ISHN’s exclusive study of gas detection practices in industry, based on an email survey of subscribers, shows the vast majority of companies (84 percent) use industrial hygiene monitoring methods.

Important instrument attributes

What are the attributes most important in gas detection instruments? Survey respondents point to reliability (75 percent), accuracy (64 percent) and cost (61 percent). About one-third (32 percent) consider it highly important for instrumentation to provide real-time data in order to make process control decisions.

Monitoring methods

What type of monitoring is being done in workplaces? Portable gas detectors are most popular; they are used by 61 percent of respondents. Fixed/stationary systems are used by 39 percent.  More than half (52 percent) use both portable and fixed instruments. Half of the respondents calibrate their fixed systems every three months, while about one-third calibration fixed system annually.

Use of data

Industrial hygiene analytics continue to gain in popularity. Two-thirds of current users of industrial hygiene monitoring equipment store/archive gas detection data. How is stored data put to use? The number one application is to use the data for compliance reporting (71 percent of respondents). Fifty-nine percent plan to use data for safety and compliance predictive analytics. Thirty-seven percent will use stored data for training purposes or to make operational changes. Seventeen percent plan to use data to improve process efficiency.

Nearly half of the respondents currently use or plan to use predictive safety/gas detector sensors. About one in five (21 percent) currently use predictive sensors, and 26 percent have plans to use predictive sensors in the future.

Big Data benefits

So what are the perceived benefits of “Big Data” in the gas detection world? Three are cited most often by survey respondents: 1) Big Data enhance management of monitoring systems through the use of predictive maintenance (62 percent agree or strongly agree with this statement); 2) It identifies gaps in a safety program that must be corrected to enhance workplace safety (60 percent); and 3) It eliminates the cost of human error that can surface during maintenance (52 percent). Other positives: Big Data enables daily operational monitoring of the entire monitoring system across the country (43 percent agree or strongly agree), and it helps reduce the cost of liability insurance (31 percent).

Industrial hygiene training

When it comes to training employees in gas detection practices, here are the most preferred topics: 1) how to conduct personal monitoring (61 percent); 2) the care, maintenance and calibration of devices (52 percent); 3) monitoring for hazardous gases on site (46 percent); and 4) confined space monitoring (39 percent). By far most safety and industrial hygiene personnel prefer blended training, a combination of classroom and online training (cited by 51 percent of respondents). Strictly online training is preferred by 31 percent, and strictly classroom training is the number one choice of 29 percent. About one in ten (11 percent) use smartphone and tablet-based training modules.

Monitoring frequency

How often are workers’ chemical exposures monitored? Most survey respondents conduct exposure sampling annually (41 percent); about one-quarter (24 percent) do it quarterly; 11 percent conduct monthly sampling; seven percent conduct weekly sampling, and eight percent monitor employee exposures every day.

Exposure limits

The overwhelming majority of safety and industrial hygiene personnel use OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs) to monitor hazardous substances (85 percent). About one-third (35 percent) use ACGIH® Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), and about one-quarter (24 percent) use their own internal company exposure limits.

Use of new technology

Currently, 27 percent of respondents use wearable sensors at some facility locations and 11 percent use wearable sensors company-wide. GPS-enabled worker location tracking systems are currently used by 14 percent at some locations, and used company-wide by nine percent. Wireless gas detection systems are now employed at some locations by 21 percent of respondents, with eight percent using wireless systems company-wide. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are now used for exposure monitoring applications at some locations by 25 percent of respondents, and company-wide by five percent. Seventy-one percent make no use of mobile devices at the moment.

Use of mobile devices will grow; 42 percent of survey respondents plan to deploy these devices in the next two to five years. Also in the next two to five years, 23 percent of safety/industrial hygiene personnel plan to purchase wireless gas detection systems; 28 percent plan to use wearable sensor technology; and 17 percent will use GPS-enabled worker location tracking systems. Less than one-third of respondents not currently using any of the technologies cited here say they have no plans to ever use these technologies in the future.