Page 28 - OHS, May 2020
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Investing in PID: Protecting Workers Now and for the Future
Photoionization detectors (PIDs) are gas detection technology that can help businesses address this risk from the start, maintaining the highest level of short- and long-term safety for workers.
24 Occupational Health & Safety | MAY 2020
Implementing an effective safety program means keeping employees safe today and tomorrow. In- dustrial workers face a number of obvious chal- lenges that pose immediate risks to their safety.
However, many workers are also exposed to a less apparent danger: low level gas exposure that occurs on a regular basis and can cause significant long-term health effects. Photoionization detectors (PIDs) are gas detection technology that can help businesses ad- dress this risk from the start, maintaining the highest level of short- and long-term safety for workers.
VOCs and Long-Term Health Impacts
Low level gas exposure occurs often from volatile or- ganic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases emitted from certain liquids or solids that have low boiling points and evaporate or sublimate at ambient tem- perature, which can have both short- and long-term impacts on workers’ health. VOCs are emitted by common products that can be found at any worksite, office and even at home.
Examples of products that emit VOCs include cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, cor- rection fluids, solvents and vapors associated with fuels like gasoline, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel. That ‘new car smell’ comes from the off-gassing of such chemicals with a new vehicle purchase, and many would be toxic with long-term, continued exposure. Common VOCs that businesses monitor for include benzene, formaldehyde, methylene chloride and tri- chloroethylene. While these gases do not pose an immediate danger to personal safety in short-term low concentrations, they do have long-term health implications that can be detrimental to workers, adding up over time.
Health impacts from long-term exposure to VOCs can range from low-level aliments such as eye, nose and throat irritation to serious illness such as damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system and may even cause certain cancers. The impact VOCs have on worker health is dependent on an individu- al’s level and length of exposure. In response to these health effects, regulatory agencies have implemented limits on exposure to these gases. For example, OSHA set permissible exposure limits (PELs) to protect workers from harmful, long-term health effects by implementing maximum concentrations of a chemi- cal that workers can be exposed to.
What is a PID Sensor?
PID sensors are specialized gas detectors that use high-energy ultraviolet light to ionize gases into negatively charged electrons and positively charged components. They measure VOC levels specifically by monitoring the current flow between electrodes inside of the sensor.
PID sensors are designed to address cumulative low-level VOC exposures, and they play an instru- mental role in safeguarding employees from adverse health risks. A traditional approach to PID usage is to arm safety professionals with data collected with a subset of personnel and use this information to ex- trapolate for the larger workforce. This data helps to make well-informed, strategic decisions about opera- tions and safety procedure.
In the current age of connect safety technology, af- fordable PID technology can be deployed with larger groups within the workforce. As part of a compre- hensive gas detection program with cloud-hosted analytics, PID technology can be a game-changing asset that leverages data science to keep workers safe and streamline regulatory compliance. It represents a comprehensive approach to safety that takes into account real-world cumulative exposures that may impact workers’ long-term health. It goes beyond protecting against the immediate, daily safety risks to preserve the continued wellbeing of workers through- out their careers.
Data Driving Safety
Due to advancements in technology and data sci- ence, safety professionals no longer have to rely on single surrogate testing methods to identify poten- tially harmful, low-level gas exposure. PID tech- nology is more accessible and now provides full and accurate visibility into when and where VOCs occur on a large scale—potentially missed by peri- odic tests used to extrapolate for larger populations. Implementing modern, cloud-connected PID sen- sors means that sensor data is continuously gathered from an entire workforce, or a strong proportion that provides a similar level of real-time coverage. By combining large amounts of residual PID read- ings recorded across many different devices, and by identifying when and where they occurred, issues such as process faults or leaks can be automatically detected. These leak and process fault algorithms can automatically pinpoint possible locations in which

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