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1) Properties of Flammable and Toxic Gases

1.1 Flammable Gases


Most natural gases are rich in methane. Most Range of methane in North Sea NG is about 50 -
portable gas detectors are therefore calibrated for 90%. In some areas of gas separation - greater
methane quantities of the ‘condensate’ gases eg. Pentane to
octane gases and liquids are found

Other flammable gases / vapours found in the oil Hydrogen from battery charging, acetylene from
and gas industry include the LPG gases, propane, cutting equipment, methanol used in pipeline
butane, hydrogen acetylene and methanol. pigging
Flammability of Methane:-
Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) of methane is 5% The correct expression is now Lower Flammable
by volume i.e. 5 vols of methane, 95 vols of air. Limit (LFL) but most gas detectors and paperwork
This is the minimum quantity of methane in a still use the terms LEL and UEL
methane/air mixture that will just ignite to produce Ignition occurs if the hot source has a temperature
a self-propagating flame if exposed to a hot source higher than 530 C.
i.e. cigarette, match or spark from electrical
The Upper Explosive Limit (UEL) of methane is 5% methane in air produces a lean combustion.
15% by volume, ie 15 vols methane, 85 vols air. 15% methane in air produces a rich combustion.

This is the maximum quantity of methane in a Above 15%, a methane gas cloud is potentially
methane/air mix that will ignite. Above 15% very hazardous as dilution with air will produce a
methane there is insufficient oxygen in the flammable gas/air mixture
remaining air to support combustion.
Flammable range for methane is therefore 5% - The relationship between % gas vol. and % LEL is
15% by volume methane in air 1% methane in air = 20% LEL
Portable flammable gas detectors used in the oil 2% methane in air = 40% LEL
industry have a working range of 0 - 5% methane 3% methane in air = 60% LEL
in air scaled as 0 - 100% LEL on the meter. Gas 4% methane in air = 80% LEL
detectors are usually calibrated with 1% or 2.5% 5% methane in air = 100% LEL
methane in air - to give a reading of 20% or 50% (the concentration at which the gas mixture will
LEL respectively ignite)

Note that these figures apply to normal temperatures,

high temperatures lower the LEL and raise the UEL
Density of Flammable Gases
Pure gases are either:- Other examples:- (Relative to Air = 1)
a) lighter than air Hydrogen - much lighter, relative density = 0.07
b) neutral in density Ethane - neutral, relative density = 1
c) heavier than air Propane - heavier, relative density = 1.5
Butane - heavier, relative density = 2
Pure methane is lighter than air, about half the Carbon dioxide - heavier relative density = 1.5
weight of air with a density of 0.55, relative to Air =


High pressure gas releases into the atmosphere are Here is a calculation of a ‘tenfold’ dilution
accompanied by enormous turbulence which causes ie:- CONCN DENSITY
dilution of the gas cloud. At typical offshore Methane 10% or 0.1 x 0.5 = 0.05
pressures 80 -150 bar, tenfold dilution (or more) Air 90% or 0.9 x 1.0 = 0.9
will be common. This generates a gas cloud which Relative Density of gas cloud = 0.95
is neutrally buoyant. A neutrally buoyant gas cloud
may be more influenced by effects such as
ventilation and air movement than a very small
density effect. This factor acquires importance
when searching for gas leaks

Any gas cloud with a density of 0.9 - 1.1 relative to

air will show few density effects.
When gas testing, you will need to allow for the
importance of air movement when searching for gas
leaks and the influence it has on a neutral density but
highly flammable gas cloud

Condensate Gases, Propane, Butane and Solvent

These heavier-than-air materials produce dense The vapour density relative to air of all these
vapours gas clouds that obey the rules of density. materials is high, ie they are naturally heavier than
The vapours flow like liquids and accumulate in air materials, in addition, the mechanism of changing from
low-lying areas and plant. liquid
to vapour is relatively slow compared to a H.P. gas
release. Dilution due to turbulence is therefore a
minor factor and vapour remains concentrated and

An expression used with some of the less volatile

liquids is the Flash Point: this is the lowest
temperature at which a flammable liquid will form a
flammable vapour cloud.

In summary, a flammable gas cloud can therefore be:

(a) Lighter-than-air (b) Neutral in density
(c) Heavier-than-air
and when gas testing full allowance should be made
for density effects.

1.2) Oxygen and Toxic Gases

Many detectors with digital displays just give a
number. It is important to understand the units of
For Oxygen - 20.9% is the amount of oxygen in the The atmosphere contains 20.95% Oxygen and 78%
atmosphere. Nitrogen

Remember that for Flammable Gases (like methane)

%LEL is the unit most frequently used.
5% Methane = 100% LEL
4% Methane = 80% LEL
3% Methane = 60% LEL
2% Methane = 40% LEL
1% Methane = 20% LEL

For Toxic Gases (like hydrogen Sulphide) ppm

(parts per million) is the unit used , for example:
10ppm = 0.001%
1000ppm = 0.1%

1.2.1) Hazards of Toxic Gases

The permissible concentration of gases is defined in For a thorough understanding read HSE EH40 /
HSE document EH40/2002, this defines for gases 2002 - it is reprinted each year.
like hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide the
following Occupational Exposure Standards (OES) In broad terms:
a) Long Term Exposure Limit - (LTEL) has an 8
hour time weighted average exposure period and for
hydrogen sulphide = 5ppm; for carbon monoxide =
b) Short Term Exposure Limit - (STEL) has a 15
minute time weighted average and for hydrogen
sulphide = 10ppm; for carbon monoxide = 200ppm
Other toxic gases and vapours found offshore The higher hydrocarbon gases, eg Butane, Pentane,
include paint strippers, solvents and degreasers Hexane - have OESs at concentrations well below
flammable limits

