Gas Detection Systems have been extensively used for Life Safety Applications, to prevent harm to personnel, in industry for over 50 years.
As the technology has improved becoming more robust and reliable, it has become realistic to place a dependence on electronic gas detectors, not only for early warning of the presence of toxic or flammable gases but also, to control equipment to reduce the risk associated with toxic or flammable gas environments. Gas detection systems are now arguably performing safety functions and, in some cases, are integrated into fire detection and alarm systems. Gas detection is also becoming more integrated into the plant hazardous area design particularly for complex process plants where the control system is used to mitigate the extent of toxic or flammable gas releases.
The Australian standards environment has been following these trends and is trying to provide a path for industry to better leverage their existing or new gas detection system installation to credibly reduce risk. While it is essential that plants address hazards in their processes and make every effort to eliminate or reduce risk the increased system complexity has created some confusion about the design, operation and maintenance of gas detection systems that may now be far more complex than a simple detector and warning siren.
Additionally, the realistic coverage offered by gas detectors can be influenced by environmental conditions, correct selection and placement of detectors may not be simple or straightforward. Designers may have the best intentions but if they deliver systems that provide poor coverage and /or cannot practically be maintained then they are of limited use and may not realistically provide any protection for personnel. Working under the false umbrella of a protective gas detection system that is degraded or non-operable may be worse than having none at all.