Consequently, by not having a routine maintenance system
in place, you can put the health and lives of occupants of your
building at risk if your gas detection equipment is not functioning properly. And when it comes to exposure of gases, it
only takes one incident to put lives in jeopardy and open up
your organization to tremendous liability. In fact, in recent
years there have been fatalities at facilities in Salem, Mass. and
in Connecticut, as well as numerous other states where gas
detection equipment has failed.
The cost of false alarms
The flip side to gas detection equipment not detecting potential dangerous gases, particularly in a cleanroom setting, is
that some systems may be oversensitive and produce false
alarms. This is something that occurs in many facilities; it is
not unusual for an infrequent or mis-calibrated detection systems to be set off by ambient gas. This can trigger a very costly
chain of events—chaos in the immediate vicinity, emergency
personnel dispatched to the scene, evacuation of staff, etc.
Bottom line: a false alarm alone can cost thousands of
dollars in lost business, lost man hours, and the price of emer-
gency personnel dispersed to the site—not to mention the bad
publicity and lost confidence of those directly involved in the
situation as well as those who simply just heard about it. With
any false alarm, there always exists the possibility that you
are taking emergency personnel away from a real emergency
where their services are needed.
When you compare the cost of an annual maintenance
plan—roughly $1,000—with the thousands of dollars associated with a wrongful death or liability lawsuit, the investment in
a maintenance and monitoring program makes all the sense in
the world. Yet it’s a conservative estimate that, of all the facilities that have gas detection systems on their premises, perhaps
only 10 percent have an active maintenance program with
testing being conducted on a quarterly basis.
While that may sound rather bleak on the surface, it’s a
number that has actually gone up over the past few years.
Much of that has to do with insurance. With an increased
focus on risk management for commercial clients, insurance
companies have not only mandated that gas detection equipment be installed, but they have offered incentives for maintenance and monitoring contracts with those systems. This is a
trend that is likely to continue.
The bottom line is safety
As a facility manager, building owner, or other controlled environment director, your responsibilities are many. The safety of
those who work and visit your property is perhaps the most
important of those responsibilities. You can run a smooth and
efficient operation for 20 years with little fanfare. However,
one incident with your gas detection equipment and system
can mar that reputation. Installing a state-of-the-art gas detection system with regular maintenance and monitoring buys
you peace of mind, on which you just can’t put a price tag.
Perhaps the best trend in gas detection equipment in controlled environments is that more and more of those in charge
are choosing common sense over the bottom line.
John V. Carvalho III is the president of Apollo Safety Inc.,
located in Fall River, Mass. The company specializes in gas detection products and services for portable and stationary systems.
11 July/August 2014 • www.cemag.us
A conservative estimate is that only 10% of facilities have an active
gas detection equipment maintenance program.
The flip side to not detecting dangerous
gases is that some systems may be oversensitive and produce false alarms.