1.2.2) Oxygen Hazards

The concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere
needs to be 20.9% by volume.
If it is less than 20.9% it is hazardous, the Any combustion process in a confined space will
atmosphere is oxygen deficient and breathing reduce atmospheric oxygen. Rusting of steel in an
apparatus is needed for less than 19%. enclosed space can quickly create an oxygen
deficient atmosphere. Purging of vessels and pipe
freezing operations can also create oxygen deficient
If it is more than 20.9% it is also hazardous; oxygen Leaking welding torches in confined spaces can
enriched atmospheres can create a feeling of cause oxygen-enriched atmospheres.
nauseous intoxication and euphoria which prevents
rational thought and also represents a severe fire risk

1.2.3) Hydrogen Sulphide

Highly toxic gas, which at low concentrations, Hydrogen Sulphide is almost as poisonous as
smells of bad eggs. hydrogen cyanide.

The important concentrations to remember:-

0.15ppm - threshold of smell. Hydrogen sulphide can be produced from stagnant

sea water
5ppm - the Long Term Exposure Limit, which
means that medical opinion (EH40) believes no
harm will come to you during or after repeated 8-
hour daily exposures.
10 ppm – the Short Term Exposure Limit
100ppm - you lose all sense of smell in 3 - 15
minutes. Note that although pure hydrogen sulphide is a
200 - 300ppm - you lose your sense of smell heavier-than-air gas (density 1.2 relative to air), in
instantly, very hazardous and toxic concentration many natural gases it is very unlikely that
1000 ppm - 1 or 2 deep breaths causes an almost concentrations will reach levels where they influence
instant loss of consciousness, immediate first aid is the overall gas density.

1.2.4) Other Toxic Gases

Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are both toxic

gases that can be generated during combustion Incomplete combustion in a confined space is most
processes. Carbon dioxide is sometimes used as a likely to create carbon monoxide
deluge fire extinguishant for electrical fires - as a
heavier- than-air gas it accumulates at low levels.


Why is there a need for gas detectors: -
a) Most gases are invisible

b) Most are odourless

c) Hydrogen Sulphide, which smells, paralyses the
sense of smell at hazardous concentrations.

2.1) Flammable Gas Detectors

2.1.1) Flammable Gas in Air
Single range flammable gas in air detectors Most catalytic flammable gas detectors are ‘broad-
include:- Crowcon 84GA, Sieger 1601 spectrum’ devices ie they detect all flammable
and Gas Scout gases, with each substance in a complex mixture of
gases contributing to the eventual
Multi range detectors suitable for measuring meter reading. For example the Crowcon 84GA
flammable gas in air include: - will detect: - Methane, ethane, propane, butane
hydrogen, methanol and most other flammable
Crowcon Custodian and Triple Plus materials, however: it can only be calibrated to be
Neotronics Minigas detectors; Sieger Gas Scout correct for 1 material and offshore we usually
and Leader choose methane.

Principle of Operation - operates on a catalytic

principle by burning the flammable gas on a
specially treated hot catalytic filament and
measuring the temperature rise of the filament
caused by the combustion

a) needs oxygen to function and therefore cannot
be used to detect flammable gases in inert
atmospheres. The detector will not give any
indication and therefore fails-to-danger.
b) detects most flammable gases and vapours - but
is more sensitive to some gases than others. For
example, a Sieger Gas Scout calibrated for
methane will only indicate about half scale if
exposed to butane in air at its LEL
c) can only detect flammable gases in air at low
concentrations - up to the LEL. Detectors will
give false - ‘ambiguous’ readings at high gas
d) there are a number of failure modes which These most serious failure mechanisms produce a
cause the detector to fail-to danger:- requirement in most Safety Cases that portable gas
detectors are recalibrated at 28 day intervals
i) poisoning by silicones and other materials.
ii) sinter blockage by water, paint, oil, mud etc.
these are most serious limitations of catalytic
gas detectors. As both i) and ii) can be almost
instantaneous under the wrong conditions, a daily
exposure to a standard gas mixture eg 1 or 2.5%
methane in air is strongly recommended

2.1.2) Flammable Gases in Inert Gas

Instruments used by the oil industry for this The Neotronics Digiflamm 2000 is a 2 range
application are the MSA Tankscope, GMI Oxygas detector:-
2 and the Neotronics Digiflamm 2000. They are i) 0-5% methane in air using the catalytic
used when purging flammable gases from pipes or principle.
vessels ii) 0-100% gas by volume using the
thermal conductivity principle

Principle of Operation - operates by measuring the This ‘heat conducting’ or thermal conductivity
heat conducting properties of gases. Methane and principle is a most mis-understood subject. Special
most natural gases are better conductors of heat calibration gases are needed which should include:-
than air. Nitrogen, the usual inert gas, is a poor
conductor of heat.
a) Pure inert gas, usually nitrogen and the detector
should be zeroed with this
a) Usually low sensitivity detectors - therefore not b) A mixture of methane in inert gas, 10%, 20% or
suitable for gas testing prior to hot work and 50% methane in nitrogen is used for calibrating the
confined space entry detector. 2 mixtures will confirm linearity.

b) Non-selective - suitable for detecting binary

mixtures only ie. Methane in nitrogen

2.2) Oxygen and Hydrogen Sulphide Detectors

Instruments used by oil companies capable of Oxygen and toxic gas detectors are generally
detecting oxygen and hydrogen sulphide include:- selective, unlike catalytic flammable gas detectors.
Crowcon 84TR, Neotronics Minigas, Draeger
Oxywarn (oxygen only) and Sieger Gas Leader

