What is Carbon Dioxide Monitoring?
In simple terms, Carbon dioxide monitors are used in both breweries and beverage dispensing industries to protect customers and workers who work around CO2. Carbon dioxide monitors are also commonly referred to as "CO2 Meters", "CO2 Detectors", or "CO2 Safety Alarms".
What distinguishes a CO2 monitor depends upon a few specific requirements:
- A CO2 Monitor must have a remote display, allowing workers to see and evaluate CO2 levels by visual and audible alarms, which are triggered when unsafe levels of carbon dioxide have been reached. This notifies workers to not go into an area of potential danger.
- The device must sound and flash at three different levels of CO2 (5,000 ppm TWA, 1.5% and 3% CO2).
- A CO2 Monitor must have a relay that automatically triggers an exhaust fan to ventilate the area on the first alarm. Some jurisdictions even require a second alarm relay to trigger the fire control panel of the building and directly notify your local fire department.
- CO2 Monitors also could require additional safety accessories, that provide added visual alarms such as a strobe light or horn strobe with any device.
Co2 levels, concentrations, and overexposure
Breweries throughout the world pose unique challenges when it comes to Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the workplace. While carbon dioxide is a necessary product in the brewing process and a by product to the gas, it can be a potential deathtrap for those working in the brewing industry.
With beer sales reaching $643.0 billion in revenue in 2022, brewing production is at an all-time high and monitoring for potential CO2 exposure is becoming just as essential for brewery workers.
Exposure to high concentrations of carbon dioxide gas can be extremely dangerous for brewers. For instance, regular levels of CO2 concentrations tend to be around 400-800ppm, whereas more concentrated levels tend to get up to 5,000ppm where a lack of oxygen can be present. This occurs due to carbon dioxide gas being heavier than oxygen and falling to the floor causing hazards to those workers present.
For brewers, specifically, duties that involve cleaning fermentation tanks, maintaining yeast disposal, and working in walk-in coolers can all be potentially hazardous and are often considered "confined spaces".
This is due to the fact that these areas can confine the gas in a space where it cannot escape. Hence the phrase "confined space". Carbon dioxide lines run throughout the brewery to get the gas to the correct locations for use and fermenters create the gas when yeast converts sugar to alcohol. CO2 lines also are run into the walk-in draft coolers, as well. More importantly, all of these can create hazardous conditions.
Additionally, as the beer finalizes its fermentation and reaches the desired gravity, the valves are then closed and carbon dioxide builds up within the tank. Additional carbon dioxide can then be supplemented to the beer dependent upon the desired result to ensure consistency.
Just because you can’t see, smell, or taste this inert gas does not mean that it is not present and potentially deadly.
Common Symptoms of Carbon Dioxide Overexposure:
- Irregular heart rate
How to Stay Safe from Carbon Dioxide?
Being aware of the potential hazards of carbon dioxide gas in specific areas is the first step. Having devices to properly monitor and measure the CO2 is the most important opportunity to save lives.
Because CO2 can quickly create a hazardous environment beyond displacing oxygen in the room, elevated CO2 can lead to severe negative health effects such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, asphyxiation and even fatality if not properly monitored. Brewers tend to be at a risk of exposure to more than 4% CO2 within minutes and if carbon dioxide monitors are not installed. 4% CO2 is the Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) as established by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Brewery CO2 Hazard Areas
The primary areas of concern when dealing with CO2 in breweries are the fermentation areas, brite tanks, and keg coolers. The massive amounts of gas housed in the vessels and enclosed in the keg coolers - can easily overcome an average adult in seconds. When you combine massive amounts of CO2 with poor ventilation and confined spaces you have basically created your own CO2 hazard.
To provide some additional perspective, a deadly event in Mexico (“Seven workers dead in confined space accident”) where seven workers died resulted from CO2 exposure. These employees were unaware of deadly levels of CO2 while cleaning a fermentation tank. According to the article, the employees at a Grupo Modelo Brewery in Mexico City were found conducting routine cleaning inside a tank when they were overcome by the gas. If proper CO2 monitors were installed, these employees might still be alive today.
