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Should You Really Calibrate Your Gas Detectors?

Should You Really Calibrate Your Gas Detectors?

Posted by Claire Allcock on 17th Jul 2020

Gas detectors are vital equipment to the safety of a workplace. A calibration or bump test only takes a few minutes, but it can be difficult to fit into your schedule with so many other things demanding your attention. So, do you have to calibrate your gas detectors?

A Matter of Prioritisation

With so many other tasks and responsibilities eating into your time, it can be easy to overlook a simple safety job that doesn’t directly contribute to getting the job finished faster. When your devices don’t show physical signs of wear and tear, it can also be easy to justify that the detector must be working as it should without properly checking.

There are also rumours around industries that the manufacturers’ guidance of bump-testing before use every day is unnecessary and are just a ploy to sell calibration gas. These rumours are completely untrue, and frankly, potentially life-threatening.

Gas detectors are only as good as their last calibration, and when the device has the power to quite literally save your life, why would you take the chance?

Sensor Drift

Without a sensor, a gas detector would be useless. Sensor drift relates to the natural tendency of a sensor's performance to degrade over time as its components age, which is an unavoidable feature of electrochemical sensor technology.

In 2013, OSHA identified the 7 factors that contribute to sensor drift relating to electrochemical sensors:

  • Degradation of phosphorus-containing components
  • Degradation or lead-containing components
  • Gradual chemical degradation of sensors and drift in electronic components that occur normally over time
  • Use in extreme environmental conditions, such as high/low temperature and humidity, and high levels of airborne particulates
  • Exposure to high concentrations of the target gases and vapours
  • Exposure of electrochemical toxic gas sensors to solvent vapours and highly corrosive gases
  • Handling/jostling of the equipment causing enough vibration or shock over time to affect electronic components and circuitry

Sensor specifications are based on laboratory testing; however, they will perform below specification if they’re constantly subjected to challenging environments.

What About Bump Testing?

A common argument against scheduling regular calibration is the periodic use of bump testing as an alternative, to validate the sensor’s performance. However, the problem with this is that bump testing only ensures that the detector will alert to the presence of a gas, and does not take into account the accuracy of the sensor reading.

While bump testing is an essential part of gas detector maintenance, it cannot be a valid alternative to calibration.

Making Calibration Easier

While scheduling in regular calibration tests for your gas detectors may seem tedious, this does not mean it is any less important to the safety of your workforce.

You can ensure peak performance while reducing hassle by using docking or calibration stations for your gas detectors. These devices will automate your routine bump tests and calibrations whilst also downloading data logs as well as updating new firmware. By automating the calibration process, you can be sure your team is protected against gas hazards, while being free to focus on other tasks that require your attention.

Gas detectors are literally life-saving devices when calibrated and maintained correctly. Don’t fall into the trap of believing false information or trying to save a few minutes in maintenance when it comes to gas detection!