Principle of Operation - operates using an

electrochemical cell (or ‘gas-battery’) where
hydrogen sulphide or oxygen combines with a
highly reactive chemical ‘jelly’. During this
reaction a minute electrical signal is generated,
which when amplified displays the amount of
oxygen or hydrogen sulphide in the atmosphere.
a) like a battery the cell goes ‘flat’ after 12 - 18 Like most other gas detectors this
months depending on type of cell being used. can be a ‘fail-to-danger’ decay mode and cells
need regular replacement
b) cell lifetime is reduced by high operating If subjected to high temperatures,
temperatures (greater than 40°C). particularly if cycled from low to high
temperatures there is a risk of cell leakage - and the
cell ‘jelly’ is highly acid or alkaline depending on
type of cell
c) pressure pulses can cause false alarms, This effect is sometimes observed
particularly with the Crowcon Triple +, take care when entering or leaving a pressurised area, but
not to restrict the sample tube inlet whilst more frequently when aspirating a gas
aspirating a gas sample. sample through the Triple +, the back
pressure generated during aspiration triggers the
d) portable radio transmitters can cause false This problem is caused by the very
alarms, cure by moving detector away from aerial, low output signal of the electro-
to the other side of your body. chemical cell, requiring a very
high gain amplifier which is
susceptible to interference
Calibration of Hydrogen Sulphide Detectors
Monthly recalibration with the manufacturers Whilst flammable gas in air test mixtures are stable
recommended test gas containing ppm for prolonged periods of time, reactive toxic gases,
concentrations of hydrogen sulphide in nitrogen or like hydrogen sulphide rapidly react with their
air is required containing vessel, for example, a 20 ppm mixture
of hydrogen sulphide in air contained in an aerosol
type aluminium can will disappear in 3-4 months -
therefore do not hold large stock of reactive test
Oxygen detectors should indicate about 20.9% on
their readout. Always confirm suspect readings by
comparing with known fresh air.
Principle of Operation
Coloured crystals in a narrow glass tube marked As a point of general interest
with calibrated graduations, which chemically Draeger were the manufacturers of
change colour when exposed to certain toxic (and the first alcohol-in-breath device
non-toxic) gases. The amount of colour change to be used in the UK - the
indicates the approximate quantity of toxic gas ‘Alcotest’.

a) The detector monitors an atmosphere only The American expression is ‘grab sampling’.
while the bellows is expanding, it is not a
continuous monitor like many gas detectors

b)It is a selective gas detector like most toxic gas

detectors, you therefore need to know the
substance you seek and select the correct tube.
c) Confirm that the concentration level you need Reference to HSE document EH/40 will tell you
to detect can be achieved with the tube you have OESs to comply with the COSHH regulations
d) The chemical tubes have a shelf life - about 2 Never use expired tubes and keep stock inventories
or 3 years; the use-by date is printed on the box. to a sensible level.

e) You must not use the oxygen tube for permit- Refer to the Draeger, Kitagawa or Gastec
to- enter gas tests, as the accuracy of the tube is not “Detector Tube Handbook”,
good enough.
f) Hydrogen detector tubes must not be used in If there is more than 3% hydrogen in the
areas that could contain hydrogen !!- a sampling atmosphere the catalytic chemical layer becomes
bladder method must be used, and the test done in red-hot!
a safe area - as the tube becomes very hot and
could become a source of ignition
3.1) Testing Procedure
a) Compress bellows fully to observe the overall
well being of the bellows unit.
b) Insert any tube - before breaking its sealed ends A leaking bellows unit cannot be used at all and
- into the bellows, compress the bellows and must be replaced
observe upon release that the bellows do not .
expand. Any expansion indicates leakage
c) Break both fused ends of your chosen tube Caution, broken glass!
using a tube breaker and insert into bellows with
sample flow arrow pointing towards the bellows
d)Hold unit in atmosphere to be monitored and
compress bellows fully, allow to expand naturally.
Note that some tubes require one aspiration (n=1);
other tubes require more than one, eg 10
aspirations (n=10).

e)Take the whole unit to an area with good lighting

- read and record the stain indication quickly, for
some tubes the stain fades or diffuses making
interpretation difficult
f) Remove tube and dispose of in a safe manner. The Medics ‘sharps’ bin is often used when

g) Purge acidic gases from the bellows by Acid vapours from the tubes will corrode the
compressing a few times in clean air. internal precision valve.

The most frequent errors occur from:-
a) Inserting the tube wrong way round.
b) Bellows leakage.


All electrical equipment for use in potentially
flammable industrial atmospheres needs to be
certified as being safe to use such that it cannot
become source of ignition should it be exposed to a
flammable gas cloud.
Electrically powered gas detectors are included.

4.1) Concepts of Safety

Coding are used to define methods of making gas Refer to BS EN 5501 for detailed information
detectors safe to use in a flammable atmosphere.
The most common are as follows:-
Ex ia and Ex ib = Intrinsic Safety
Ex d = Flameproof
Ex s = Special (a test for the sinter)
A, B or C = The Gas Group
T = Temperature rating
These symbols are used together for the
certification label of the gas detector.