Few employees realize that there is a device that is designed that can help monitor and measure their level of carbon dioxide exposure in all areas especially confined spaces. When CO2 rises a worker could start to become fatigued, feel dizzy, or even faint and fall to the floor. A high CO2 concentration could easily replace oxygen in the air; if less oxygen is accessible to breathe brain processes slow down and an individual can pass out suddenly.
Do Breweries and Restaurants Require CO2 Monitors?
Because of tragedies surrounding carbon dioxide (CO2) exposure, many local municipalities or fire codes now require carbon dioxide safety devices.
Facilities with draft coolers already understand the potential hazards found in the walk-in cooler because it traps CO2 and does not allow it to escape except when the cooler door is opened. By complying with the standards, CO2 safety devices called fixed/wall-mounted monitors can warn employees of CO2 leaks prior to them entering confined spaces, like the keg-cooler.
Best Carbon Dioxide Monitors for Breweries
Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm
CO2 Multi Sensor System Series
Personal 5% CO2 Safety Monitor
Now, imagine an employee is asked to go into the room where the CO2 is stored. Now suppose the fitting on the CO2 cylinder has been leaking all night.
When that employee walks in that room they could instantly be knocked unconscious by the CO2. However, with a Fixed CO2 Safety Monitor or a Portable CO2 Safety Monitor, the employee would see and hear the alarm before they opened the door.
In addition to having both audible and visual alarms indicators, our CO2 safety devices often come with built-in relays which can trigger the ventilation or be wired directly to a fire alarm panel to make an instantaneous call to the local fire department should hazards occur.
Brewery and Beverage CO2 Frequently Asked Questions:
- Where does CO2 come from in a craft brewery? Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be found in many areas of a brewery and is most often used as a flavor stabilizer during the brewing process. In addition, carbon dioxide can come from carbonation, fermentation, pressurization, or inerting when beer is already fermented.
- Is Carbon Dioxide dangerous in other industries, or just breweries? Just like breweries, for those industries that use, store, or produce CO2 there is similar precautions they need to adhere to when it comes to monitoring co2 and reducing employee and establishment injury. These industries can include restaurants, beverage, wineries, food storage, and agriculture - to name a few.
- Have there been serious incidents around co2 when not monitored? Because of past injury and exposure to harmful concentrations of carbon dioxide - regulations have been put in place to ensure CO2 safety. Some incidents as a result of carbon dioxide exposure without proper monitoring include a 2012 brewery accident and a 2011 carbon dioxide incident during brewery maintenance.
- What regulations do I need to meet to become "CO2 Safe" in my brewery? Currently, OSHA has set requirements that limit the amount of CO2 exposure that workers are allowed to come into contact with. For an eight-hour period, the limit is 5,000ppm and 30,000ppm for a ten-minute period. You can reduce CO2 injury from occurring by installing a CO2 monitor like the Remote CO2 Storage Safety 3 Alarm, that meets these standards.
- How much does a CO2 Monitor cost and where should it be installed? Carbon Dioxide monitors are fairly cost effective and can range anywhere from $399 - $1,000. However, are long-lasting and fundamentally have the potential to save lives and prevent CO2 overexposure or injury from occurring. CO2 Monitors typically should be installed near any area that stores or produces carbon dioxide.
Ensuring Craft Brewer CO2 safety
In today’s world brewery owners and professionals must be leaders and take appropriate preventative steps by installing and assuring complete safety for their workers, providing awareness and avoiding any accidents that commonly arise.
Besides the dangers, think of the rise in insurance rates, or loss of insurance due to an incident. Or the angst you'd feel if an employee was injured or experienced fatality. Breweries throughout the world now can avoid the tragedies shown too often in the media with CO2 safety monitoring solutions.
For more information on carbon dioxide safety devices, or to ensure you are selecting the right monitor for your industry or application - speak to an expert today. Sales@CO2Meter.com or (877) 678 - 4259