Many people associate the need for gas detection with heavy industries such as oil and gas or steelmaking, but many workers in the brewing and beverage industry routinely face potential hazards in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) gases. Both nitrogen and carbon dioxide are naturally present in the atmosphere, but at elevated concentrations they can each present a significant danger. In fact, it’s not overstating it to stress that early detection of these gases can be the difference between life and death.
Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere at a relatively low concentration of around 400 parts per million (ppm). In brewery and cellar environments, confined spaces and the risk of gas canisters or associated equipment leaking could lead to elevated levels. Carbon dioxide is also generated during fermentation.
As little as 0.5% volume (5000ppm) of carbon dioxide is a toxic health hazard. It is colourless and odourless. It is also denser than air, so it tends to pool in low lying areas, creating localised pockets of hazardous gas. Health & safety managers must therefore ensure the correct equipment and detectors are in place to spot when these pockets of carbon dioxide form.
In contrast, nitrogen is inert so the chief hazard it presents is its ability to displace oxygen, leading to a danger of suffocation.
Brewers often use nitrogen in multiple phases of the brewing and dispensing process to put bubbles into beer, particularly stouts, pale ales and porters. It also ensures the beer doesn’t oxidise. Nitrogen can be used to shunt liquid from one tank to another, or it may be injected into kegs or barrels in order to pressurise them ready for storage and shipment. Nitrogen naturally makes up almost 80% of air and it doesn’t pool in the same way as carbon dioxide.
Gas detection systems can be fixed or portable, or they may include elements of both. It’s important to choose the right solution for each application.
Installation of a fixed gas detector can benefit a larger space such as a plant room, where it can provide continuous area and staff protection 24 hours a day. However, for worker safety in and around cylinder storage areas and in confined spaces such as vats or other vessels, a portable detector worn by workers is often more suitable.
For example, a portable solution is likely to be the best option for pubs and restaurants, where personnel may be coming and going who are unfamiliar with the environment, such as delivery drivers, sales teams or technicians. A portable unit can easily be clipped onto clothing to trigger an alarm if it detects a pocket of carbon dioxide, for instance, prompting workers to evacuate the area quickly.
Even when gas detectors are deployed, employees should not get complacent. Safety checks should be an essential part of each working day.
At Crowcon, we’re dedicated in growing a safer, cleaner, healthier future for everyone, every day by providing best-in-class gas safety solutions.