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Portable vs Fixed Gas Detectors: Which One Should You Use?

Portable vs Fixed Gas Detectors: Which One Should You Use?

Posted by Claire Allcock on 13th Feb 2020

Aside from the obvious difference that one gas detector is fixed in place and the other is portable… what do you need to know about fixed vs portable gas detection, and which one should you be using?

As with most comparisons, there is no one size fits all. Choosing the right gas detection will be influenced by many factors in your workplace. We’ve laid out the main points for both fixed and portable, and what you need to consider when deciding which type to use in your safety measures.

Fixed Gas Detection

As the name suggests, fixed gas detection is permanently sited in one location. They are generally installed in larger areas, detecting their particular gas from one, identified source.

Fixed detectors are often set up into sophisticated systems, that trigger other safety measures when the detected gas is present. These can include instantly opening vents, starting extractor fans, closing valves, and even shutting all processes down; providing faster response than using a portable detector and having to manually trigger safety measures. As the system will be connected to a central control panel, fixed gas detectors can be monitored remotely, meaning that workers don’t have to be in harm’s way for the gas to be detected.

While fixed gas detectors work well as part of an integrated safety system, in some situations they may not be as responsive. Gases must diffuse into them, meaning that they may not detect the gas fast enough before personnel come into contact with it.

Portable Gas Detection

Portable gas detectors are handheld protection devices that monitor the breathing zone of the immediate user — around 25cm from the user’s mouth. Due to being handheld, they are small, lightweight and robust devices that are perfect for detecting gases in confined spaces. Some detectors can even monitor a worker’s exposure over the course of their shift if prolonged low-level exposure is more of a risk than acute hazards.

As portable detectors have a limited range, they are not suitable for monitoring larger spaces. While they are battery-operated, this means that they are usually a standalone detector and are not connected to other safety devices. This means that if the detector raises an alarm, it is up to the user to be trained and act accordingly as the detector cannot automatically trigger these processes.

Portable gas detectors typically cost less than fixed detection and are the safest measure for workers under the threat of exposure or unstable atmospheric conditions.

Choosing Portable vs Fixed

There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to help you determine whether fixed or portable gas detection is the right solution for you.

What potential hazards are present?

Do you need constant monitoring in a large working environment, or will checking the atmosphere immediately around personnel be more beneficial?

What is the source of the hazard?

Is there a fixed source point for hazards, or could the gas migrate to cause a localised hazard (such as a heavier-than-air gas)?

Is the hazard one-off or continuous?

Could a gas hazard occur at any time in an area where people are routinely entering and leaving, or is the hazard a one-off safety issue?

Are there restrictions on entering the hazardous area?

Are untrained personnel free to come and go from the hazardous environment, or are only authorised workers cleared to enter who are more likely to be trained in using portable gas detectors?

While portable gas detectors provide a cheap, easy safety solution, they are only as effective as the training that the user receives. While fixed gas detectors can automate a lot of the safety process, there may be instances where gas can migrate from the source and cause an undetected hazard. This is why it is super important to fully understand your environment and workers before coming to a decision about your gas safety needs.

DSA Suppliers can work with you to find the right gas detection system that ensures the highest standards of safety for your working environment. Drop us an email at to start your journey to a safer workplace.