4.2) Important Points to Remember
An external case is needed for some detectors to
a) It is important to understand that the prevent the danger of:-
certification label is always on the outside surface a) The Thermite reaction, when a light alloy
of the certified product. Some gas detectors need (aluminium) gas detector is dropped on rusty
a leather case around the instrument for metal work - produces a white-hot spark
certification, hence the label is on the outside (ignition source).
surface of the leather case. If you take the detector
out of the case, it becomes an uncertified product! b) a static charge developing on large plastic cased
detectors under friction and producing a static
spark ignition hazard.
b) Although certified gas detectors do not have to It is important to understand that a ‘cowboy’ repair
be sent back to their original manufacturer for can infringe a certificate of intrinsic safety and turn
repair (many are, of course) the user needs to a safe gas detector into a potential ignition source
ensure that only knowledgeable and competent
technicians repair gas detectors.



5.1) Detector Choice

Most detectors can be used as diffusion samplers or
with an aspirating system.
sampling systems are needed for leak seeking, Personal preference and availability frequently
diffusion sampling is adequate for area dictates which detector is used for which
monitoring application

5.2)Preparing the Detector for Use

a) Refer to the Manufacturers booklet regarding BS EN 50073 1999 is a harmonised CENELEC
switch-on Code of Practice about using fixed and portable
flammable gas detectors
b) If you are not familiar with a particular
detector, don’t use it until the Safety Department
have given you instructions in its correct use.
c) Following the manufacturers booklet, confirm Remember, no matter what the
that the calibration due date has not expired, that Manufacturers publicity says - all catalytic
the batteries are OK and that the detector passes flammable gas detectors fail-to-danger, none are
other diagnostic tests associated with fail- safe; this is why the daily gas test is so
switch-on. important.

d) If the detector is to be used with a sampling

system, confirm that the detector and flow system
is dry and that:-
i) the aspirating bulb non- return valve does not

ii) the sample tubing is of adequate length and not Use only the special gas detector sample tubing
perished or cracked bought from a manufacturer. Some tubing
strongly absorbs the higher hydrocarbons
iii) the overall system does not leak - a test with This will always activate the
finger over the end of the sample tube, squeeze the oxygen alarm on the Crowcon Triple Plus -
aspirator and release, the bulb should not refill or caused by the negative pressure pulse. Note that
refill only slowly the sampling system with the Sieger 1650 is
fairly leaky.
Remember that a leaking sampling system could
cause you to under read a toxic or flammable gas
atmosphere and over-read an oxygen deficient

e) With the instrument switched on in clean air, Gas detector zeros tend to drift with time and
confirm that the display reads correctly ie close to ambient temperature. Detectors which have drifted
zero for flammable and hydrogen sulphide gas a small amount - say up to 3 or4
detectors and close to 20.9% for oxygen detectors. digits may still be used but confirm by checking in
clean air the absence of a hazardous atmosphere

f) For catalytic flammable gas detectors confirm A tolerance is necessary to allow for overall
correct functioning by aspirating or subjecting the system inaccuracies for example :
detector to standard test gas, either
1.0% or 2.5% methane in air. For 1.0% methane in 20% LEL - 18 to 22 % LEL is OK
air, the reading should be 20% LEL; for 2.5%
Methane in air the reading should be 50% LEL 50% LEL - 45 to 55 % LEL is OK

- the 28 day re-calibration will correct any small

changes in detector sensitivity
Important! If a detector does not pass this test -
don’t use it! Return it to the issuing authority

g) If a detector does not respond correctly to any

mechanical or electrical test, it should be returned
to the issuing authority


6.1) Hot Work and Purge Gas Testing

APPLICATION 1 - Hot Work Close To The Worksite

Detecting small gas leaks on plant and equipment in the immediate vicinity of where hot work is to
take place.

APPLICATION 2 - Hot Work Around The Worksite

General atmosphere monitoring searching for leaks generally around a planned site of hot work,
particularly upwind of the work site. Upon completing the leak search, the monitor is correctly
positioned upwind of the hot work site as a ‘gas sentinel’ to monitor for an approaching gas cloud.

APPLICATION 3 - Purging Applications

Monitoring methane in inert gas mixtures when purging operations are being undertaken.

6.1.1) Which Detector to Use

APPLICATION 1 - Hot Work Close To The Worksite

Inside the habitat or close to where hot work is to be undertaken even small gas leaks are important!
The ignition of a small gas leak can lead to overheating and escalation. To undertake this gas test a
gas detector fitted with an aspirating sampling system and sample tubing is ESSENTIAL. Flanges,
glands, valves, compression fittings, pumps, compressors and other rotating machinery, which are
frequent sources of leakage cannot be leak tested in an effective manner with a diffusion sampling

Detectors used by the oil and gas industry include: -

(a) Crowcon 84TR Triple and Triple Plus with aspirating system fitted
(b) Neotronics Minigas with aspirating system fitted
(c) Sieger Gas Scout and Leader with aspirating system fitted
(d) Crowcon 84 GA with aspirator system fitted

APPLICATION 2 - Hot Work Around The Worksite

Generally around the hot work site, ie outside the Habitat or distances greater than twice the distance
sparks from hot work could travel, a more ‘global’ approach to gas testing can be taken. At these
distances small gas leaks have less significance, as they would be so diluted by ventilation air as to be
undetectable at the hot work site. For this application, an aspirated sampling system is a
disadvantage and cannot be used at all for ‘gas sentinel’ duties.
For this application use one of the following instruments without aspirating fitments eg:

(a)Sieger Gas Scout or Leader without aspirating fitments

(b) Crowcon 84TR Triple or Triple Plus without aspirating fitments
(c) Sieger 1601 - the Dalek; or Crowcon Detective

