Fatal incident highlights cautious use of gas detectors

17 Sep 2020

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert – ‘Failure to detect dangerous gas/vapour due to incorrect specification of sample tube’ - following a fatal incident in which a gas detector failed to detect the presence of a flammable vapour, due to incorrect calibration and the absorbtion of the vapour onto the inner surface of the sample tube.

This incident has highlighted the risk of misleading gas detection readings.

What happened?

Hot works proceeded on the basis of the negative reading for the presence of flammable vapour.  The subsequent explosion caused a fatal injury.

An investigation into the incident found that the most significant contributor to the failure to detect the gas was the absorption of the substance on the inner surface of the sample tube – a known phenomenon that has been studied by HSE previously (Research Report RR635). 

Additionally, the manufacturer’s technical performance information reported that the gas detector was not callibrated to detect the substance that needed to be measured.

What do centres need to do?

This is an extremely important safety alert and it is highly recommended that all training centres read the full safety alert, as issued by HSE, for consideration with regard to any equipment in use at the centre.

The HSE safety alert contains information about action required in response to the incident and subsequent investigation.

Some amendment may be required to training materials to reflect the risks associated with gas detectors and sample tubes. 

We all know gas is a volatile and dangerous substance and gas engineers are trained to the very highest standards to mitigate the risks.  Make sure your centre is giving out up-to-the-minute information. 

Click here to read this and other HSE Safety Alerts