter of compliance with a bothersome regulation. There have been injuries and even deaths associated gases released or oxygen displaced in large-scale fermentation projects. Before each use, portable gas monitors must be bump tested to make sure the sensors are reading the target gases.
It's important to note that calibration is different from bump testing. Bump testing is a quick process where the sensors are exposed to the gases with a cylinder of test gas, and if the unit goes into alarm, you know it is reading the presence of the gas (or gases). However manufacturers suggest, and OSHA requires, the gas monitors be calibrated regularly. Each manufacturer's suggested time for calibration is slightly different. But in wineries (and breweries for that matter) gas monitors aren't necessarily used every day, or even every month, and there are a number of ways sensor readings can change. One is simple "calibration drift" where the monitor may go into alarm, but the readings are no longer precise. Another is exposure to extreme concentrations of a specific gas that may damage or throw off the readings of a sensor.
Calibration services can be completed by a Factory-Authorized Service Center, or a moderately technical person equipped with unexpired calibration gas can generally complete the calibration themselves in a short amount of time.
Take the time before harvest and crush to properly prepare all gas monitoring devices. Because the critical time for wineries is so physically and mentally taxing, it makes sense to take care of the lifesaving instruments while clear thinking and planning can prevail.
If you have questions about your gas monitoring system, or OSHA requirements for confined space entry, please contact us on PK Safety Live Chat Monday through Friday 6am till 5:30pm PST, or visit our website at pksafety.com.