APPLICATION 3 - Purging Applications

When hot work is to be undertaken on a pipe or vessel containing methane, the following procedure is
(a) The pipe or vessel is depressurised.
(b) The pipe or vessel is purged with low pressure inert gas, usually nitrogen, to remove the
(c) When the methane gas concentration in the pipe or vessel falls to a low level by volume in inert
gas, it is safe to open up the pipe or vessel to the atmosphere.
Note of caution - a concentration of less than 0.5% by volume will be necessary for some condensate
gases containing higher hydrocarbons
To undertake this gas test you CANNOT USE any of the catalytic detectors described in
Applications 1 and 2. These detectors WILL NOT INDICATE CORRECTLY and under many
circumstances WILL NOT INDICATE AT ALL! You must use the MSA Tankscope,
Neotronics Digiflam 2000 or GMI Oxygas 2 on its ‘% gas’ range (and for the Digiflamm - in its
‘purge mode’)

Remember that this instrument measures the heat conducting properties of the gas mixture -
thermal conductivity principle and it is desirable to ‘ZERO’ the instruments with pure inert
gas(usually nitrogen) and not air. The instrument should be calibrated with a mixture of
methane in inert gas, suitable for the scaling of the chosen detector. REMEMBER - this
principle CANNOT be used in Applications 1 and 2. Note that if air is used as zero gas, the
detector will under-read the methane concentration by 1 - 2% vol

6.1.2) Practical Hot Work Gas Testing

1 Prior to issue all instruments used for Applications 1 and 2 will have been fitted with a freshly
charged battery and given the daily gas test with 20% or 50% LEL methane in air - an instrument
suitable for use will indicate between 18 - 22%LEL or 45 - 55% LEL respectively

2 Arrive at hot work site and determine the main direction of ventilation air, frequently difficult
when in exposed external platform areas. REMEMBER - it is usually ventilation air which brings
a flammable gas hazard to a hot work site.
3 Use a detector suitable for Application 1 within the Habitat and extend the area of search all
around the hot work site on an item by item basis to a radius about twice the distance sparks or
ignition sources from the hot work could penetrate - REMEMBER a platform is three dimensional -
test above and below floor, grating or mezzanine levels if appropriate

4 Having completed leak searching in the immediate vicinity of the proposed hot work extend the
search as for Application 2 with an instrument suitable for that purpose.
REMEMBER - in most cases it will be a gas leak upwind of the hot work site that will create a hazard
at site, your prime area of search is therefore a cone-shaped volume of air upwind of the site.
Whilst the prime search area is upwind of the hot work site DO NOT FORGET to check briefly
downwind, PARTICULARLY if condensate gases or other heavier-than-air gases could be present.
Finally, locate the detector as a ‘gas sentinel’ a few metres upwind of the hot work site, directly in the
ventilating airflow.
Use your own common sense to locate the ‘gas sentinel’ in a. location where it would detect an
approaching gas cloud!
In exposed areas of a platform with random winds, and when there is no obvious ventilation air, gas
testing cannot concentrate on a cone-shaped prime search area and more general area testing is

6.1.3) Important Points in Hot Work Gas Testing

1 Although pure methane is lighter than air most gas clouds formed from high pressure leaks will
be “neutrally buoyant” - the same density as air - due to dilution.

2 Condensate leaks form flammable gas clouds that are always heavier than air - think heavy,
search low! - drains, ducts, bund areas and remember, condensate leaks can travel a long way and
their vapours will flow like liquids!

3 Silicones ‘poison’/deactivate the catalytic sensors used for all Applications 1 and 2 almost
instantly - the daily gas test with standard test gas is therefore ESSENTIAL.

4 Water can block the flame arrestor (often called the ‘sinter’) on the Crowcon 84GA and Sieger
1601 very easily and quickly. A blocked sinter will cause a detector to indicate zero, even if
hazardous concentrations of gas are present.

6.2) Vessel Entry Testing Procedure
6.2.1) Detector Choice
Instruments used by many that can be used for Vessel-entry gas testing is usually undertaken by
vessel entry gas testing include:- Crowcon 84TR Authorised Gas Testers with the gas test being a
and Triple Plus, Neotronics Minigas, Sieger Gas small part of a detailed procedure which
Leader and Draeger chemical tubes comprises:-

Note that the above electronic instruments can be 1) - Pre Entry Preparation
used alone for confined space entry gas testing
only if it known that other toxic materials ie.
solvents, are not present; if other materials could a) Isolation of the vessel by total isolation,
be present then Draeger chemical tube tests will blocking, blinding or spading.
also be necessary
3.4.2) Testing Procedure b) Cleansing to the satisfaction of the Area
Rule No. 1 - the gas tester remains outside the
vessel at all times while performing the initial gas 2) - Vessel Opening in the presence of the A.G.T.
tests! You will therefore be using a Minigas, or Safety Tech.
Leader Crowcon 84 TR or Triple Plus with an
aspirating bulb and tube fitted to confirm that:
• The oxygen content is correct a)Atmosphere testing for oxygen, hydrocarbons
• There is no flammable gas present and other known, (toxic) contaminants ie H2S,
• There is no indication for whichever toxic solvents, heavy hydrocarbon sludges - WITHOUT
gas(es) the detector can sense entering the vessel - all under a
While testing also consider each of the following:- Preparation/Reinstatement

