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How many gas detectors do you need? Here’s how to increase efficiency & save money…

How many gas detectors do you need
Nobody wants to buy gas detectors. But buying the right gear is a critical part of making sure your staff are safe and get to see their families each night.

Nobody wants to buy safety equipment, including gas detectors. But selecting and buying the appropriate gear is a critical part of making sure your teams go home safely to their families. 

It’s tempting to make a decision based solely on the per-unit purchase price. However, when it comes to keeping your people safe, reliability, durability, and usability should be priorities. You also need to consider the long-term total cost of ownership.

How can you work within your budget and buy the best equipment possible? The answser is to look for ways to be leaner without compromising safety.

For example, choosing gas detectors with features that allow you to operate a smaller fleet of gas detectors can make a huge difference.

Radius gas detector fleet
Area monitors with long run times help to minimise the need for more instruments in your pool of “spares”.

Here’s a hypothetical example…

All 450 field employees at a company spend some portion of their time in an area known to have a high risk for exposure to H2S. It’s not a daily occurrence, but about once per week, they need an H2S detector. The workers sometimes also work in confined spaces.

Between the H2S risk and the confined space entries, the safety manager estimates that each person would be safest if he wore a 4-gas instrument about 25% of his working hours.

Because budgets are tight, there isn’t a dedicated employee responsible for maintaining the fleet of gas detectors. Instead, the safety manager troubleshoots and repairs the equipment in between his other priorities. It’s not uncommon for a gas detector to be out of service for several weeks, and sometimes even months.

The safety manager is also responsible for knowing who has which gas detector. He keeps a spreadsheet with names and serial numbers, but it would be far too time-consuming for him to manually update that spreadsheet every day, so each employee is issued their own gas detector.

If there is a problem, employees report it to their supervisors and arrangements are made to swap out the instrument. As a result, the safety manager isn’t sure that his spreadsheet is completely accurate. Sometimes an instrument gets handed out while he isn’t in the office and he has to track it down when he gets a chance.

In this scenario, the company would likely purchase around 500 standard 4-gas detectors. Of those, 450 would be for each field employee and the other 50 to cover repairs and other downtime.

There are several opportunities for reducing the size of the gas detector fleet and realising cost savings in this scenario.

1. Gas detection as a service. The need for spare instruments “just in case” can be virtually eliminated with a gas detection program that provides replacement equipment any time the need arises.

For example, it’s possible for a service provider to be alerted that a gas detector has failed calibration. A replacement can be in hand within days. There’s no need to have several loaners available while the instruments go through a long troubleshooting and repair process.

2. Smarter maintenance management. Gas detection management software allows service providers to get an alert about a failed calibration and can be used to monitor the health of equipment, enabling proactive maintenance.

The software can be used to monitor when a sensor is nearing the end of its useful life, and a replacement can be in hand before that first failed calibration.

What’s more, the same software can be used to monitor whether equipment is being used properly. Are your gas detectors bump tested daily? If not, how do you know they will respond to toxic or combustible gases?

Having an easy way to get a high level of understanding of how well your fleet is being maintained can go a long way in making sure every instrument is in good working condition at all times.

3. Powerful user assignments. Gas detectors that allow users to be assigned on-the-fly can significantly shrink the size of the instrument fleet. For example, if users can quickly tap the gas detector to a tag that programs their name to the instrument, there’s no need for manual tracking. Electronic records can quickly show who has which instrument.

With flexible and powerful user assignments, it becomes much easier to work with a pool of instruments rather than assigning one to each individual. You can greatly reduce the size of a fleet by planning for how many people will need an instrument at one time instead of the total number of workers.

iAssign tap to hardhat
Gas detectors that allow users to be assigned
on-the-fly by tapping the instrument to a
hard hat tag can significantly shrink
the size of the gas detector fleet.

4. Gas detectors built to last a lifetime. Gas detectors that are designed to withstand harsh environments can provide savings over the long term. Less time is spent checking equipment, arranging for replacements, and managing repairs.

Considering these 4 opportunities, it’s realistic for the company in the scenario above to significantly reduce the size of its gas detector fleet. They don’t need as many spare instruments because replacement equipment automatically arrives within days of any problem that arises.

More importantly, when the gas detectors are built to last, there is a less-frequent need for significant maintenance. With the improvements in assigning users, they now can manage toward the total number of simultaneous users instead of total number of field employees.

Taking full advantage of these opportunities, the company could easily reduce its fleet of 500 gas detectors down to only 100.

The savings aren’t limited to the equipment costs, though. The safety manager is now spending far less time doing administrative work and keeping working instruments in the field. Instead, he is able to focus on identifying more ways he can make sure employees go home to their families each night.

Nobody wants to buy safety equipment, but selecting equipment with features that allow you to reduce the size of your fleet can save significant time and money.

A version of this article first appeared at indsci.com here. Revised and republished with permission.

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