Understanding inert gases to prevent the risk of oxygen deficiency

Atmospheric gases are not toxic. As their concentration increases, however, they have an impact on life and a combustion process (especially for oxygen).

Oxygen itself is not flammable, but it maintains combustion. In contrast, nitrogen and argon inhibit combustion.

Changes in the concentration of these gases cannot be detected naturally by humans. If they are not handled properly, accidents may occur.

In order to be stored in liquid form, these gases must be cooled to an extremely low temperature (below -180 ° C, at atmospheric pressure). In this state, they can quickly cause cold burns and make certain materials brittle, which can result in structural problems.

Detect enrichment or lack of oxygen

Areas where oxygen content can vary at dangerous levels must be continuously monitored using instruments that indicate increases and decreases in the oxygen content of the ambient air.

In confined spaces, these instruments should be placed as close to the workers as possible. Ideally, workers are equipped with portable instruments that they attach to their clothes.

Discontinuous measurement methods should only be used when dangerous fluctuations in oxygen content can be detected rapidly in the interval between measurements.

Other gases

The oxygen content is not the only indicator of the dangerousness or not of a workspace. Atmospheres may be affected by other gases such as combustible gases and nitrogen oxides used with cutting torches and burners. They must be checked when necessary.

Preventive measures

Appliances used in the manufacture, distribution and use of inert gases must be installed and identified in accordance with the recommendations of the industrial gas industry, and must comply with applicable regulations.

Any leakage must be handled by appropriately trained and properly equipped persons.

Workers and first aid officers need to know what to do in case of an incident.

Operative personnel must obey all site rules and regulations 100% of the time and wear protective equipment when necessary.

Anyone working in areas where enrichment or lack of oxygen is a risk must be properly informed of the risks involved. Particular attention should be paid to the insidious nature of these risks and the speed with which incidents can occur, without the workers noticing anything.

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