a) In an enclosed vessel there is little or no 3) - Worksite Precautions

ventilation and gases will therefore tend to display
their density characteristics. You will therefore
need to search at different levels of the vessel - a a) Workforce leader nominates the Safety watch or
‘representative’ sample. “Buddy” and informs him of his duties.
b) What is the history of the vessel and what did it
last contain and perhaps the time before? Could
there be heavy residues that give off flammable or
toxic gases when disturbed during entry? b) Worksite authority shall ensures ventilation aids
Will your gas detector measure these materials at are correctly installed, access is clear, entry tag
toxic levels or do you need another detector, eg system is correctly used, and that all precautions
Draeger chemical stain Tube. associated with welding equipment and hot work in
confined spaces are in place.
c) Look inside the vessel! (With an approved torch
if necessary)
- are there any hidden areas where gases could be
trapped, you may need to extend the detector
sampling line.
d) Are the internal walls of the vessel corroded, if
so the corrosion, eg rust, could be trapping
hydrocarbons which could be released into the
vessel during its removal or hot work.
e) Are there any sludges which when disturbed by
your boots could evolve toxic vapours?
• heavy hydrocarbon vapours from oil based
• H2S from stagnant water based sludges
In summary, the confined space entry gas tester
needs to be a ‘detective’ looking for the clues that
suggest a potentially hazardous atmosphere

6.2.2) When Do You Test?

a) Whilst preliminary testing can be done at

convenience, a final authorising test must be done
immediately before entry is made

b) The Work Permit will state how frequently

re-testing needs to be undertaken but it is
practice to have a gas detector acting as a
continuously monitoring sentinel or Worksite
monitor inside the confined space while the work

c) Many factors will influence the frequency of

re-testing eg:

i) Change in atmospheric conditions or wind


ii) The nature of the work being undertaken

iii) Changes in the area classification.

iv) Stopping and re-starting of work.

“ Gas testing is a serious business, your life and the well-being of

your workmates will be decided by your actions - do it right the 1st
time - - you may not get a 2nd chance! ”

7. Confined Spaces - Definitions and Hazards

Confined Spaces can be deadly

On average, work in confined spaces kills 15 people every year in the U.K. across a wide range of
industries (about 5% of industrial deaths), from those involving complex plant through to simple storage
vessels. In addition, a number of people are seriously injured. Those killed include not only people
working in confined spaces but those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.

What is a confined space?

It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous
substances or dangerous conditions e.g. lack of oxygen. Some confined spaces are fairly easy to
identify, e.g. enclosures with limited openings:
• Storage tanks
• Vessels
• Pits, wells and voids
• Enclosed drains
• Sewers.

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:

• Open-topped chambers
• Vats
• Combustion chambers in furnaces etc.
• Duct work
• Unventilated or poorly ventilated spaces

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of confined spaces. Some spaces may become confined
spaces when work is carried out, or during their construction, fabrication or subsequent modification.

What are the dangers from confined spaces?

Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of:

• A lack of oxygen

This can occur:

• Where there is a reaction between metalwork and the oxygen in the atmosphere

• Following the a nitrogen purging operation

• In ships holds etc as a result of the cargo reacting with oxygen inside the space

• Inside steel tanks and vessels when rust forms.

• Poisonous gas, fume or vapour

These can:

• Build-up in sewers and manholes and in pits connected to the system

• Enter tanks or vessels from connecting pipes

• Leak into vessels and drains

• Liquids and solids which can suddenly fill the space, or release gases into it, when disturbed. Free
flowing solids which can also partially solidify or 'bridge' in silos causing blockages, which can
collapse unexpectedly.

• Fire and explosions e.g. from flammable vapours, excess oxygen etc.

• Residues left in tanks, vessels etc, or remaining on internal surfaces, which can give of gas, fume or

• Dust may be present in high concentrations.

• Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.

Some of the above conditions may already be present in the confined space. However, some may arise
through the work being carried out, or because of ineffective isolation of nearby plant, e.g. leakage from
a pipe connected to the confined space. The enclosure and working space may increase other dangers
arising through the work being carried out, for example:

• Machinery being used may require special precautions, such as provision of dust extraction for a
portable grinder, or special precautions against electric shock

• Gas, fume or vapour can arise from welding, or by use of volatile and often flammable solvents,
adhesives etc

• If access to the space is through a restricted entrance, such as a manhole, escape or rescue in an
emergency will be more difficult.

What the law says

You must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose
of deciding what measures are necessary for safety (The Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations 1999). For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing
the risks and determining what precautions to take. In most cases the assessment will include
consideration of:
• The task
• The working environment
• Working materials and tools
• The suitability of those carrying out the task
• Arrangements for emergency rescue.

If your assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces, such as the dangers
highlighted above, the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 apply. These regulations contain the
following special duties:
• Avoid entry to confined spaces, if at all possible, e.g. by doing the work from outside

• If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work; and

• Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work starts

Avoid entering confined spaces

You need to check if the work can be done another way so that entry or work in confined spaces is
avoided. Better work planning or a different approach can reduce the need for confined space working.

Ask yourself if the intended work is really necessary, or could you:

• Modify the confined space itself so that entry is not necessary;

• Have the work done from outside, for example:

• Blockages can be cleared in silos by use of remotely operated rotating flail devices,
vibrators or air movers;

• Inspection, sampling and cleaning operations can often be done from outside the space
using appropriate equipment and tools;

• Remote cameras can be used for internal inspection of vessels.

Safe systems of work

If you cannot avoid entry into a confined space make sure you have a safe system for working inside the

Use the results of your risk assessment to help identify the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of
injury. These will depend on the nature of the confined space, the associated risk and the work involved.

Make sure that the safe system of work, including the precautions identified, is developed and put into
practice. Everyone involved will need to be properly trained and instructed to make sure they know
what to do and how to do it safely.

The following checklist is not intended to be exhaustive but includes many of the essential elements to
help prepare a safe system of work.

