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Digitalise and connect gas detectors for enhanced safety and accountability

Portable gas detectors are a vital part of many safety programs, but do you know if your workers are using them properly? In this piece, MSA Safety explains how digitally assigning and connecting these devices can give extra assurance, whilst potentially saving money for businesses. As well as simplifying and, where possible, automatically encouraging certain practices, this approach can foster enhanced accountability amongst device users.

Oil and gas production, steel and other heavy manufacturing, power utilities and telecoms are just a few examples of industries where many businesses rely on gas detectors.

Portable gas detector users have an important responsibility to comply with protocols from their device, employer, and worksites, for their own wellbeing, and for that of their co-workers. You may need or want to confirm they’re fulfilling that responsibility. One way to do so is with automatic and failsafe systems that can be applied to some safety steps. When actions are needed from the user, consider whether and how to monitor each individual user’s behaviour. In many instances, doing so can provide  managers insight to help them step in and deal with problems or lapses.

Assignment of gas detection devices

Daily assignment of gas detectors to workers is one area where you may be looking to enhance your processes. Recording each worker’s name and details against the serial number or other identifier of a device can be slow and laborious when carried out using pen and paper or a spreadsheet. For example, for larger businesses with hundreds or thousands of devices assigning them to individual users can have an expensive and frustrating impact on time and productivity. In some cases, large queues build up at the start and end of each shift.

Records collected by those assignment methods may be incomplete and may contain errors. Having accurate information can be helpful for safety planning and for keeping track of devices and their locations. In some businesses, hundreds of gas detectors go missing  and cannot be traced.

Monitoring of gas detector use

Between signing out and returning the devices when using  pen and paper or a spreadsheet, does the manager know what the workers are doing with them? Have they switched them on? Have they carried out all the actions required by your safety procedures? Are they taking good care of the devices? Assuming the devices are returned, are they in good condition? Are there any faults, or is there any damage? Did these develop on this shift or during assignment to previous user?

Information about the use of gas detectors can impact your risks and repair costs. For example, information on device condition can help reduce the risk of malfunctions and the expense of unplanned downtime.

How can digitalisation and connection help?

In essence, connected working means linking portable gas detectors, workers and managers to each other, and to a cloud-based software platform, via wireless connectivity.

With certain connected equipment, digitally assigning the device can be as simple as tapping a tag. The system then knows who is using the device and matches their name to a record of their details. With connectivity, you will also know where the device is at any time – reducing the risk of losing devices.

The connected device also automatically gathers information on its use and ties it to the individual user’s history. Its data collection is not reliant on the user’s record-keeping. Managers can see whether the device is switched on, and when, where and how it is being used. Its monitoring functions will indicate, for instance, compliance failures, rough treatment and changes in condition. By viewing the individual’s real-time and historical data, managers can evaluate when to reinforce positive behaviours and when to intervene – to advise, support or retrain, for example.

Automatic recording of gas detection incidents, along with remote, real-time monitoring, can be set-up to make managers aware of alarms and other situations of concern. They can decide whether to respond immediately with instructions and further help. Based on the large amounts of data collected, businesses can also strategically plan whether and when to make any safety improvements.

Having such information on the devices and their use enables easier tracking and inventory management. With such knowledge of their current condition and history, servicing and repairs can be optimally planned to minimise downtime. Productive time saved here, and in the assignment process, along with greater ease of device sharing and fewer losses, can reduce the number of gas detectors you need to buy. Automatic compliance functions may also reduce the amount of training needed.

MSA Safety’s solution

MSA delivers all these advantages and more with its Connected Work Platform, driven by the ALTAIR io™ 4 Connected Gas Detector with the power of MSA Grid to provide real-time insights and actionable data. Importantly, it also incorporates RFID tagging.

The MSA ID Tag is a unique solution which requires only a tap against the device to assign it to a specific named user, consist first name and surname . On return, the detector is simply clicked into the dock, which unassigns and recharges it.

The ALTAIR io™ Dock  is additionally equipped to check each device is working correctly and carry out bump testing and calibration. It won’t allow such a non-compliant device to be assigned. If the detector’s status becomes non-compliant in these ways during a shift, the manager will be informed remotely and the user will see an amber warning light on the device itself.

Managers have a clear view, in real time and via historical data, of the relevant information automatically gathered by each device. This can be used for immediate decision-making, longer-term safety improvement planning, and optimal device management and maintenance.

Despite its sophisticated engineering and functionality, this MSA Safety system is exceptionally easy to implement – with no need for additional infrastructure. It’s also simple to rescale, modify or update once in use.

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