Several fuels, chemicals, and gases (sometimes liquid) can present themselves in the marine industry. These vary depending on the task at hand or the type of location in the marine industry. Still, all can be detected through fixed, portable or area gas detection and protected from using a range of personal protection equipment.
Typical applications or locations within the marine industry that may be subject to the exposure of gas, or use gas as part of their process, are:
Gas supply in engine room pipelines
The inerting or purging of cargo trucks
Clearance measurements in tanks and cargo bays
Entering a confined space like an electric motor room or hold space
What gases are found in marine industry?
These applications may produce the following gases: flammable hydrocarbon gases (Liquid Natural Gas, Liquid Petroleum Gas, and Methane (Natural Gas). Toxic gases may also be created, including hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO) and Oxygen (O2) depletion.
Marine Gas Detection Systems
The level and type of gas monitors present will depend on the type of vessel. On yachts, which have petrol or diesel engines, flammable gases will pose a risk. They may also have a kitchen area with propane-fueled gas cookers or generators, which may leak carbon monoxide. There are gas detectors available that can help detect leaks or monitor levels of these gases. Some of the gases onboard a vessel can be sensed through smell or otherwise. However, Carbon Monoxide (CO) gas is known as the 'silent killer', see below for more information.
A fixed or portable gas detection monitor may be suitable for use in the marine industry - either on vessels or in warehouses. If looking to detect gas around a person's breathing area then a portable gas detector would be recommended for use. This can be clipped onto a person's overalls and will alert to the presence of gas. This gives them an opportunity to leave the hazard. Some portable gas detectors have either an integrated pump or can be enhanced with an external pump. These are ideal for use in confined space applications and situations where a pre-entry check for gas is vital before entering an area.
Fixed gas detection systems are more suitable for monitoring an area where gas hazards and usage are present. These are very modular systems so can be configured to suit various rooms, gases and setups. Our Fixed Gas Service Engineering Team can help you with this - please refer to our servicing page.
Outwith gas detection measures, appliances servicing, proper gas storage, and regular safety checks are crucial to keeping everyone safe.
What risks are involved in the marine industry?
Exposure to the above gases can cause a risk to workers' health, such as asphyxiation or poisoning through toxic gases or can cause a workplace accident due to an explosion. If displaced through nitrogen or inert gases, oxygen, in particular, can also lead to potentially fatal environments. Careful control of these environments is crucial.
If a confined space is not properly ventilated or freed from gas then it may contain pockets or build-ups of toxic or flammable gas to dangerous levels. Upon entry, the impact of facing such gases may be fatal or dangerous. This is where pre-entry checks would be encouraged or the monitoring of such a room with fixed gas detection systems.
Machinery explosions are another risk, whether this is a boiler or a generator. If these omit any type of gas then gas detection can be used to alert to a certain level of gas before it reaches an explosive point.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) - The 'Silent Killer'
As mentioned, carbon monoxide (CO) can leak from things like generators on vessels. CO gas is known as the 'silent killer' as symptoms are not always evident straight away. It is an odourless and tasteless gas. If exposed at a low level, then a tension headache is a common symptom. Otherwise, the NHS advises that other symptoms include:
nausea and vomiting
lethargy and confusion
shortness and difficult breathing
Personal Protection Equipment in the Marine Industry
As well as the detection of gas, there's a range of equipment that can be suitable for protecting against specific hazards. Most ships and shipyards will have operating procedures to help with worker safety, so the correct wear and usage of such PPE will help support this. Everyday items of PPE worn on and around ships may include protective clothing, hard hats, goggles and hearing defenders, safety harnesses, facemasks, chemicals and welding equipment. Ear defenders are useful for work in loud engine rooms; face masks are used when painting or cleaning and safety harnesses can help with routine maintenance.
Emergency Escape Breathing Devices for Ships
As mentioned above, the risk of asphyxiation or exposure to toxic gases is a real risk in the marine and shipping industry. Should workers have to escape from specific areas on a ship, then emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs) can be used to supply workers with breathable oxygen.
These are not intended to be used for anything other than an escape - they are not used for fire-fighting. The escape sets will comprise a small compressed air cylinder with a pressure indicator and either a full face mask or a hood. Hooded versions like the Drager Saver CF escape set are ideal for those who wear spectacles or have facial hair.
SOLAS regulations can advise on the use of EEBD on ships.
Fall Protection Usage on Ships
Working at heights is not uncommon on ships or in shipyards in the marine industry. Safety harnesses and accessories may be worn to help with the inspection, painting or cleaning of higher up areas or to descend into spaces on a ship.
Either fall protection or fall arrest equipment can be used, depending on the task at hand. Fall protection or restraint equipment will prevent workers from reaching an area where they may fall. Fall arrest equipment will be used where working in a fall area is unavoidable, such as a ledge or raised platform.
Our recommended multi-gas detectors some of which can be used for confined space pre-entry, personal protection, or area monitoring. For confined space pre-entry checks, it is recommended that a pumped monitor is used. The use of a pumped monitor allows for a sampling tube to be fed into the confined space from the outside, confirming it is safe for workers to enter.