Appointment of a supervisor
Supervisors should be given responsibility to ensure that the necessary precautions are taken, to check
safety at each stage and may need to remain present while work is underway.
Are persons suitable for the work?
Do they have sufficient experience of the type of work to be carried out, and what training have they
received? Where risk assessment highlights exceptional constraints as a result of the physical layout, are
individuals of suitable build? The competent person may need to consider other factors, e.g. concerning
claustrophobia or fitness to wear breathing apparatus, and medical advice on an individual's suitability
may be needed.

Mechanical and electrical isolation of equipment is essential if it could otherwise operate, or be operated,
inadvertently. If gas, fume or vapour could enter the confined space, physical isolation of the pipework
etc needs to be made. In all cases a check should be made to ensure isolation is effective.

Cleaning before entry

This may be necessary to ensure fumes do not develop from residues etc while the work is being done.

Check the size of the entrance

Is it big enough to allow workers wearing all the necessary equipment to climb in and out easily, and
provide ready access and egress in an emergency? For example, the size of the opening may mean
choosing air-line breathing apparatus in place of self-contained equipment which is more bulky and
therefore likely to restrict ready passage.

Provision of Ventilation
You may be able to increase the number of openings and therefore improve ventilation. Mechanical
ventilation may be necessary to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air. This is essential where portable
gas cylinders and diesel-fuelled equipment are used inside the space because of the dangers from build-
up of engine exhaust. Warning: carbon monoxide in the exhaust from petrol-fuelled engines is so
dangerous that use of such equipment in confined spaces should never be allowed.

Testing the air

This may be necessary to check that it is free from both toxic and flammable vapours and that it is fit to
breathe. Testing should be carried out by a competent person using a suitable gas detector which is
correctly calibrated. Where the risk assessment indicates that conditions may change, or as a further
precaution, continuous monitoring of the air may be necessary.

Provision of special tools and lighting

Non-sparking tools and specially protected lighting are essential where flammable or potentially
explosive atmospheres are likely. In certain confined spaces (e.g. inside metal tanks) suitable
precautions to prevent electric shock include use of extra low voltage equipment (typically less than 25
V) and, where necessary, residual current devices.

Provision of breathing apparatus

This is essential if the air inside the space cannot be made fit to breathe because of gas, fume or vapour
present, or lack of oxygen. Never try to sweeten the air in a confined space with oxygen as this can
greatly increase the risk of fire or explosion.

Preparation of emergency arrangements

This will need to cover the necessary equipment, training and practice drills.

Provision of rescue harnesses

Lifelines attached to harnesses should run back to a point outside the confined space.


An adequate communications system is needed to enable communication between people inside and
outside the confined space and to summon help in an emergency.

Check how the alarm is raised

It is necessary to station someone outside to keep watch and to communicate with anyone inside, raise
the alarm quickly in an emergency, and take charge of the rescue procedures

Is a 'permit-to-work' necessary?
A permit-to-work requires that a formal check is undertaken to ensure all the elements of a safe system
of work are in place before people are allowed to enter or work in the confined space. It is also a means
of communication between site management, supervisors, and those carrying out the hazardous work.
Essential features of a permit-to-work are:

• Clear identification of who may authorise particular jobs and any limits to their authority and who is
responsible for specifying the necessary precautions (e.g. isolation, and testing, emergency
arrangements etc;)
• Provision for ensuring that contractors engaged to carry out work are included;
• Training and instruction in the use of permits;
• Monitoring and auditing to ensure that the system works as intended.

Emergency procedures
When things go wrong, people may be exposed to serious and immediate danger. Effective
arrangements for raising the alarm and carrying out rescue operations in an emergency are essential.
Contingency plans will depend on the nature of the confined space, the risks identified and consequently
the likely nature of an emergency rescue.
Emergency arrangements will depend on the risks. You should consider:

How can an emergency be communicated from inside the confined space to people outside so that rescue
procedures can start? Also, consider what might happen and how the alarm can be raised.

Rescue and resuscitation equipment

Provision of suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment will depend on the likely emergencies
identified. Where such equipment is provided for use by rescuers, training in correct operation is

Capabilities of rescuers
There need to be properly trained people, sufficiently fit to carry out their task, ready at hand, and
capable of using any equipment provided for rescue, e.g. breathing apparatus, lifelines and fire-fighting
equipment. Rescuers also need to be protected against the cause of the emergency.

Shut down
It may be necessary to shut down adjacent plant before attempting emergency rescue.

First-aid procedures
Trained personnel need to be available to make proper use of any necessary first-aid equipment

Relevant law
The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997

The Management of Health and Safety at Works Regulations 1999

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Hot-Work Practical Gas Testing and Skill Assessment

Conducted in an area containing valves, flanges, and other typical plant items - area should not be too
noisy to facilitate giving instructions and discussion.

1. Assessor explains location and nature of hot work - e.g. Cutting, welding, etc.

2. Candidate chooses suitable detector which has a catalytic flammable gas-in-air range and is fitted
with an aspirator and sampling tube assembly

3. Candidate inspects well-being of detector with confidence and with particular emphasis on:
3.1 ………sampling system leak-test - (both valves, whole system and tubing)
3.2 ………battery checks
3.3 ………reading in air
3.4 ………reading in Standard Test Gas
3.5 ……..- and an understanding of what the readings should be
3.6 ………recognition of a faulty or otherwise non-conforming detector
3.7 ………reporting any fault condition to the Assessor

4. Assessor confirms that Candidate switches-on detector to the correct range and confirms zero
reading in clean air before approaching hot-work site

5. Candidate shows confidence and competence in detailed gas testing of plant items eg. Flanges,
valves, governors, cladding etc. immediately around the hot work site

6. Candidate becomes more general in search pattern and area covered when testing further away.
Candidate shows awareness that a flammable gas cloud from another area of the plant will probably
arrive at the hot work site in ventilation air masses and the detector is used to check these volumes of
approaching air

7. If test site is in an area where condensate or other heavy vapours could be present, Candidate
demonstrates awareness that vapours will be found in low-lying voids, spaces and drains

8. Candidate walks around perimeter of worksite gas testing drains, voids and localised air masses,
noting any potential hazards near hot worksite, e.g. other hot worksites nearby

9. Candidate demonstrates to the Assessor where to locate detector as a site monitor for the duration
of the hot- work, Assessor confirms that :
9.1 …..Candidate removes sampling system or selects another diffusion sampling gas detector
9.2 …..Candidate positions detector just away from immediate area of hot-work, upwind if there is
a steady wind direction or between hot-work site and most probable source of gas leakage,
if there is no steady direction to the site ventilating air masses

10. Assessor confirms by questioning that the Candidate is aware that there is no acceptable level of
flammable gas concentration in the atmosphere for this type of gas testing and that the only
acceptable reading is zero !
11. Assessor confirms by questioning that the Candidate is aware that a check with the Standard Test
Gas (usually 1 or 2.5 % methane in air) is the ONLY way of confirming that a gas detector really
© JMS Consultants 1995

Confined Space Entry Practical Gas Testing and Skill Assessment

Conducted at the entrance to a confined space in an area that is not too noisy, to facilitate giving
instructions and discussion.

1. Candidate chooses suitable detector(s) to measure firstly oxygen and then the flammable gas
content of the vessel
1.1 The detector(s) chosen shall be fitted with an aspirator and sampling tube assembly long
enough to obtain a ‘representative’ atmosphere sample from the vessel.
1.2. Assessor confirms the correct choice of equipment and sequence of testing

2. Candidate inspects the well being of the detector with confidence and with particular emphasis on:
2.1………….. sampling system leak-test (both valves, whole system and tubing)
2.2………….. battery checks
2.3…………...readings in air
2.4 …………...readings in standard flammable test gas
2.5- and the Assessor confirms that the Candidate has an understanding of what the readings should be
2.6 …………..recognition of a faulty or otherwise non-conforming detector
2.7 …………..reporting any fault condition to the Assessor

3. Assessor checks that Candidate switches-on detector and confirms correct readings in clean air
3.1 Candidate approaches vessel from an up-wind direction

4. Candidate makes the initial test at the entrance to the vessel, sampling from within as far as
possible without leaning over entrance or inserting head into the vessel. Candidate confirms that
the oxygen is correct, then notes the flammable gas reading.

5. Assessor confirms by observation and questioning the Candidate’s ability to use the equipment
correctly and interpret the results - and also that for any abnormal reading, Candidate knows to
withdraw from vessel area upwind and reports the gas readings

6. If appropriate, the Candidate then samples the atmosphere in the vessel for the presence of any
other possible toxic gases from a knowledge of past usage of the vessel, e.g. heavy condensate
hydrocarbons or benzene - choosing an appropriate chemical stain tube gas detector.
6.1 …Candidate checks for aspirator leakage, correct stain tube, correct use-by date and correct
number of aspirations

7. Assessor confirms by questioning correct equipment choice and technique in performing

these initial atmosphere tests

8. Assessor will confirm by questioning that the Candidate knows that a satisfactory atmosphere is
zero concentrations of flammable and toxic gases and the correct quantity of oxygen.

9. Having confirmed that the atmosphere at the entrance to the confined space is satisfactory, with a
torch, the Candidate close to the entrance of the confined space then examines the internal structure of
the vessel to determine :

9.1 ….is vessel one or more separate confined spaces? - Assessor confirms by questioning that the
Candidate understands the need for further testing if a complex multi-compartment vessel or one
with blind spaces is being tested

9.2…is there evidence of rusting or sludges? - Assessor confirms that Candidate is aware of the hazards
each condition can create

9.3…has the Candidate obtained a ‘representative’ sample of the vessel atmosphere, fully taking into
account vapour densities and any compartmenting within the vessel?

9.4…Assessor confirms by questioning that the Candidate is aware of these 3 fundamentally

important observations

10. Assessor confirms that Candidate is aware of the importance of using breathing apparatus if
sludges, corrosion or multi-compartments or blind spaces exist and further testing inside the vessel
is required. Candidate must be aware of the hazard that any one of these 3 conditions can generate
and until a ‘representative sample’ of the vessel atmosphere has been obtained … the vessel
atmosphere cannot be certified as safe

11. Whilst preparative gas tests can be done at any convenient time, Vessel Entry Permit gas testing
shall be done immediately before entry is made. Assessor shall confirm by questioning that the
Candidate is aware of when gas testing shall be undertaken

12. Upon completing a satisfactory atmosphere test, results shall be recorded on the companies
paperwork - the Assessor shall confirm by observation, inspection of Permit form or questioning
that Candidate is knowledgeable of company standing instructions regarding the issue of vessel
entry work permits and their completion from a gas testing viewpoint

13. Assessor uses 'Flash Cards' for Atmosphere Conditions 1 - 8. Assessor will prompt the Candidate
to identify the nature of the hazard and possible causes, Candidate will show knowledge in
recognising the extent of each of these likely gas hazards which can all be met whilst conducting
vessel entry gas tests.

© JMS Consultants 1995